Tag Archives: Engineer

The Ampule Room


The vast central chamber of the pyramid. An immense space. Holloway walks in, his flashlight searching. Watts hurries after. The others follow, rovers tagging along.

A colossal structure stands in the center of the chamber, convoluted and strange. A mechanism. Chasms yawn in the floor all around it, their depths lost in darkness.
~ Alien: Engineers, by Jon Spaihts.

In the original script by Spaihts the ampule room did not appear. Instead the Magellan crew find the pyramid’s atmospheric processor. In his screenplay the chamber is more akin to a garden than the dark shrine that appears in the movie:

The core chamber brightens as the sun outside moves into alignment. The shaft of light perfectly centered.

A vast SIGH as if the pyramid itself is breathing.

A fat drop of water falls on Watts’s glove. She looks up in surprise. Another falls on her visor. And then it’s raining inside the pyramid. Water trickles into the chasms, inundating the mossy growths that cling to the walls.

Damon Lindelof’s Prometheus script removed the air processor and replaced the sequence with the ampule room. Notably, there is no giant head in the script (at least not in the version that leaked – there seems to be no ‘Ridleygrams’ of it either), though there is a wall of ampules, “rows and rows of them.” The room’s exposure to new air causes the ampules to ‘sweat’ as they do in the movie, but they also topple and pop open and shatter in the screenplay.

The room is described in Lindelof’s script as being “scaled for beings twice our size. It makes our heroes look like children.” The chamber also boasts “cathedral ceilings fifty feet above [them].” David shines a light on the roof, illuminating the Engineer artwork. “It’s a painting,” he says. “Not a painting,” Shaw objects, “it’s a fresco.” David wonders what the difference is. “Frescoes are in houses of worship,” she answers. Shaw’s reaction to the facility is laden with religious overtones in both scripts. Spaihts writes that “She holds her map unit as a pilgrim holds a bible: a guide in the darkness.”

“We can’t help but agree with her,” says the script, “this does feel somehow holy… like an alien Sistine Chapel.” For Holloway, the chamber evokes a very different feeling, that of “a laboratory” which houses “technology and equipment we have never seen before.”

Unfortunately, the crew’s entrance triggers the destruction of the Engineer art – “like the picture of Dorian Gray — exposure to the environment is literally dissolving it.”


Before the film’s release it was stated that HR Giger had designed a set of frescoes for the film. Fans were understandably excited and subsequently confused when his artwork did not appear.

The exposure of the pyramid’s insect life to the mutagen is more dramatic in the script. “We see several small centipedes that came in from outside skittering away as the liquid washes over them.” These centipedes mutate into the Hammerpede creature. Worms replace the centipedes in the film.


The monolithic head, once rumoured to be the pilot of the Juggernaut ship, seems to testify some sort of blank, terrible power. Whether it signifies a god, a particular Engineer, or the Engineer race as a whole, we don’t know. Before the film’s release the giant head was rumoured to pilot the ship, and was imagined by fans as being a living, bodiless and biomechanic intelligence – a sort of riff on the legless, sessile Space Jockey seen in Alien. In the film it instead silently looms over the ampules in a chamber described as both a vault and a chapel.

“The idea there is that it’s part of the culture of the Engineers,” said Arthur Max, not revealing too much, except to elaborate that the Engineers are “this race of interplanetary visitors who have given us upgrades –mentally and physically– over the millennium.”

The head is inscribed with glyphs on its front and sides. One idea thrown around production was to have the Engineers bearing facial tribal tattoos. The glyphs on the giant head resemble the alien language inscribed on the structure’s walls, doorways and on the deadly ampules.

Ethiopian statue of Benito Mussolini, and the Engineers' 'God-Head'. Testaments to power and worship. Mussolini was gunned down, hoisted to the girder of a garage, and his corpse pelted, shot, and spat on. As Percy Shelley wrote in his poem Ozymandias, great and terrible leaders die, and the monuments to their reign topple and crumble, left to gaze over a buried empire. The legacy of the Engineers has fared no better.

