"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable."
— Meredith Vickers
Prometheus is a 2012 science-fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, and a semi-prequel to the 1979 film Alien. It marks the end of Scott's 30 year abstinence from the science-fiction genre, after his 1982 movie Blade Runner.The film follows a team of scientists and astronauts who set out on the research vessel Prometheus to unravel the mystery of the dawn of mankind by seeking out the Engineers, who may be our very creators. Scientists Shaw and Holloway believe they have uncovered an "open invitation" to find them by means of a reoccurring star pattern found in ancient human writings. However the team soon learn the location is far from welcoming and that what they've discovered could be a danger to the human race itself.For months there was speculation as to whether Prometheus was actually related to the Alien franchise. Ridley Scott danced around the issue at first stating it started as a direct prequel before moving onto something new entirely during its initial inception. Since then it's been confirmed it takes place in the Alien canon. However whilst the film makes notable references to everyone's favorite Xenomorphs and Weyland Industries (before it was Weyland-Yutani), the plot's main focus is on the nature of the "Space Jockeys" and their connection to humanity.
Action Survivor: Shaw. Notably, she runs like hell when the Engineer attacks Weyland, Ford and the mercenary.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: David has been instructed by Peter Weyland to get in touch with the Engineers by any means necessary. While he's programmed against attacking humans, after Holloway expresses willingness to do "anything" to learn more about the Engineers, David can interpret this as permission to poison Holloway with the Engineers' organic sludge to see what happens.
Foreshadowed to a degree by the Happy Birthday David viral advert:
I can carry out directives that my human counterparts might find... distressing, or unethical.
All In The Manual: In the original script David had the instruction to make sure Holloway and Shaw didn't survive to tell the tale once they'd found the Engineers.
Aliens Are Bastards: The Engineers seek to wipe out the life of Earth for unknown reasons, and the last Engineer alive in the ship almost immediately starts killing everyone once he's awoken. Word of God confirms that the Engineers are pretty much assholes.
Because the Engineers only sent out the death warrant for humanity 2,000 years ago, some fans speculate that the Engineers and humanity were on good terms until some unspecified event occurred at that time which prompted the Engineers to want to eradicate humanity. The official reason has yet to be confirmed, however.
All There in the Manual: The Weyland Industries corporate timeline goes into much more detail about the technology and devices used in the film. The website's timeline also gives a much better understanding of Earth's advancement in the years leading up to the film's events, along with vague references to the main film series (including a mention of prototype rifles being developed for the Colonial Marines) and several interesting notes about Weyland's history, including the remark that he named the "David" android line after the name he wanted to give to his unborn child if it was a boy.
Ambiguously Human: The Engineers are genetically near-identical with humans, and in terms of appearance the only differences are in size, lack of body hair, lily-white skin, and Uncanny Valley facial structure.
An Ass Kicking Christmas: The bulk of the film takes place around Christmas. Janek sets up a tabletop Christmas tree to remind himself of the season. Nobody else pays much attention to the season, but given that central themes and plot elements concern faith, communicating with our creators, and a message in the stars, there's some symbolic connections.
An Axe to Grind: Shaw carries a fire axe while inside Vickers' ejected lifepod, and the mutated Fifield uses one to dispatch a mercenary.
And the Adventure Continues: The Prometheus crew foils the Engineers' plan to wipe out life on Earth, but Shaw (the sole survivor of the expedition) still has no idea why they decided to destroy the species that they helped create. Desperate for answers, she boards an Engineer spacecraft and, with David as her guide, plots a course for the Engineers' home planet...
Applied Phlebotinum: The organic and corrosive black substance that not only does... curious things to tissue and living hosts, but can apparently both create and destroy entire ecosystems.
David: I didn't know you had it in you. Sorry, poor choice of words.
Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Janek, the Token Minority, survives until the climax, while Fifeld and Milburn are the first to die. Notably, when Janek does die at the end, it's the result of a Heroic Sacrifice that he planned himself. Incidentally, the black dude sacrificing himself is a common occurrence in the Alien franchise; in fact, Aliens is the only movie that doesn't feature it.
Blood from the Mouth: One of the crew members, when the mutated Fifield attacks the ship. Justified, since it seems that Fifield did crush his organs. Also occurs after David's head is ripped off, though it's a rather odd milky-white seeing as he is an android.
Blue and Orange Morality: The Engineers. While one is shown having the intent to kill the human race, one underwent a Heroic Sacrifice in order to give us life, and another apparently sacrificed himself to buy the other Jockeys some time from the mutagen.
Bond Villain Stupidity: At least 2,000 years ago, the Engineers gave the order to wipe out humanity and apparently had the bright idea of leaving the job to their least competent outpost who couldn't even keep their own weapons under control. In the two intervening millenia, whatever military or governing body of the Engineers that exists didn't even consider checking up on the status of their own outpost, let alone the status of the target they ordered destroyed.
Broken Pedestal: The Engineers invoke nothing but hope and wonder in Holloway and Shaw. They are seen as a chance to know more about ourselves and humanity's origins. Essentially they are viewed as living gods. Unfortunately, Shaw learns first hand that they are monsters who, for reasons known only to themselves, want to destroy us.
