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[Interview] Damon Lindelof On The Origins Of The Engineers And Whatever’s In The Final Shot Of ‘Prometheus’

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I think we’re pretty much winding down on our coverage of Prometheus. But I’ve been saving this brief tidbit for last. To recap, here’s Brad’s review and David Harley’s thoughts. And if you’ve seen the movie here’s my spoiler-filled take.

Speaking of spoilers, I pulled Damon Lindelof aside for a few minutes when I was in London last week. I had some specific questions that I knew I couldn’t ask in my on-camera interview with him, so I decided to go in for a brief one on one. I was actually surprised by how forthcoming he was and my few questions were answered more thoroughly than I thought they would be.

Head inside to check it out! And, as always, make sure to write your own review as well!

The Engineers are sort of designed like Michelangelo’s David, they’re statuesque. Do you see a connection between that and the human standard of perfection? Is that one of the things you’re trying to get to in the film?

I think that the David comparison is a very apt one. In fact that’s the way Ridley described them to me. When I came into this movie, Jon Spaihts had already written a draft and the Engineers were already represented in that draft and Ridley already had the idea that the Space Jockey from the first movie was actually human. Or human-like. So before I was even hired to do this movie there was already a room full of conceptual art by Arthur Max, the production designer. He had rendered the Engineers in almost this sort of mythic neoclassical Greek way. And that’s what got the ball rolling on a lot of it. Let’s revisit the Gods of 2500 years ago or 5000 years ago, this idea of Gods as beings who walk amongst us as opposed to the God that we’re all familiar with, this deity in the heavens with no corporal form. So the new idea felt more like a sic-fi idea melded with, for lack of a better term, this sort of Clash Of The Titans type myth.

What were some of the things you added to the draft when you came on?

I think that what I really wanted to do was rebalance the movie so it wasn’t really relying as much on the Alien tropes we know. The face-hugging and chest-bursting, Xenomorphs and acid blood – all that stuff is great. But I wanted to take it in the direction of, “what if we went to meet our makers? Who are they? What are they up to? What happened to them? Did they invite us here?” If we’re perceiving something as an invitation that’s not an invitation at all – that’s who we are. We’re very egoistic creatures. If we see something in a cave of someone pointing to something, they might just be saying, “that’s where we come from.” We look at it and go, “you want us to come there!” So what happens when you show up at a party that you weren’t invited to? This movie becomes kind of that cautionary tale. I felt like I wanted to take the original idea in Jon’s draft about going to meet our makers and make the movie about that as opposed to making it about running into more aliens.

Would I be wrong in drawing an anthropological perspective here? The characters in the film meet their makers and find out the makers want to destroy them. But humans are involved in the genesis of the Xenomorph, and now we want to destroy it even though we are its creator. Are you trying to get at the perception of us as being as equally a destructive element as the Xenomorph in the eyes of the Engineers?

I think that’s a very insightful question and I do think in all creation myth there is this idea of putting the self into the creation. So the idea at the beginning that this Engineer essentially creates a strand of DNA that may lead to what we know as humanity – something that’s confirmed in the movie – I felt that the punchline of Prometheus was going to be that there is human DNA in what we have come to know as the human Xenomorph. If what we see at the end of the film is a queen or a progenitor of the eggs in Alien is all up for interpretation. We feel that there are clues in the movie that lead one down a path. But this idea that a child of Shaw and Holloway’s basically infects an Engineer and then gives birth to a Xenomorph, I do feel that the idea of creation here is sort of the birth of mutts. The mixing and matching of combinant strands.

Source: Bloody Disgusting
  • felixbrewer

    I’m sorry, but… as a big fan of the Alien Trilogy, all I can say to this approach is: I disapprove. I know I’m a nobody who doesn’t get paid to write for a living, but if you want to make a movie about the creation of humans by big proto-humans that look like Greek gods, please do that. If you are too good for the franchise you are about to enter(or come back) into, don’t do it. I actually enjoyed the movie as a nonsensical B sci-fi that looked incredible, but in an effort to make some “cute” statement about human DNA being in xenomorphs, you have done a disservice to the Alien universe and made a pretty big mistake. Instead of keeping some mystery to one of the best sci-fi creatures ever conceived, you roll around in your own cuteness and drop little non-commital implied bombs of nonsense and poorly though out logic all around. I gave this movie my money and I will probably own it in the future for light entertainment… but I am choosing to ignore any implied connection with Alien or the Alien Trilogy because it is a terrible origin concept second only to the one in the fake Spaights leaked script. I was coming to terms with it since seeing it on Sunday and then I see this little interview where you applaud your own casual attitude toward relieving your bowels on a loved story and franchise. I say good day, sir.

    • morehorror4me

      Before you get the flood of hate that is the internet, let me just say I am 100% in agreement with your comment felixbrewer. I walked out and my only thought was why even use the Alien canvas? It seemed as though there were two (possibly 3) different movies fighting for life on the screen. I wish Ridley had chosen one and stuck with it.