Ethiopian statue of Benito Mussolini, and the Engineers’ ‘God-Head’. Testaments to power and worship. Mussolini was gunned down, hoisted to the girder of a garage, and his corpse pelted, shot, and spat on. As Percy Shelley wrote in his poem Ozymandias, great and terrible leaders die, and the monuments to their reign topple and crumble, left to gaze over a buried empire. The legacy of the Engineers has fared no better.

The headquarters of Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, taken in Rome in 1930. The Engineer head monument is an allusion to worship and power, perhaps even fascistic power.

Billboard for the 1934 parliamentary election for Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist party, taken in Rome. The Engineer head monument is an allusion to worship and power, perhaps even fascistic power.

A giant head featured in John Boorman's Zardoz (1974).

A giant head featured in John Boorman’s Zardoz (1974). Zardoz, a godly being, teaches that human procreation is an evil, since it results in the propagation of man. War is good, since it cleanses the world of men. There is no direct correlation between Prometheus and Zardoz, but these common elements are intriguing enough to merit a mention.

One of the chamber’s more interesting elements is the Alien mural that lies at the far end of the vault, behind the Engineer head.

“Another set that I worked on was known as the ‘Head Room.’ This was a ceremonial room that contained hundreds of ampules beneath a giant sculpture of an Engineer’s head. Julian Caldrow did an amazing job of working out all of the details for this environment and created the set drawings. The final set was built at full scale and was incredible to walk on. I also sculpted an altar area for this set that paid homage to Giger – it is a relief sculpture hanging from the wall and has the impression of an alien form with flowing structures surrounding it. There are a lot of easter eggs in this sculpture – including several hidden Giger motifs that were not used in the original film.”
~ Steven Messing, i09.com, 2012.

Holloway notices a small altar before the Alien mural. Atop this altar is a jade crystal – in the film’s trailers the crystal does not appear. Instead, a bowl like the one the Sacrificial Engineer drinks from in the film’s opening takes its place.

The mural’s significance is not revealed in Prometheus, but Steven Messing mused that “[The Engineers are] a lot about sacrifice, so in my mind there was an Engineer [in the past] who sacrificed himself to this virus and it created this horrific creature. This being, that was gonna eradicate planets, was like a parasite that would destroy the planet and then [the Engineers] could start over and rebirth it. And they kind of worshipped it and you see this relief sculpture where it’s almost a religious sculpture.”


Ultramorph? Xenomorph? Proto-Alien?


Filed under Prometheus

Strange Shapes Interviews Ian Whyte


Ian Whyte is a former basketball player who first appeared on film screens as the lead Predator in Alien vs. Predator. He resumed his role, albeit as a different Predator, in Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem. Other film roles include lending his services as a stunt performer for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, playing a djinn in Clash of the Titans, a fiery sword-wielding representative of Satan in Solomon Kane, various roles in Game of Thrones, and the Engineer in Prometheus.

Valaquen: It seemed like you jumped right into the deep end with your first role, playing the iconic Predator in a long awaited movie. How did the role come to your attention, and what did the audition process entail?
Ian Whyte:
The casting director called my basketball team who then called me to pass on the news. My initial reaction was, “Yeah right! Nobody wants to put me in a film!” but within five minutes I had been invited to London to audition for the part. I was asked to put on a wetsuit, a balaclava, a rough mock up of the predator head with thick black ropes for dreads and the predator mask. When fully dressed I was given the command: “Start running!” and I went around and around in circles, in the studio on what was the hottest day of the year for about an hour. I briefly met Paul Anderson the following day. A week later I was invited to Prague to meet the ADI crew who had the final say on the casting and a week after that I received a phone call from the producer offering me the part… if I wanted it of course!