But I Can't Be Pregnant!: Shaw discovers she's three months pregnant, despite sleeping with Holloway only ten hours before. Made a lot more horrific because Shaw was sterile and had wanted to have children...
By Wall That Is Holey: Shaw avoids a gruesome death from being crushed by the Engineer starship by falling into a shallow, but sufficient dip in the ground, where the ship stops inches above her.
The videoscreen in Vickers' room aboard the Prometheus appears to be the same technology that is seen during a scene from Aliens, where Ripley sits on a bench in the Weyland-Yutani operated Gateway Station and watches the scenery change on the screen behind her.
Everything in the Prometheus is this. The doors look similar to the ones in the Nostromo, even down to having icons on top of them. Also some of the visuals for the ship's system look similar to the ones in the Nostromo, especially the animated red X countdown seen when Janek prepares to ram the Prometheus against the Engineers' ship.
Its not just in the human technology either.
The Cameo: Patrick Wilson as Shaw's father, who appears in a single flashback near the beginning of the film.
Canon Discontinuity: Prometheus apparently ignores the Alien VS Predator films. The Weyland Corporation timeline notably does not feature Charles Bishop Weyland, who founded Weyland Industries in that canon. Subverted in a sense because The Engineer's suits and equipment resemble that of a Predator's armor and weapons and many the "pictures" in the room resemble both Xenomophs and Predators.
Central Theme: Parental Abandonment. The "Engineers" left the human race to fend for itself, and then attempts to exterminate it. Peter Weyland built the most powerful corporation on Earth, and his daughter Vickers worked hard to be worthy of inheriting it, only for Weyland to seek immortality via the Engineers instead. Shaw discovers that she's pregnant with an alien fetus, and immediately has the autodoc cut it out of her and attempts to kill it.
Shaw: Why do you hate us?
Well, the "Engineers" are genetically identical to humans, and humanity's answer to that question seems to be; Because you're not what we wanted.
Invoked by David. "Don't we all wish for our parents to be dead?" Weyland programs him, serving as sort of adoptive father, and without him, David would consider himself to be free.
Chekhov's Gun: The automated surgical unit. After the surgical device has served its purpose, the creature it removed becomes one itself.
Chekhov's Gunman: Fifield. Once he disappeared after the Hammerpede attacks Milburn, it was just a matter of time before he'd show up again.
David is shown taking linguistics lessons from the ship's onboard computer, and says that he spent the last two years learning every ancient and proto language he could get his hands on. This later proves to be important when Weyland asks David to speak with the surviving Engineer.
While it's not explicitly stated, it's fairly clear that David was deliberately learning Ur-languages in the hope of being able to communicate with the Engineers, should the chance arise. Finding a means of communication is an essential part of any planned first contact. His studying of the languages would also be helpful in translating any hieroglyphs that might be found.
David's ability to decipher the Engineer symbols and machinery in the structure comes in handy when Shaw uses him to control an Engineer craft and leave the planet at the end of the film.
Near the end of the film, the Engineer is killed by an organism resembling a giant facehugger, releasing a creature that appears to be a xenomorph related to the one found in Alien.
Shaw's final log at the end of the film is very much a nod towards Ripley's log at the end of Alien.
Basically everything in the film is a continuity nod:
The suits, the gun on the ship... etc.
Continuity Porn: Everything related to the film, from the Viral Marketing campaign (that shows Weyland Industries before it merged with the Yutani Corporation) to the content of the plot (the crew interacts with the same type of ship seen in the original film, the Space Jockey race, xenomorphs, etc.), is made of this.
The New Age background music to Weyland's presentation is from the end credits of Alien.
Some supplementary materials from the Blu-ray show that at one point, the Mega Corp. was supposed to be named Weyland-Tyrell. It's never made clear if Scott gave up on the idea of linking the two continuities completely.
Cool Starship: The SS Prometheus looks every bit the $1 trillion she cost to make.
Unusually subverted for this universe. Vickers is framed this way in a particularly menacing introduction but turns out to be a straight shooter.
Weyland himself is a different story. He lies to the crew, treats Vickers like a redheaded stepchild, and seems to be the person pulling David's crew-abusive strings. He's also effectively risking humanity's existence on his request of the Engineers being well-received.
Cranial Processing Unit: David's head, which is separated from his body when the Engineer rips it off. He later communicates with Shaw without the rest of his body, and allows Shaw and himself to escape the planet at the end of the film.
Credits Gag: At the end of the credits it's noted that the footage is the property of Weyland Industries.
Crisis of Faith: Subverted. The entire movie seems to be setting Shaw up for a monstrous one, yet in the end, she stands by her faith.
Fifield's helmet melts into his face. After he's mutated - which forced his body to crawl the entire way to Prometheus legs over spine - and shows up at the ship, he gets shot repeatedly, run over, and is set on fire.
