Prometheus‘ central theme is admirably ambitious: Where do we come from? The crew travels to the distant planet LV-223 because they think they’ve located the Engineers, alabaster-skinned humanoids who Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is convinced created us. Shaw brings all the religious questioning, complete with missionary parents and treasured cross necklace, while her husband Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) is the necessary skeptic and atheist. And while the scientists uncover some potential answers about where the human race came from, there’s also plenty of discussion back on the ship about makers and their creations, with the realization that even if the Engineers did create us, then we turned around and created androids.
Despite what he says in his birthday video about being grateful to his creators, David doesn’t seem to have quite mastered anything beyond detached affection. His cool analysis allows him to feel no qualms about bringing back live samples to the ship and even dropping some particles into a crew member’s drink, just to see what happens. In a fascinating reversal, it’s the man experimenting with his maker. That has always been humanity’s mistake: We attempt to create a being that is an evolutionary step up from us, and yet we believe that we can keep this creation in its place while we figure out how to mold ourselves in its image.
I have to credit my friend Danny Bowes, who reviewed Prometheus for Tor.com, with this analysis: As much as David says he wants to experience positive human emotions like love and sadness, his clear affinity is for cruelty. Especially where women are concerned—despite having a strange quasi-sibling rivalry with Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), he consistently calls her “ma’am” but makes the title sound weirdly like “mum”; and the way in which he nonchalantly informs Shaw that he’s been openly reading her dreams for the past two years is chilling.
To say any more will get into the really big spoilers, but suffice to say Fassbender is brilliant in this. It’s official: He is the scene stealer no matter the role or the movie. He embodies the character so totally, from a protester in a hunger strike to an alpha male crippled by his sexual addiction to this uncanny-valley inhabitant who will always remain more curious than empathetic.
I’m grateful for a movie like Prometheus because even though it doesn’t quite answer all of its ambitious questions, in the process it gives us phenomenal performances. Theron is fierce — though she could use a little humanizing, as she’s mistaken for an android in one joking scene — as the head of the mission, and Idris Elba‘s pilot Janek should’ve gotten a lot more screentime. It’s too bad they had to touch down on this horror movie of a planet; I would’ve liked to gotten to know the crew of Prometheus a lot better.