V: The interesting thing about Scar, your character in Alien vs. Predator, is that he kills human characters as well as the Aliens. Can you comment on working with (and killing) actors like Lance Henriksen?
I was very honest with the cast as to my experience in front of the camera and they were very gracious and very helpful when we were shooting the scenes, none more so than Lance himself. That scene was quite literally a baptism of fire. There was an experienced stuntman on hand to do the actual burn sequence when Weyland ignites his oxygen bottle, but I did the closeups. The shot that was used in the film showed some whisps of fire on my shoulders, but in quite a few of the takes I was quite ablaze! Before I left for Prague to shoot, my wife said to me, “You can do as many of your own stunts as you like, just don’t let them set you on fire!” and that was one of the first scenes to be shot as well!

V: Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, wasn’t well received but your performance as Wolf earned you a lot of acclaim from fans. Some even compared you to original Predator performer Kevin Peter Hall. How did you approach the svelte professional Wolf in comparison to the bulkier amateur Scar?
I approached the role in much the same way with regard to my training, I just had a lot more of it! Three years passed between AVP and the sequel and I spent those years training as if the film was just around the corner. It was time well spent, because the shooting schedule crammed twice as much action into half the amount of time compared to the first one. One day the producer came into the studio and shouted, “Send Ian home! We can’t keep him here any longer!” I had just gone over 18 hours on set.


“Just don’t let them set you on fire!”

V: You also played the Engineer in Prometheus. How did this role come to your attention?
Very quietly! Initially I was just asked to do some makeup tests for the prosthetic makeup applications that the makeup supervisor was working on, but it very quickly became an ongoing audition of sorts. Then I met Ridley one rainy Sunday afternoon in Pinewood and quite soon after I met the casting director for an official audition. Without any irony whatsoever, the scene that I auditioned was the one scene in the script that I didn’t shoot for the film: the self sacrifice scene at the waterfall!

V: Unlike the Predator or the creatures from Solomon Kane and Clash of the Titans, the Engineer’s face is a large part of the performance: he is largely unmasked, and can emote. He also gets some dialogue. Do you prefer the sort of roles where you can hide under layers, or do you prefer roles like the Engineer, where the make-up does not disguise you completely?
A mask is a luxury for an actor that is true. You can completely let go of reality when the camera doesn’t see your face, but these are fantastical roles anyway, they require a great deal of imagination and invention to make them a “reality”. I tend not to discriminate between masked roles and straight roles, the emotions are all going on underneath the mask anyway and it’s me that’s moving the costume, not the costume that’s telling me how to act.

V: The Engineer is a mysterious being. We don’t know where he came from, and we have only the thinnest understanding of his mission. When you play such a creature do you formulate a backstory and attitude in your head? Who, as far as you’re concerned, is the Engineer?
Someone on the crew, (I forget exactly who) described them absolutely perfectly as “Truck drivers of the apocalypse!” They serve a higher power/intelligence, unnamed and unknown.

V: This time you ripped Michael Fassbender’s head off, bludgeoned Guy Pierce, and hounded Noomi Rapace – can you comment on working with these actors?
The first time I saw Fassbender on set it was a  20 second masterclass in knowing your character. Quite amazing! Everyone was thoroughly charming, I only met Guy Pierce on the day that we shot the awakening scene. Whilst we were between shots, we stayed on the set chatting. When someone asked me if I would step away for costume checks an hour had passed, almost in the blink of an eye. On set we only ever saw each other in makeup, so we had an agreement to meet at the premier party, so we could see each other up close, in person!

V: Ridley has a reputation for being a perfectionist and artist. Were you given any leeway in your interpretation of the Engineer, or were you directed more closely by Scott?
I had a rudimentary framework of concepts that I knew would need to be employed; his superiority, almost regal posturing, but generally I was free to explore the character. The first time we see the Engineer rise from his hibernation sleep, I just went for it and the scene sort of grew organically. A hush fell over the set after cut was called on the first take and we all looked at each other as if we’d done something wrong. Gradually the crew went about their tasks and a friend of mine on the makeup team came over and said “Ridley’s coming over.” I thought “oh! what have I done?” I had nothing to worry about, he was very pleased.