Milburn's death by asphyxiation - or perhaps, worse still, massive internal injuries - when a creature forces its way into his body through his mouth. What occurred beforehand was also very unpleasant.
The Engineer's slow death at the hands of the horrific tentacle monster. Then the Engineer's true death by chestburster.
Vickers gets crushed under the Space Jockey ship.
Holloway contracts an infection that begins painfully dissolving his body from the inside, then he's flame-broiled alive by a flamethrower—which doesn't appear to kill him right away.
Milburn deliberately tries to touch the "Hammerpede", a snakelike creature that emerges from a pool of the black liquid. This is despite Fifield's pleas for him to stop what he's doing. It ends...badly. As noted under Too Dumb to Live below, this is a biologist who apparently does not recognise a threat display.
One of the deleted scenes shows that he's so ecstatic because nobody's ever found alien life bigger than a bacterium before.
Vickers tells Weyland before the team leaves for the structure: "If you go down there, you'll die." Not only does Weyland and most of the team get killed minutes later by the surviving Engineer, but Vickers ends up getting crushed by the falling Engineer ship seconds after her escape pod lands on the planet.
Dead Star Walking: Guy Pearce appears to be this. It's said in the film that he was close to death just before the Prometheus set out for Lv-223, and recorded a final message knowing his time was at an end...then it turns out he was on the ship all along.
Vickers is set up as something of one for Ripley, at least to start with - aloof, no-nonsense, and mercilessly by-the-book when a crew member returns to the ship infected with something. No doubt deliberately done as a red herring to further Ridley Scott's pre-release claims that Vickers would be the lone survivor.
David is one for Ash from the first film, being an android under morally ambiguous orders from the corporation and ends up reduced to a talking head.
Failsafe Failure: The storage area. The jars apparently do nothing to contain the black stuff, and unleash it as soon as the door is opened; the only way to handle it safely is by actively freezing it. Possibly intentional if Janek is right about their nature, and it has been a very long time.
Fallen Hero: Peter Weyland, who according to the company timeline was a child prodigy, earned two unshared Nobel Prizes, and founded a corporation which is entirely responsible for humanity forming an interstellar civilization. Such a person would have been favorably immortalized by history without a doubt. His desire for physical immortality however, not only alienated his daughter, but sacrificed a significant portion of his corporation's assets, was directly responsible for the deaths of 15 of 17 people aboard Prometheus, and jeopardized the human race with extinction. However, because no one returned to Earth to tell the tale, Weyland's reputation remains intact. On the other hand, him sacrificing said portion of his company's assets may have unwittingly led to Weyland Industries' merger into Weyland-Yutani.
Fan Disservice: Noomi Rapace half-dressed? Sure, but she also just woke up from cryosleep, and is vomiting quite a bit. She gets half-naked again later in the film, but also undergoes some emergency surgery to get the thing out of her, and staggers out of the medpod covered in blood and amniotic fluid.
Charlize Theron half-dressed and doing pushups. It goes by very quickly, though.
For slightly longer — a very lean and lovely Michael Fassbender in a tight, heathered-gray tee shirt. Too bad it's when he's telling Shaw about her unconventional fetus and being the very personification of malevolent authority.
Final Girl: Scott claimed that he was intending to make use of this trope with Theron's character by explicitly stating she'll make it through to the end of the film. He lied.It's Elizabeth and not Vickers.
Well, both actors are British—Millburn seems to be American, though his accent is is kind of all over the place, ranging from heavy Southern ("Millburn, biology") to more general ("If you're willing to discount three centuries of Darwinism...")
Flying Saucer: A large one makes an appearance in the opening sequence. It's so large that that the clouds flow around it when it manouvres.
Shaw and Holloway talk onboard the ship when they come back from the first expedition to the structure. Holloway makes a point of asking Shaw if her inability to conceive a child was caused by faith. Later on, she does find out that she's pregnant...except it isn't a traditional fetus.
When Shaw uses Vickers' autodoc to remove the fetus, she is initially told that the machine is only programmed to treat a male patient. This foreshadows Weyland's appearance, and the reveal that Vickers is his daughter - the autodoc was for his use in case he needed it.
Milburn and Fifield discover a pile of Engineer corpses that all have what appear to be holes in their heads, indicating something exploded out of it. Later on, when the crew finds Milburn, a Hammerpede explodes out of his head and goes into the pool of black liquid.
The hologram of Peter Weyland at the beginning of the film refers to David as "the closest thing [he] has to a son". There is then a brief shot of a seething Vickers. It is later revealed that Vickers is Weyland's biological daughter.
Vickers being Weyland's daughter, is once again foreshadowed by the fact that she and David (Who Weyland had earlier referred to as the "closest thing he had to a Son"),could easily pass for brother and sister. Janek even asks Vickers if she is an android because her and David have a similar temperament.
From a Single Cell: It's strongly implied that even the smallest drop of the virulent black goo ending up in an eco system would be enough to turn a habitable planet into an all out Death World overrun with rapidly evolving flesh-eating nasties, deadly parasites and rampaging mutants. For instance, the "Hammerpede" that killed Millburn and Fifield originated as an inch-long segmented worm that got drenched in the goo leaking from the vases.
