Ridley Scott returns with a long-anticipated supernova explosion box office hit Prometheus, which would undoubtedly please sci-fi fans all around the world. Even the film theme the director is back with is no small.
The Origin of Life. Where do we come from? Is it possible to find that out?
There are three major theories of how Life appeared on the Earth.
- Abiogenesis. The current scientific theory suggests that first forms of Life evolved in the soup of inorganic material. First, the simple building blocks of biopolymers, including amino acids and nucleotides, were formed. And then, they allowed for evolution of the first enzymes, presumably based on ribonucleic acids. Although, synthetic biologists and chemists managed to create certain enzymes evolving in the test tube, they are still unable to produce a living cell from the scratch, they can only create the likes of Synthia (a microbe designed by Craig Venter’s team), originating from the parts of already existing bacterial cells. Moreover, even if we succeed in creating a living cell de novo that wouldn’t prove that Life as we know it originated this way. Still, the research in this direction continues and if you are very curious, you should read the summary of the latest advances on Wikipedia, – God bless this web resource!
- Panspermia. This theory suggests that Life came from the space in the form of primitive cells or even predating them life forms or organic compounds. Some believe that there was not enough time on the early Earth for Life to appear, so it had been brought in from the outside. There is not much evidence to support this theory so far apart from the fact that some meteorites contain organic matter such as amino acids.
- Creationism. This theory suggests that we were all created by God(dess) or a similar almighty deity. However, the scientific analysis based on the data from palaeontology, anthropology, genetics studies indicates that Life on our planet has been evolving by undirected natural selection for billions of years. As a counter response a group of theologists/believers came up with an upgraded version of creationism called intelligent design, which suggests that the “specified” complexity of DNA implies that an intelligent agent created Life.
In Prometheus Ridley Scott offers his answer. Essentially, he combines all three theories in one. According to the story, the mankind is originated and evolved from the genetic material brought in from the space by an advanced alien civilisation.
Two scientists discover a distant solar system containing a planet, which could be native to our extra-terrestrial ancestors. A biotech firm funds an expedition to this planet on a star ship ironically named after Prometheus, a mythical Titan who brought the fire (read intelligence and civilization) to the people. And what do they discover on that planet? Well, they certainly find their answers and a lot more.
Like any other milestone films, Prometheus is multi-layered. It’s not just a great story and a visual extravaganza. Prometheus is brought to life by a stellar cast headlined by The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo star Noomi Rapace as Dr Elizabeth Shaw and the intense Michael Fassbender portraying the android David 8. Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green and Sharlize Theron play other notorious characters.
What is great about this film is how effortlessly it mixes the mainstream entertainment with philosophical themes.
The characters in Prometheus have their individual agendas: some are just doing the job they are paid for, others are seeking power or immortality. It makes a good representation, a low-scale model of what we are as a society.
However, Ridley Scott focuses on the major three characters driven by curiosity, an ambition to find answers to eternal questions. This kind of people are extremely rare in the society, they push the horizons of knowledge and technology.
Dr Holloway is a pragmatic scientist who asks his soulmate Elizabeth why she still believes in God while knowing about the alien “engineers” who created humans. She logically replies with a question “And who created them?”, thereby wounding the Achilles heel of creationism. Elizabeth means no harm. From what I learned about her character, she doesn’t find faith in contradiction with the scientific evidence, for her faith means a symbolic milieu for human soul and a source of moral and ethical guidance. She is a true scientist with the critical mind of a researcher and the compassionate heart of a believer.
The last thing to discuss is the personality of David, the android. Lacking human emotion by definition, but compensating it with a brilliant mind, he recognizes his inferiority to humans (at least if I got the director’s hints right). David tries to be like a human and better than a human at the same time. Why does he? And is he really completely devoid of emotions?
Years ago these questions were also addressed by Spielberg in Artificial Intelligence. Without giving away too much, I’ll just say that Ridley Scott shows emotions in David. For instance, David quotes from Lawrence of Arabia and says: “It’s from the film I LIKE”. Ironically, David himself is unable to recognize his primordial emotional intelligence. To me, both masters, Spielberg and Scott, give plenty of examples, which made me presume the following: If emotional beings like humans design a machine, able to self-sustain and self-develop, the emotion would inevitably be written in its very code, even if it’s just a rationale for actions. David has yet to learn how to recognize his emotions and their origin. I guess we’ll see the result of that eventually.
Grisha, what about aliens? you may ask me. Are there any aliens in the film? Don’t worry, there are. I will quote David 8 here: “Big things have small beginnings”. Aliens behave like emotions in Prometheus. They may be small, dormant, suppressed, but you can’t kill them – they are resilient. You ignore them until it’s too late: they arrive and affirm their power. And there is a strange beauty in that. Enjoy the film!