My wife has a brilliant and, as far as I can tell, rather original theory about the mythos and backstory of Prometheus, which she has kindly posted on her blog. Lots of spoilers, obviously. Her theory doesn’t necessarily mitigate the many flaws in the execution of the film or the misbegotten convolutions of some character motivations (proto-facehugger fist-bump, anyone?), but it is the most coherent explanation of the clues that I’ve yet read. An example:
Just think about the uniforms the Engineers wear. They are wearing synthetic, not organic, body armor that looks strikingly like the Xenomorphs. Remember the medical room scene where they “trick the head into life,” the Scottish Doctor points out that the helmet isn’t an exoskeleton it is synthetic armor. At the end of the film when we finally see the Xenomorph alien we’ve been expecting to see for the last 2.5 hours it immediately struck me that the alien looked more like the Engineer’s synthetic body armor than the Engineer itself. A lot of people are probably citing this as some sort of logical narrative inconsistency. I think otherwise. After all, the Engineers have the figures in the vase room; they would know what it would look like when an Engineer got parasitized by a Xenomorph. I propose that they modeled their body armor, and probably gobs of other things, after the Xenomorph because they knew it was deadly and effective.
One thing I forgot to mention to my wife when I edited her first draft (sorry, Ellen! My bad!) is that her theory doesn’t touch on what happens to Holloway and Fifield after they’re exposed to the goo. An addendum might be that the Engineers were aware of the mutant zombie side-effect of direct exposure, and that’s why they kept the goo in such a controlled environment. The direct exposure (that is to say, ingestion) of the goo by the first Engineer we see suggests that they must have been aware of it, and that the ritual of drinking it — as opposed to falling face-fist into a puddle of the stuff after your colleague stupidly tries to fist-bump a hissing cousin of the thing from the Death Star’s trash compactor — evolved as a response. As Ellen argues, an awe connected with fear is not uncommon. The mutant Fifield is faster, stronger, and more unkillable than human Fifield, and even though he’s become a hideous monster, a death cult (which is essentially what the Engineers would be, in my wife’s view) might revere such a thing. The Engineer in the opening sequence might not even be attempting to “seed” another world at all: perhaps he’s ingesting the goo in an attempt to become that superhuman freak, or die trying. After all, we don’t see the DNA actually seed anything. All we see is its accelerated corruption and dissipation.
All of this is highly speculative, of course, but I suppose that’s half the fun of grappling with a film like Prometheus in the first place. I’m still on the fence about it myself, but I appreciate that it has spurred a lot of creative, constructive dialogue. Even if I ultimately judge the film to be a failure, I think it’s a successful, interesting failure. In the meantime, check out Ellen’s post, and continue the dialogue.☕