Genre Savvy: Almost the entire cast demonstrates this at one point or another. It's however undermined by Idiot Ball (see also below).
Shaw runs on first trope when hell starts to break loose in the Engineer ship.
Fifield and Milburn know to get the hell out of Dodge when the party discovers an Engineer corpse - but then Milburn, a biologist who should know better than to play with snakes, thinks that strange hissing snake thing is cute...
Vickers refuses to let Holloway back on the ship when he is obviously infected with the black mutagen, and Holloway forces Vickers to kill him with a flamethrower when he realizes the implications of his infection.
Janek refuses to allow anything related to the black mutagen to leave the planet, up and to sacrificing the Prometheus and his life to disable the Engineer vessel set to release said mutagen on Earth.
The Engineer they first find deliberately decapitated himself to prevent the mutagen from activating.
When running from the falling Engineer ship, Shaw escapes to the side while Vickers runs straight forward and is crushed - but it's only because Shaw fell and so wouldn't catch up.
In one of the deleted scenes, this is how he justifies wanting to be immortal to the Engineer:
Weyland: I deserve this, because you and I, we are superior. We are creators. We are gods. And gods never die.
God Is Evil: Subverted with the Engineers. They may have created humanity long ago, but they are very much mortals. And absolutely not worthy of worship. Whether or not the entire race is Always Chaotic Evil is left up in the air, though. See Blue And Orange Morality.
Godzilla Threshold: Shaw uses the Trilobite in a desperate attempt to escape the Engineer knowing that the survivor of that fight is more than capable of killing her, but at that point she literally has nothing to lose- to whit- the Engineer's hands are literally around her throat at the time.
Janek destroys Prometheus and himself by invoking Ramming Always Works to stop the Engineer ship. It's implied that it was meant from the start as the last-resort option of damage containment.
Hate Sink: Vickers fills the role of "person we're allowed to hate" for most of the film, since the Engineer doesn't turn up until the end and David doesn't have clear enough motives for us to know why he does what he does.
Heroic Sacrifice: When Shaw informs Janek that the Engineer vessel is headed to Earth with its "payload", he decides to crash the ship headfirst into it. His crewmen Ravel and Chance refuse to leave his side in order to help him. They all go out in explosive style.
This actually seems to a running theme in the movie: the Engineer at the start sacrifices himself to birth humanity; David muses over T.E. Lawrence's line about "not minding that it hurts" and, despite cruelty and unnecessary violence making him shed a single milky tear, indicating some amount of empathy, proceeds to sacrifice the rest of his crew for some apparently larger goal; Holloway asserts that he would be willing to do "anything and everything" to succeed in the mission (indirectly giving David permission to infect him), and later keeps quiet about his health concerns for the sake of continuing the mission and allows himself to be burned to death to stop his infection; and at the opposite end of the spectrum is Weyland, who will sink a trillion dollars of research and resources, plus risk the security of mankind, to stop himself from dying, despite already appearing to be past his centenary.
Hoist by His Own Petard: The Engineers seem to have this happen to them constantly, including the only living one seen in the film. Then again, these guys don't seem to care about their own survival all that much.
Holloway too. He says that he is prepared to do "anything and everything" for the mission to succeed. Unfortunately, David takes that a little too literally...
Though he was drunk at the time, so probably wasn't thinking too clearly about the implications of what he was saying.
Fifield and Milburn, upon being informed there are sporadic lifesigns in one direction, immediately go the other way. Going to the sporadic life signs to investigate would have placed them outside a locked hatch in a perfectly safe corridor. Going the other way placed them in the room with the creatures that killed/mutated them.
The Engineer ship has room-sized holographic displays, which are activated via playing a musical instrument, and controlled by pressing button-like fatty cushions and glowing green crystals. Other control panels in the ship seem to be little more than cuneiform inscriptions carved in rock, that react to touch.
Hollywood Science: The crew examine the alien's DNA by simply putting a tissue sample on a slide and looking at it under a light microscope. Possibly justified, seeing as the film takes place in the future.
Let's say that it is possible to restore functionality to the nervous system of an organism that has been decapitated and has been rotting for over 2000 years (the brain of the organism has been derived of oxygen all that time, which the brain requires to function); the head's muscles would have been so decayed over that time that the head would no longer be recognizable; let alone move its facial muscles.
Hydra Problem: Fifield attempts to cut off the alien snake's head when it breaks Millburn's arm, but not only does it spray acid blood over Fifield's face for his efforts, the head instantly grows back.
Yes, go ahead and pet the strange hissing cobra thing; we all want to see what happens. Scratch that, we've paid to see it.
Why oh why would anyone on an alien world take their helmet off? Even if the air's composition is chemically breathable, it's still dangerous, especially since the body has zero preparation for any microscopic contagious life it encounters.
The fake Weyland Corporation timeline says that the company has developed advanced bioscanners that can detect microscopic life-forms. However, this still doesn't excuse them removing their helmets and introducing Earth micro-organisms into an alien environment.