Ian Whyte serving a higher power in Prometheus.

Ian Whyte serving a higher power in Prometheus.

V: Fans have been waiting for decades to see the Space Jockey come to life and pilot his ship. How did it feel to don that suit and helmet and sit at the controls in that very impressive set?
This was an idea in Ridley Scott’s head for 32 years. Ever since we first saw the pilot in the derelict ship in Alien, questions have been asked as to who this being is. It was an honour and a privilege to finally bring it to life.

V: You’ve also been busy with various roles on Game of Thrones. First as a White Walker, then Gregor Clegane, and also as a giant. Can you tell me about working on the series and your multiple roles?
George R R Martin has created a vast stage for actors, I would have been happy to just play one role, but to have the opportunity to play multiple parts is a joy and a privilege. They will all die of course!

V: Your role as Gregor Clegane was probably your most human to date (though the Mountain is no less of a monster). Was accepting the role a daunting prospect for you?
IW: It was very daunting not least because I am not the first person to play the part and I came under quite a lot of criticism, not for my performance, but for daring to take over the part in the first place. Oh well! Criticism is all part of the job. You have to be professional about this sort of thing and do what you think is right. It was almost a different character from series one, no action at all, just a vile presence, a cauldron of simmering rage.

V: You also shared some screentime with Charles Dance, who is also an Alien veteran, having played a prominent role in Alien 3. Can you comment on working with Dance in the show, and your scenes together?
IW: Oddly enough, it never occurred to me that he was in Alien 3 until we did a personal appearance together for a fan convention in Belgium and he was asked questions about his career. He is a gent of the highest order and a joy to work alongside. After meeting for the first time I quite forgot that he has been quite an inspiration to me throughout his career and we just got on with doing the scenes.
I found playing this character in these particular scenes quite paradoxical. This is a man who is infamous for his brutality, his inhumanity and his angry rages, but in Tywin’s office he is as if a naughty schoolboy standing in front of the headmaster… I found it a delicate balancing act.

V: You have appeared in every season of GoT to date, either as a monster, Clegane, or a giant. Without giving anything away, can we expect to see you again for series 4? As someone who’s read the books, the Mountain has some very front-and-centre scenes coming up.
IW: Wouldn’t it be great if I could give you a scoop? No! quite simply, NO! no details of series 4 shall pass from my lips! sorry!

Ian in costume as a giant from Game of Thrones.

Ian in costume as a giant from Game of Thrones.

I’d like to thank Mr. Whyte for taking the time out of a hectic schedule to answer my long winded questions. It was nothing but a joy and I look forward to seeing more of his gods and monsters!

I have to extend another thank you to Space Sweeper for crafting the article’s banner, so – thank you!

~ Valaquen.


Filed under Prometheus

Gods & Monsters


“Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the hierarchies
of angels? And if one did take
me to his heart: I would perish from his
stronger existence. For beauty is nothing
but the onset of terror we’re still just able to bear,
and we admire it so because it calmly disdains
to destroy us.
Every angel is terrifying.”
~ The First Elegy, Rainer Maria Rilke.

“They are men – and yet not men,” opens Jon Spaihts’ Alien prequel script. The scene is a primordial world, and three figures have walked out of the darkness… “Their skin is snow-white,” it continues. “Their features heavy and classical – as if Rodin’s Thinker had risen from his seat.” But it’s not Auguste Rodin’s masterpiece finally standing before us, it is HR Giger’s.

The origin of these pale giants harkens back to 1979’s Alien, which introduced us to the enigmatic and sessile Space Jockey. The  Jockey had never figured into any of the Alien sequels, save for a brief mention in one draft of Aliens that went unfilmed. After a three decade absence the creature was back, though rebranded as the ‘Engineer’, an apparent biological warmonger, seeder of worlds and god-errant who, at some point in prehistory, created mankind.

