Ridley Scott directed “Prometheus,” which comes out on Friday. He also directed “Blade Runner,” which came out in 1982. Based only on what’s been written so far about “Prometheus,” the new film appears to share a common theme with “Blade Runner”: What would it be like to speak with God and ask about the meaning of our lives?
Heady stuff. Fortunately, Scott’s a genius with a fanboy streak. At the same time as his flicks are farming existential soil, they’re also kicking ass. “Blade Runner” is most obviously about a man hunting killer androids. “Prometheus,” it appears, is about surviving horrible alien monsters.
Before tackling the big theme of “Blade Runner,” let’s first consider what we know about “Prometheus.” This is from the New York Times’ summer movie preview article:
In news conferences and in conversation Mr. Scott has evinced sympathy for the notion — popular in some circles, including the Vatican — that it is almost “mathematically impossible” for life on Earth to have gotten to where it is today without help.
“It is so enormously irrational that we can do this,” he went on, referring to our conversation — “two specs of atoms on a carbon ball.”
“Who pushed it along?” he asked. Have we been previsited by gods or aliens? “The fact that they’d be at least a billion years ahead of us in technology is daunting, and one might use the word God or gods or engineers of life in space.”
The characters in the film journey on a spaceship called “Prometheus” toward what they think will be the home of the aliens who created life on earth. Prometheus was a titan in Greek mythology who took fire from the Gods and gifted the flames to humans. Prometheus was tied to a rock for that crime, and an eagle ate his liver over and over, day after day, forever.
According to “Prometheus” character (and internet video star) Peter Weyland, fire was our first piece of technology:
Weyland says that because he can make androids indistinguishable from humans, that means “We are the gods now.” (“Now” being 2023.) One of the crew members aboard the ship Prometheus is David, an artificial human played by Michael Fassbender. This is what Damon Lindelhoff, “Lost” creator and “Prometheus” screenwriter, had to say about this in NYT:
In keeping with its Promethean theme the movie is laced with generational conflict, Mr. Lindelof said. There is, for example, the robot David. “Hey, a bunch of humans seeking out their creator,” Mr. Lindelof explained. “David knows exactly who created him, and he is not impressed by his creator.” He can see, hear and think better than humans and is stronger than they are too.
Who knows what people are in store for when they meet their makers? And these people are toting along a creation of their own, built in their likeness! The gods didn’t like Prometheus giving us fire, so they’re sure to disapprove of this.
“Blade Runner” had killer robots, but those robots had a specific purpose. They were built to be like people, except with better strength. They were built to be slaves in off-world mining operations. They were also built with a fail-safe, in case they forcefully took their own freedom: a four-year lifespan.
This is the subtext to “Blade Runner.” The most powerful part of the movie isn’t any action scene, it’s the conversation between super replicant Roy Batty and Dr. Eldon Tyrell, the man who made him.
Tyrell: “What seems to be the problem?”
Tyrell: “Death? I’m afraid that’s a little out of my jurisdiction. You-”
Batty (moving closer and getting a little scary): “I want more life, father.”
In the end, of course, we can’t have it. The first name Eldon means, in Hebrew, “God is the judge,” and a judge doesn’t hand out immortality. Tyrell tries to appease his greatest creation by saying “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long.” Batty thanks his father by kissing him on the lips and then brutally gouging both Tyrell’s eyes out.
Over the course of fighting the Blade Runner Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford), Batty sticks a nail through his own failing hand in a very obvious reference to Jesus Christ. When Batty dies at the end, he lists some of the more amazing things he’s seen and then says those moments will all be gone when he dies, “Like tears in rain.”
These huge themes in “Blade Runner” are important to consider with the release of “Prometheus.” In the former, a great man actually gets to ask his maker why we die. In the latter, I’d expect, the same sorts of questions come up. Instead of a shrug and some reassuring words, though, the non-answer appears to be vicious alien attacks.
I cannot wait.