Did anyone stop to consider that maybe the aliens might be hostile?note Yes they did, they even brought guns and flamethrowers just in case. Unfortunately for everyone else involved, the guy who funded the exploration and the two scientists he says are in charge of the mission don't allow their use. While it is true that there was peaceful contact in the past, they don't consider that maybe there was a reason it stopped. Everyone seems to think that their arrival will be met with fanfare, that they'll be greeted heartily and all their questions will be answered.
Two of your crew are lost in a hostile environment, with no supplies and no way to provide backup to them until next morning? Sure, captain, go to bed. Don't leave anyone on watch to monitor them in case something happens to them. For that matter, don't have rotating watch shifts either, it's not like your ship is in a hostile environment either. Don't move the spaceship any closer to the cave allowing them a better chance of getting there.
Oh, and do dismiss the strange life sign as nothing despite the rest of the alien inhabitants appearing dead and your crew members being very close to it.
So the suit of one of those crew members shows up inexplicably right outside the door, and you the captain realize that something is amiss? Whatever you do, don't actually tell the rest of the crew, instead of just talking to yourself, or physically stop the doors. Because that would be helpful.
If Shaw and Vickers had just run to the side to begin with, they would have avoided both the ship rolling and tipping over. Shaw only survives because she falls down and realizes she can roll out of the way. Thoroughly mocked by Penny Arcade.
This last may be a case of juggling Idiot Balls; a closer look at that particular scene shows the alien ship provided more than a little shelter. One could risk getting squashed by the alien ship, or run to the side only to get clobbered by the falling debris of the Prometheus.
Shaw at least has the excuse of being so exhausted that she was weaving, racked with pain, and horribly traumatized that she could not be expected to be thinking clearly.
Fifield managing to get lost on the way out of the ruins. This could be understandable, if he weren't the very guy in charge of mapping the place. And if he didn't later provide Janek with his exact location by way of coordinates. Gauntlet mounted tracking/mapping device and he relies on his own sense of direction to try and get back...
Janek explaining that the alien base is a military installation stockpiling bioweapons. He didn't see enough of the installation to be the one to come to that conclusion, and there's no guarantee he's right.
Immortality Immorality: Gallons and gallons of it. Not wanting to wither and die from age is so evil that it not only destroys your whole family but condemns your entire species to righteous genocide.
Just a Machine: The attitude taken towards David. He just brushes it off every time it comes up, but it's quite clear that it insults and annoys him in some capacity.
Kill All Humans: The default setting for The Engineers. Upon being awoken from stasis and having a conversation with David, he kills those who awoke him. He then carries on with his mission to destroy Earth despite it being two thousand years later.
Kill It with Fire: Vickers decontaminating Holloway. And then again, later, when the mutated Fifield attacks the ship.
Letting Her Hair Down: When Vickers appears to be the average corporate bitch, her hair is tied back in a ponytail. When she shows some warmth her hair is shown down. After that, while she continues to wear it in a ponytail, it's much looser.
Living Weapon: It is discovered that everyone's favorite xenomorphsare just one type of genetically engineered superweapons made by the Engineers.
The producers say their intention with the Deacon was to show the "origin" of what would later become the familiar Xenomorph.
Love Interest: Charlie is Elizabeth's long term partner. They both share the dream of meeting the Engineers.
Losing Your Head: David after the last Engineer wakes up and tears it off. Later, when Shaw returns for him, both David's head and body respond, with his hands almost comically reaching out to her.
Man on Fire: Holloway allows himself to be torched when he's infected with the black mutagen.
Meaningful Name: The ship is named Prometheus for the Greek titan, who stole fire from the Olympian gods to give to man and was punished. Peter Weyland discusses this at length in the 2023 TED Talk viral clip, and his explanation of the name is reiterated in the video message the crew watches during the briefing.
Mega Corp.: Weyland Industries. How "mega?" Weyland and his company discovered and/or are responsible for biotech, nanotech, fusion energy, M-theory, deep space exploration and colonization and Artificial Humans. Note that this takes place before the merger into Weyland-Yutani.
Mercy Kill: Holloway asks for this - and gets it - from Vickers.
The briefing scene aboard the Prometheus resembles the briefing from Aliens, including most of the crew not having been told about the purpose of the mission before they went into hypersleep. However, the circumstances of this movie make this much less plausible.
The movie ends much like how the original Alien did: the survivor goes off into space, leaving behind a the final log of the ship that describes what she's been through.
David 8. Compare with Ripley 8 in Alien: Resurrection.
The POV Cams from Aliens re-appear. And, like that movie, the team disarms themselves with disastrous results.
The head on the outside of the ship closely resembles the newborn from Alien: Resurrection.
The mutated Fifield gets run over and crushed by a vehicle in exactly the same way as one of the Xenomorphs in Aliens.
Never Trust a Trailer: At least one of the trailers made extensive use of the iconic "howl" noise from the original 1979 trailer for Alien. This, plus the choice of rapid-cut shots, could be interpreted as an attempt to sell Prometheus as being much more directly concerned with the Xenomorphs than it actually is.