Artist Neville Page was given the task of conceptualising the look of the Engineers. “We know that the Engineers were the engineers of us,” he elaborated, “but we don’t know, and nor can I speculate, why they left and came back and how many times they came back and what the intention was of returning and why they gave us the map to find them.”

“Their civilisation is millions of years old. Once, the Engineers expressed themselves as humans do, taking pleasure in music, colour and story, but they’ve long learned to see in more dimensions than we do. Their art and ornament exist on planes imperceptible to human senses. Their constructions look dark and grim to us; but the Engineers’ eyes see far more than our own. Individual Engineers live for a hundred thousand years. Ages ago their race abandoned sex and gender, reproducing by more abstract methods. In recent millenia they have ceased to reproduce altogether.”
~ Jon Spaihts’ “Alien Master Narrative”, script notes.

“When Shaw and Holloway conceived the mission, their expectation was they would discover a benevolent species that might provide answers to some of our greatest mysteries. In other words, they were hoping to meet gods. But these beings prove to be anything but compassionate. They are a dangerous race of superbeings.”
~ Michael Ellenberg (executive producer), screenslam, 2012.

As for the look of the Engineers, they “were an exercise in classic human beauty,” he explained. “Ridley was quite specific about his references of Roman and Grecian sculpture. ‘God-like, classical, powerful, with skin like that of stone’. In some ways, it was the easiest to design as there was little to do in terms of invention. In other ways, it was very difficult as the pursuit of human beauty is quite subjective.”

The most controversial aspect of the Engineer however was his relationship to the Space Jockey, ie: the Jockey was only one component of this gargantuan being; a suit or instrument. The real creature lay within.

“The giant [in Alien] was conceived as a skeleton,” Ridley Scott admitted. “I kept staring at the skeleton … then I thought, twenty, thirty, actually twenty six years on, ‘what if this is not a skeleton, but we only see it as a skeleton because of our own indoctrination?’ and I thought, ‘what happens if it’s another form of protection, or a suit? If it’s a suit, then what’s inside the suit?'”

The Space Jockey recast as a biomechanical spacesuit. The 'trunk' is a breathing apparatus and the eye sockets are covered by lenses.

The Space Jockey recast as a biomechanical spacesuit. The ‘trunk’ is a breathing apparatus and the eye sockets are covered by lenses. The body is plated by a blue-grey coating. In the film the suits of dead Engineers have a more ossified look, like the Jockey of the original.

“It could be a degraded suit,” Scott says in Prometheus: The Art of the Film. “It’s only you saying that because you think you’re looking at bone structure and a ribcage. Why isn’t that a suit? It’s been lying there disintegrating for two or three thousand years in deep cold; that could be a suit. The suit works great as a kind of organic, very sophisticated spacesuit.”

“I think that was,” said Neville Page regarding the Space Jockey-Engineer, “and I’m guessing here quite honestly, that it was a bit of reverse engineering. I’m not sure how much Ridley knew when he was doing the first film that the elephantine face was going to be a helmet.”

Neville admitted that though they were retconning the original Space Jockey, it didn’t seem like a challenge to imagine that the ossified creature could be, essentially, a biomechanical life-support machine:

“It was a matter of shoehorning the Engineer into that device and being able to have him revealed so that he does look like the iconic Florentine sculptures that Ridley referenced in the ‘Art of’ book. Trying to have it be human yet knowing that that elephantine structure could not be a human head. It was pretty easy to just imagine that that’s some kind of specialized space helmet shell device.”

Creature conceptual artist Carlos Huante also provided designs for the Engineers, though he was not entirely satisfied with the end result: “I wasn’t entirely happy with the Engineer design” he told AVPGalaxy. “I thought it was great in theory but I thought it was going to be very difficult in application. And then after the design was settled on, we discussed the fabrication issues I foresaw. I predicted that the Engineers could end up looking fat or thick with bellies if they added too much rubber build up for the suit. Then the costume over all that rubber I thought they’re going to look fat for sure, which they did. So… There’s that.”

