In seminary, my ethics professor asked us what it would do to our faith if scientists discovered the bones of Jesus. It was a simple but big question that has been asked hundreds of ways over thousands of years. (Yo’s review references the C.S. Lewis take which is worth considering.) Prometheus sets out to ask those kinds of questions about faith: How were we made? Where are the creators/proof of our origin? What is our purpose and do said creators want anything to do with us? And then there’s plenty of alien-related action to go around, too.
It was inevitable that I’d see Prometheus, my second most anticipated movie of the summer. But a day later, I can’t shake some of the elements that were mixed into this particular primordial soup of Ridley Scott’s creation. Sure, there are some problems in the plot continuum: we can fly to space, figure out hypostasis, but we don’t have a DVR on the ship’s mainframe? We have some superintelligent lifeforms that don’t know how to communicate verbally? Two scientists find some cave drawings and instantly figure out that an advanced race is asking us to follow them? What if the humans are misinterpreting all of the signs?
Seriously, I don’t care enough to dislike the movie. Instead, I’m drawn in by the powerful depictions of Earth, of space, of technology, and of relationships. Ripley’s visuals, and the cast’s acting, make for a wonderful drama that just happens to have alien elements included in it. This is science fiction: presenting real questions in an “other” setting so that we can deal with the questions without our preconceived problems or notions which keep us from talking. Seriously, how many people who were there for a sci-fi ride walked out with a conversation about God and the bigger picture? (For further review, try Contact, Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country, Gattaca, the original Superman.)
Noomi Rapace is absolutely amazing. From Girl With A Dragon Tattoo to Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows to Prometheus, she’s dominated the screen. And her turn here, complete with a self-inflicted C-section, is Ripleyesque. While the Alien ties are there, it’s still pretty awesome to watch another movie where the woman saves the day. Sure, she has some other folks get into the fray, but this is Rapace’s Shaw’s show.
The other star here is Michael Fassbender. As David, an android, he’s nasty. “Who doesn’t want to kill their parents?” he asks, as he navigates the pattern of behavior instituted by his creator Weiland (Guy Pearce), the predecessor to the Alien franchise’s Weiland-Yutani Corporation. David knows right and wrong, but that’s not impacting his decision-making. He’s here for the truth about the aliens, and he’ll stop at nothing to pursue that knowledge.
Speaking of pursuing knowledge: it’s obvious from Scott’s delivery here that he recognizes that pursuit of faith is different from “seeing” something. We have Shaw’s belief system, symbolized by the cross she received from her father (a missionary?), and we have her pursuit of the aliens she believes to be humanity’s creators. We have her searching and her admission that she’s “still searching.” What happens when life hurts doesn’t strip her of her faith, but it does mean that what she knows changes.
We should recognize in the furor around the movie that some people want clear cut answers and some people like open-ended questions. The truth is that life is somewhere in the middle. I believe we have basic belief and knowledge wrapped up in the Bible, but I believe our understanding of that changes as we deal with our own experiences, recognize the tradition of the faith we share, and use the reason God gives us. (Yes, I’m a fan of John Wesley.) In Prometheus, we see all of those things work together, and we understand that in the end, we’re left with more questions. But faith and hope remain.
Just like they would for me if they discovered the bones of Jesus.