No Biochemical Barriers: Played with. The environment on LV-223 is hostile to humans, but the air inside the caves is breathable because the Engineers terraformed that spot just for them.
Space Clothes do show up aboard the Prometheus, though their purpose is justified and well shown. On the other hand, most fashions seemed to have weathered the century of change from the present more or less unchanged.
The flashback viewers see of Dr. Shaw's childhood, which is set in India sometime around the 2060s-70s can easily be mistaken for The Sixties or The Seventies of the twentieth century from the clothes used. The Scotland 2089 scenes wouldn't look out of place in 2012.
The Nothing After Death: It's a character's opinion after being mortally wounded by the very thing he thought might save him.
Peter Weyland: There's... nothing. David: I know. Have a good journey, Mr. Weyland.
Nothing Is Scarier: The scenes where Fifield and Milburn are trapped in the cave during a storm. They know there's some sort of creature out on the planet with them, but don't know where it is.
David makes a connection between himself and Holloway in that they are both trying to understand why they were created. He also brings up the possibility that the Engineers created humanity just because they could, nothing more.
One-Dimensional Thinking: A Double Subversion when Vickers and Shaw are running away from the crashing spaceship along its longest axis as it rolls toward them, but Shaw survives when she falls over and it finally occurs to her that she could roll a short distance to one side. The second subversion comes when it falls on top of her anyway. Possibly a third subversion when it almost crushes her but is stopped by some rocks. The same doesn't occur to Vickers and she's just plain crushed. Ironically, if she had fallen, she might've thought to roll in the other direction from the one Shaw rolled, which would be the way ship wouldn't fall.
Only 0.2% Different: It is revealed that the Engineers are a match for human DNA, despite being ten-foot tall hairless albinos with pitch-black, pulil-less eyes.
Organic Technology: Staple of the Engineer culture. Anything from their ships to their clothes (seemingly seamlessly fused to their bodies) seems to be made of living tissue or bone. The most significant example is probably the black sludge, which in Earth-like atmospheric conditions has the ability to mutate any Terrestrial life-form in horrible, parasitic ways into techno-organic nightmares.
Origins Episode: Scott claimed fans would "recognize strands of Alien's "DNA" at a certain point in the film.
The film features a wall mural that looks eerily similar to the Xenomorphs and a variety of monsters that will be very familiar to Alien fans.
A proto-xenomorph called the "Deacon" makes an appearance at the very end of the movie.
Justified in that the people shown to look down on her beliefs are either scientists, ruthless industrialists, or an android - not groups that are generally known for their belief in a higher power. Even if it were a modern day setting (ignoring the android) she'd still likely be the odd one out.
P.O.V. Cam: The crew on the Prometheus watches the feeds from the expedition team's helmet-mounted cameras (seen from the operator's perspective) at several points in the film.
Janek, right before the mutated Fifield attacks. He clearly realizes that something is wrong, and even voices as much to himself, but doesn't use the comm system to warn the mechanics or even stop the door from opening.
Janek again, when Fifield and Milburn come upon the pile of Engineer corpses in the structure. Janek thinks it's amusing and tells them to have a good night, then leaves the comm station right before Milburn gets attacked. Not that he would have been able to help them anyways, considering the storm.
Holloway sees an alien worm swimming around in his eye, and doesn't bother to tell anyone he's infected until he collapses during the second trip to the structure.
Precursors: The Engineers seeded the original life on Earth from their own genetic code.
Previews Pulse: The film's trailers used a muted variant, coupled with a strange howl taken from the original Alien's trailer.
R-Rated Opening: The introductory sequence with The Engineer's body deteriorating.
Ragnarok-Proofing: It's stated that the Engineer's starships are at least 2,000 years old, and yet are shown to be still functional and flyable.
Ramming Always Works: Janek sets the ship on an intercept course with the discovered Engineer ship to prevent it from leaving orbit and attacking Earth. Unusually, the Prometheus is completely destroyed, while the Engineer ship is merely brought down intact to the ground.
Red Herring: The hammerpede crawling down Milburn's throat. It seemed like this would be the origin of the xenomorph, but it turns out the thing was just killing him and nothing more.
Retraux: Subtle example, but the "Happy Birthday, David" viral video is done in the style of a 70's or early 80's informational or advertisement video. Its most noticeable in the retro music and the clipped, "brick to the ear" audio mastering, but also in the furniture and interiors shown, repeating, moving geometric patterns in the "beat clips," fonts on the infographics, as well as the high-key lighting and color choices.
The Reveal: The Space-Jockey from the original Alien was in fact an Engineer. Given that they are supposed to look near-human, the reason for the Space-Jockey's strange, elephantine features is because it was merely his helmet.
Robotic Reveal: Unlike the prior Alien films (which had most of its androids reveal themselves by leaking or bleeding milky blood), David's robotic behaviour is personified in his introductory scene, where he rides a bicycle around in circles in the ship's basketball court while simultaneously dribbling a ball and shooting hoops.