The Engineer was also originally planned to match the gargantuan height of the original Space Jockey. Jon Spaihts’ script takes a close look at one Engineer corpse, revealing that: “If he were standing he would be fifteen feet tall. He is roughly human in shape. Barrel-chested. Withered to the bone. There are bulky protrusions fused with his flesh: hard to say whether they are equipment or parts of his body. His head, lolling to one side, is severed from his body.” The Engineer was later shortened to make him practical to shoot on film, and for an actor to portray convincingly.

An Engineer design by Carlos Huante.

An Engineer design by Carlos Huante.

A hermaphroditic concept piece.

A hermaphroditic concept piece.

“I still was,” said Page, “where appropriate, channeling Giger’s work and Giger’s aesthetic, particularly with the Engineer’s spacesuit because it had to be that aesthetic. It was interesting because Ridley did say, ‘I don’t necessarily want to see you copy Giger’s work. That’s not what we’re doing here.'”

“I don’t like to repeat myself,” Scott offered as way of explanation. He was happy to use Giger’s aesthetic but keen to marry it to other influences. “In discussing it,” explained Page, “it was clear though that the Engineer was a Space Jockey, sitting inside of that vessel … The ironic thing is I didn’t open one Giger book. I didn’t look at his work, mainly because his work I’ve been looking at for years, since the original Alien and I’ve been a huge fan of it. So it was pretty deep in my mind and it was clear enough that I could actually replicate that aesthetic without having any of his artwork in front of me.”

Page referred to the biological suit as being “truly Giger”, but explained that the Engineers required “some kind of undersuit” which he was to design. “I started off just by doing basically underpants on the engineer with this exposed body. Then we realized he should probably not be as naked. If you were in a cryo chamber over years, you’d probably be in some kind of suit that could connect with your body tissue, protect it, monitor it, etc.”

The Engineer wearing his 'skin-suit'.

The Engineer wearing his ‘skin-suit’.


The Engineer in his ‘flight-suit’.

For the unsuited Engineers, Ridley Scott also invoked the fallen angels of John Milton’s Paradise Lost. “If you look at the Engineers,” said Scott, “they’re tall and elegant … they are dark angels. If you look at Paradise Lost, the guys who have the best time in the story are the dark angels, not God.”

Scott frequently alludes to the idea of Paradise as having sinister connotations. If we think in the vein of Milton’s Paradise Lost, the realm of heaven is presented as being authoritarian to an extreme, and more than capable of anticipating and destroying (or degrading) its enemies. In Milton’s tale Pandæmonium is the parliament of Hell, but Paradise’s power is far more terrible. “They’re going off to Paradise,” said Scott of the film’s two survivors, who leave LV-223 for the Engineer homeworld, “but it could be the most savage, horrible place.”

The Engineers in the film, then, are an amalgamation of Classical ideas of the heroic figure; Renaissance-era ideas about Heavenly and Hellish beings, and Giger’s signature biomechanics. All in all, it’s an enticing and interesting conglomeration of influences. The trouble would be not in selecting from differing artistic sources, but in melding and achieving equilibrium between them. On the one hand, the designs could be passed off as being generic if they conform too closely to an ‘ideal’ of the human figure: beautiful but blank. Marrying this aesthetic to biomechanics also has a shortfall: they simply may not be biomechanic enough; a bastardisation rather than a natural progression or offshoot.


There are traces of biomechanical flourishes throughout the film’s designs. The decapitated Engineer’s helmet was to be like “cracking open an oyster” according to Neil Scanlan, and was sculpted with “castings from organic textures, including cabbages, cauliflower, and lichen. When the helmet opened, Ridley wanted the interior to be velvety and soft like the lining of a stomach, as if the helmet had nurtured the internal head with life-giving material.” One of Spaihts’ early scripts describes the Space Jockey’s suit as being welded to his body, flesh and machinery as one.

After Prometheus’ release many fans were disappointed that the motivations of the Engineers were not explained in the movie. As Ian Nathan said in his review at Empire Online: “[The Engineer] turns out to be an overly-pumped bald bloke with dead-eyes who has no dialogue and punches people across the room. So basically … God is Jason Statham.” Though the Engineer in the movie’s climax prefers to enunciate with his fists rather than his mouth, there are traces of motivation to be inferred… if we look beyond the film.

Engineering: In Jon Spaihts’ script it is revealed that the Engineers return to Earth every thousand years to ‘update’ their creations. “I was analysing historical changes in human DNA,” the script reveals through the character of Watts/Shaw. “I found the same pattern. Every eleven centuries, a pulse of new information in the genome of the human race. All over the world. Evolution can’t do that. Something was changing us. Changing the DNA of our species.”

This would have clarified why humans are so genetically close to the Engineers, whilst our Earthly cousins, such as other primate species, have taken another evolutionary path. Essentially, what makes the human race so unique among Earth-life is merely a helping hand.

At some point in the film’s development it was planned that the Engineers, the creators of humanity, were gearing up to destroy us for the crime of crucifying Christ, who was a representative of the gods. “We definitely did [plan that],” Scott told movies.com, “and then we thought it was a little too on the nose. But if you look at it as an ‘our children are misbehaving down there’ scenario, there are moments where it looks like we’ve gone out of control, running around with armor and skirts, which of course would be the Roman Empire. And they were given a long run. A thousand years before their disintegration actually started to happen. And you can say, ‘Lets’ send down one more of our emissaries to see if he can stop it.’ Guess what? They crucified him.”

It seems ridiculous to propose that a Jewish man at the time of Augustus and Tiberius was an eight-foot tall milk-white alien. Though some Biblical scholars posit that Christ, as characterised by St Paul in the earliest Christian texts, may have been an angelic or non-corporeal being, it is not a widely disseminated theory. If it’s difficult to convince some that Christ was not a man, it would be harder to convince audiences that he was an alien.

“We’re dealing with a highly hypothetical area in terms of who these beings are, what, if any invitation they issued, and who is responsible for making those cave paintings. And did something happen in between when those cave paintings were made -tens of thousands of years ago- and our arrival now, in 2093, 2,000 years after these things have perished. Did something happen in the intermediate period that we should be thinking about?”
~ Damon Lindelof, IGN, 2012

Again, Lindelof talks about something happening to sour the Engineers’ opinion of us. But with the Engineer Messiah scrapped, what was the motivation for the Engineers to destroy us? There seems to be none, but a potential answer, when considered, seems simple – the Engineers were afraid of humanity turning against them.

“The primary take away from the myth of Prometheus is that the Gods were nervous about mankind,” explained Lindelof. “They were nervous about what they would be capable of if they had fire. Fire was a big piece of technology that they would build off of.”

“Of wretched humans [Zeus] took no account,” explains the titan Prometheus in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. “[He] resolved to eliminate them and create another race.” The only being who opposed Zeus’ genocide was Prometheus, who stole the secret of fire and delivered it to humanity. In the play, Prometheus presents himself not as the creator of mankind, but certainly their protector and teacher:

Chorus: What? Men, whose life is but a day, possess already the hot radiance of fire?
Prometheus: They do; and with it they will master many crafts … At first [they were] mindless, I gave them mind and reason. In those days they had eyes, but sight was meaningless; heard sounds, but could not listen; all their length of life passed like shapes in dreams, confused and purposeless.”

Prometheus’ gift allows humanity to better understand the world: they domesticate livestock, build ships and chariots, craft medicines, categorise all the beasts in nature, and master the art of prophecy. “So,” Prometheus concludes, “here’s the whole truth in one word: all human skill and science was Prometheus’ gift.”