Scare Chord: When Holloway discovers the worm in his eye, and any other instance of horrible things happening, including the caesarean section and Fifield and Milburn's fatal encounter with the snakelike creature.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. The stated distance to LV-223 is 3.27*10^14 kmnote Approximately 34.6 lightyears. The characters are on Earth in 2089, and by the end of the film, it's 2094. This is justified since faster than light travel does exist in the shared universe of Prometheus and Alien. Rather than (in comparison) almost-instantaneous transition that FTL is usually depicted as, it actually still takes months or years to travel interstellar distances in spite of it, and the crew was in cryo-sleep for almost all of the two-year journey.
Played straight when Vickers says they've come a half-billion miles, which is roughly the distance of Jupiter from the sun, unless she meant the distance travelled since they came out of FTL.
Sealed Evil in a Can: The jars inside the structure, which can cause mutation or destruction to anything and everything that comes in contact with it. Later on, the expedition team discovers that the Engineer ship has a cargo hold full of these jars, along with a dormant Engineer who put himself in hypersleep, and intends to use the craft to destroy Earth via releasing the jars.
Send In The Search Team: A second expedition team is sent into the structure to find out what happened to Fifield and Milburn.
Sequel Hook: Shaw's departure for the Engineers' homeworld, as well as the Deacon creature in the final scene.
In connection to the latter, the alternate ending for the film has David reveal that the closest word we have for where they came from is "Paradise". Current rumors point to this being the name of the eventual sequel.
Weyland's hologram-message to the crew bears a striking similarity to Hari Seldon's series of hologram-messages to the people of Terminus, in Isaac Asimov's Foundation. Seldon is also physically diminished, reveals the true hidden nature of their mission, and is secretly manipulating people from beyond the grave. Although, in Seldon's case, he really is dead.
At one point the captain paraphrases a line from a song in Finians Rainbow.
Side Bet: The pilots of the Prometheus have a 100 credits bet regarding the findings of the mission.
Sigil Spam: The Weyland logo is on everything, including David's fingerprint.
Single Tear: Shaw sheds one while she's on the table after Holloway's death, getting scanned and discovering she is carrying an alien foetus, and being asked about the death of her father by David as he removes her cross necklace.
Songs in the Key of Lock: The Engineers' ship is activated by pressing buttons in order and by playing notes on a flute-like instrument.
Stealth Sequel: Although the film is set before the Alien series, Scott has said that there are possibilities to expand the universe in other ways through the events that occur in the film. The film is set on a different planet (LV-223), and focuses on the "Space Jockey" race from the first film: The Xenomorphs and Weyland Industries do get notable references, but the focus is clearly on the "Engineers" and their connection to humanity.
Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The Engineers. Although humanity, through Shaw and David know enough to make some sense of their technological and physiological prowess, they still come across as virtually god-like.
Suicide by Cop: Holloway gets infected by the black goop, and chooses to be 'sterilised' by Wickers and her flamethrower.
Summon Bigger Fish: The surviving Engineer is defeated by a giant proto-facehugger set loose on it by the last survivor.
Theme Naming: David carries on the tradition of robot characters in Aliens movies having names beginning with the next letter of the alphabet from the last (Ash, Bishop and Call). Which is a bit strange, considering this takes place before they were even built.
Three Laws Compliant: Played with in the "Happy Birthday, David" viral clip. David states that he can seamlessly integrate with an employer's workforce effortlessly and do what is asked of him, but also states that he can carry out directives that are too "distressing or unethical" for anyone else. This foreshadows Ash's behavior in the original Alien, Bishop's comment about how his programming will never allow him to harm another human being, and Call's interest in religion as a means of moving beyond mere ethical programming to true morality.
The fact that the cast removes their helmets after finding that the atmosphere within the structure is breathable. Just because it's breathable doesn't mean it's safe, as there's a myriad of factors which could potentially be deadly. The fact that they do this even after discovering that the place is a death trap is beyond stupid. Shaw at least lampshades this after after Charlie mutates and is killed, treating airborne infection as a possibility.
Their quarantine protocols are a joke. They would have brought an infected crewmember onto the ship (Vickers was smart enough to waste him), and let a second crewmember on after that happened. Before all that, they experimented on an Engineer head clearly infected with something out in the open rather than through some type of quarantine bubble. If it had exploded two seconds earlier, a half-dozen people would have been dead right there.
Millburn is a biologist, so he of all people really should have known better than to approach that hissing cobra like creature and stroke it. Both he and Fiefield get this in unison when they bolt in response to seeing a dead alien body, then make camp in the same room as the dead alien body. Literally anywhere else would have been a better choice.
Holloway, later. There is a bloody worm in his eye, and he doesn't think to seek medical attention before venturing back into the place he possibly contracted it in. At least he has the common sense to force Vickers to kill him later.
Shaw and Vickers don't consider running out of the path of the falling spaceship instead of in the same direction it's crashing in. Shaw only gets the idea when she trips and finds herself about to get flattened. Vickers wasn't even that smart. Noted by Penny Arcade.