In the movie the Prometheus figure is represented by Weyland. Fire is certainly represented by technological marvels such as David. Fire is our first form of technology,” Ridley told The Wall Street Journal. He also praised the simple-but-monumental central plot of Quest for Fire: “That was one of the most genius, simplistic but incredibly sophisticated notion of what [the first technological progression] was … And that got me sitting back on my ass thinking, ‘Damn! What a fundamentally massive idea'”.

In Prometheus fire is at this point in history superceded by robotics. To the Engineer, David is confirmation that mankind itself has become a creator of life, the very role for which the Engineers themselves are so vaunted. When your creations begin to construct other beings in their image, and can tailor these new life-forms to their needs, then it’s obvious that the creation has become the creator – it has become God. A key lesson in Paradise Lost is that God is, of course, unwilling to be usurped.

“Slaves! Scoff not at my will!
The mind, the spirit, the Promethean spark,
the lightning of my being is as bright,
pervading, and far-darting as your own,
and shall not yield to yours, though coop’d in clay!
Answer, or I will teach you what I am.”
~ Manfred challenges the Gods, Manfred, Lord Byron.

Lindelof explained that, “The idea that Ridley was advancing for Prometheus was, A) what if those things weren’t as alien as we thought they were? And, B) what if there is a fundamental relationship between those beings and us? And, C) what if they weren’t victims of these eggs but were directly responsible for making them? As in, it’s more of a thing where they made Pandora’s Box and something got out, rather than them being innocent, hapless victims.”


Humanity, as far as the film’s final Engineer is concerned, is simply another monster unleashed from Pandora’s Box, and needs to be contained or eliminated.

“[We looked at Prometheus as] an archeology dig,” Lindelof told The Hollywood Reporter, “where we’re basically going to turn up some artifacts and we’re going to put them on the table for everyone to look at. How these artifacts necessarily connect to each other and what the larger story behind them is going to be a matter of some discourse, and the characters in the movie will be having that discourse amongst themselves. But no one’s going to basically come out of the skies and tell them whether or not they’re right or wrong. That is very much in tune with the movie that Ridley wanted to make, which is, ‘This is what happens when mankind is silly enough to think they can go and ask God questions.’ First off, God might not necessarily be interested in answering you, but even worse than that, you might just set him off just for the act of trying.”

So, just as the characters in the film discover that ‘God’ is unwilling to explain himself, the fans of the film discover that it is also equally unwilling. It seems like a cruel joke that can amuse only its hardest of fans after the first telling, but I think that this is an unintended result, rather than a deliberate expectation. There are ways to reveal a secret to a viewer without giving the characters an epiphanic moment (Citizen Kane‘s final shot is a famous one) but Prometheus prefers to keep us pondering.

“That’s the fun of watching all the people rave lovingly and hatefully about it,” Neville Page told CraveOnline. “I don’t think you ever want people to go, ‘Yeah, it was okay’, in that gray zone. It’s like love me or hate me, but if you’re talking about me, that’s a good thing.”

“I think that Prometheus wanted to have two children. One child grows up to be Alien, the other child grows up to become this other mysterious force where we’re heading off in a different direction and contemplating why it is our creators wanted to destroy us. This is a fundamentally interesting question looked at on a theological level, but also on a sci-fi level as well.

In constructing those questions, Ridley wanted to know what the answers were as well, and we talked about those at great length, and then he determined what it was he wanted to put in the movie. I think that we had a very defined idea of why the Engineers put those paintings on cave walls, and why it is that they loaded ships full of death, as Shaw puts it at the end of the movie. So those answers are not definitively presented in Prometheus, though if you look through all the materials, I think that the evidence is all there to form a very informed opinion as to what happened, but I’m not going to tell you what my opinion is, as frustrating as it might be.”
~ Damon Lindelof, IGN, 2012

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