Shaw again, slightly earlier: when the Engineer ship is rising up from its circular pit, she jumps from segment to segment of the opening hatch above it, nearly falling between the widening gaps at one point - and then stands stock still on one moving segment to address the other crew members on board Prometheus. Only when the conversation is done does she make a run for the edge of the opening, where she could have completely avoided the risky jumps in the first place.
There was no way that meeting the Engineers could be as rosy as Shaw thought it would be (to borrow a quote from somewhere else, "It would be like reading Homer's Odyssey, then traveling to Greece expecting to shake his hand").
Holloway insisting on exploring the structure immediately when there's a storm on the way and not much daylight left. He's supposed to be anxious, and we can understand that, but someone should have shut him down.
Dr. Shaw never mentions to anyone that an alien has been extracted from her and is still alive and aboard the ship when everything else relating to alien life on the planet has resulted in gruesome deaths of fellow crew members. Possibly inverted, as the alien in question ends up saving her life later.
Took a Level in Badass: Shaw starts the film as an archaeologist who's mostly concerned with collecting samples. By the end of the film, she's carrying a fireaxe around and setting the fetus trapped in the medpod loose on the Engineer when he tries to strangle her.
Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers for the film clearly show the Prometheus plowing into the side of the Engineer ship and partially blowing up, Shaw's emergency c-section, the living Engineer attacking several members of the crew, and much more.
In fact, one of the movie posters has Shaw in her suit in the foreground, with the Prometheus plowing into the side of the Engineer ship and partially blowing up in the background. That's right, the ending of the movie in is one of the posters.
Heavily invoked by the "Happy Birthday, David" viral clip. David is shown making several odd gestures, including what appears to be a slight moment of processing when the narrator asks what he can do (tilting his head slightly with a glossy look in his eyes), and his speech about how war and poverty make him sad, complete with thorough waterworks, then (without missing a beat or changing expression) describing how he does not feel even the remotest emotion but can replicate them perfectly. He also "smiles" (note Sarcasm Mode) whilst claiming he can perfectly replicate emotion and fit in with humans.
Also brought up when Holloway asks David why he's wearing an environment suit when he doesn't need to breathe. David responds by saying that he was designed to be as human as possible to put humans at ease when dealing with him. Not wearing the suit would put him squarely into Uncanny Valley territory.
The Engineers, first seen in the movie's intro. They look almost human, but are over ten feet tall, and seem to have about as much in common with us as we have with David.
Ungrateful Bastard: After David rescues Holloway and Shaw from the storm, Holloway chews him out for risking his life and thereby the mission (David being the only technical and linguistic expert on the Engineers). David, for his part, ignores Holloway entirely and makes sure Shaw is alright, and she at least is kind enough to thank him.
Up to Eleven: The last four movies had face-raping facehuggers that look like big skeletal spiders. How do you top that? Simple: take the same creature, make it the size of a car, and turn it into a tentacled monstrosity with a mouth full of fangs and eyes on its underside.
Vasquez Always Dies: Vickers, the callous company exec who's shown doing push-ups right after stasis, torching infected crew with a flame thrower (for the sake of the rest), throwing David around like a rag doll, and just being a bitch is offed in favour of the sensitive, scientific, religious, emotional Shaw.
Villain Protagonist: Vickers, according to Theron. Mostly justified in that she has no reason to believe Charlie and Shaw's thesis that the Engineers are out there. She's also the only one to follow any kind of guidelines and common sense when it comes to letting the infected and contaminated Charlie back on board, and thanks to her father's rather horrid "Well Done, Son" Guy tendencies toward her, she has a massive chip on her shoulder when it comes to David—whom Weyland brands as the son he never had in front of her and the entire Prometheus crew during their initial briefing. She's almost definitely a precursor to the Corrupt Corporate Executive we see fully manifested in Aliens' Burke, but she's got more reasons behind the way she is.
The Virus: The black liquid, implied to be some kind of bioweapon.
Wham Line: "You're pregnant." Said by David to Elizabeth, after it's already been established that she can't bear children.
Near the very end of the movie:
David: "You have to get out of there, immediately. He's coming for you."
What Happened to the Mouse?: When Fifield attacks the hangar, two of the crew escape the cargo bay in one of the large, van-like rovers. Whereas the fates of the rest of the crew are seen onscreen, the two engineers who get in the truck are never seen or mentioned again.
Their fate is implicitly clarified later, when the Prometheus rams the Engineer ship, and is completely destroyed in the process.
Considering the last we see of them is them driving off the Prometheus, there's a strong possibility they survived. It also seems unlikely that Janek would just let them die.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Played With concerning David. It is quite evident that he desires to be considered human or at least an equal by the crew members. He models himself after Peter O'Toole's character in Lawrence of Arabia. He even winces when Weyland says that David is soul-less and instantly frowns when Holloway reminds him that he is not human. It is also hinted that he wants Weyland dead in order to gain his freedom. Additionally, he shows clear affection towards the one person on board who treats him kindly and with respect - Shaw.