      • felixbrewer

        I’m glad you understand. I’ve only received a little hate so far but I did my best to retort in a civil manner. cheers

  • PeteyHalfSox

    I dont think I’ve ever heard (or read) that this was a direct prequel, it’s always been said that this movie has “Alien DNA”. And as a fan of Alien, I’ve always wonder what the hell the Space Jockey was and why it was even in the film, and Prometheus did a great job of bringing the 2 worlds together, much better than the awful AVP films.
    I cant wait to see at least one more sequel to this film , but I’m sure all the self proclaimed critics will blast those too

  • morehorror4me

    I would welcome a sequel if it was solely focused–now that it doesn’t need ALIEN to stand behind–as its own movie about the Engineers and their intentions.

    • felixbrewer

      Agreed. I guess I actually did forget to mention that I enjoyed Prometheus, warts and all. But I would be very excited to see this sequel.

  • fernadz

    you people are ridiculous. complaining because Ridley Scott gave the Alien franchise an origin story you all don’t agree with. First of all, you all talk as if your opinion matters. don’t sit there and give me that “i’m an Alien fan” because guess what none of the comics or sequels for Alien are what Ridley Scott had in mind AT ALL. even Prometheus were leftover ideas from the original Alien. the fact that the Alien series exists is blasphemy when you think about it. this is an original idea that came from a vast sea of unoriginal ideas in hollywood these days. IMO Prometheus adds a welcomed depth to the series. Let me remind you all that this is not even a direct prequel! sure some elements of Alien are touched upon but that’s it! The Prometheus story is going to go in a completely different direction! so quit your complaining and be glad Ridley Scott has even come back to the genre. if you don’t like it, then don’t watch any of the movies. but don’t sit there and act as if Ridley Scott has insulted the entire Alien series with this movie. Alien is his baby and if it were not for HIS idea and HIS vision, there would be no Alien franchise! he can do whatever he wants with it!

    • felixbrewer

      What is a “direct” prequel? Because it sure tried to be one by the end.
      Let alone the viral marketing sites like “weylandindustries.com” which Scott obviously had a hand because that’s where they posted the viral videos. The Weyland Industries corporate timeline is like retroactive foreshadowing of things like the power loader, atmosphere processors, pulse rifles, etc. which feels like they were fine with being a prequel to the greater Alien mythology when it suited them for promotion.
      You’re right I don’t matter. I’m just some guy supporting their creative efforts with my MONEY. They get paid ridiculously well above the line to make these little movies so I expect a lot for my money, yes.
      And you do know that Ridley Scott didn’t write Alien, right? I will concede that his vision went a log way toward making work so well but what he did was take a great script by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett and make it gritty and disturbing with the help of HR Giger, Ron Cobb, and many other incredible creators. It was all of their baby and what it started snowballed into a greater franchise with hits and misses. I don’t agree with making a half-assed un-prequel to make yourself feel better about the material because your daughter’s commercial director boyfriend isn’t allowed to direct the movie because Fox didn’t want to take any chances. Did you know that? He only did it because they leveraged him. So don’t give me that crap about it’s his baby and he can do what he wants with it. He didn’t want to do it at all, so he had Lindelof come in and hack it up until it wasn’t the script that would have been a better movie.
      I know you think I’m some raving fanboy and that’s fine. You’re partly correct. This is a reply because you were obviously mostly going off on me and either didn’t understand how to reply or couldn’t commit to direct bashing.
      I will respect your opinion but I don’t give a damn what you think about me or mine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.macfarlane.73 Scott Macfarlane

    Really? There’s no pleasing a moaner. Someone tries to bring a different take on a franchise and you throw your toys out of your pram because you didn’t get a fifth film of people sneaking round corridors trying to escape a monster. The Alien films are brilliant all FOUR of them but you could never go down the same route, it just never would have worked. To have the original films director come back and take it in a different direction is a risk that was worth taking as Prometheus has a lot of ideas in there that are worth discussing and exploring. If you think Ridley Scott did this film through being pressured then you don’t know Ridley Scott. He only does films he’s fully behind and committed to and doesn’t tolerate any studio interference. Plus if you were a big Alien fan you would know it hasn’t been a trilogy for a good number of years.

    • felixbrewer

      I refer to it as a trilogy because I don’t consider the fourth film canon.

      It’s well documented that Ridley Scott wanted Carl Rinsch to direct what was only known to be an Alien Prequel at the time and Fox said they wouldn’t green light if he didn’t do it.

      I actually stated that I enjoyed the movie. There was a lot about it I did like. I just feel that it would have being stronger as Prometheus without any lingering Alien connection because, in my opinion, Scott didn’t seem to want to make another Alien film at all.

      My issues aren’t really with what Prometheus is. It’s more about how many things it tries to be at once.

      Why can’t I make a reasoned argument without being called a whining child? You are more than welcome to disagree with me as you obviously do, but I am not making personal attacks or assumptions in my statements and my defense is presented in as civil a manor as I can muster when confronted with unneeded hostility.

      • http://www.facebook.com/scott.macfarlane.73 Scott Macfarlane

        I think you need to read back through your posts.

        • felixbrewer

          Can we just drop this? I didn’t post on this to upset anyone. I guess I was unclear in my first posts that I actually really enjoyed it on its own merits. I had specific issues that upset me and didn’t like the feel I got from Lindelof in this interview.

          I don’t make a habit of posting my opinions on the internet for just this reason. You don’t like my opinion, but I stated it in a clear, adult manor and it may have included a few jabs but I’ve seen much less mature debate occur here and every other site with a comment thread. I don’t think resorting to trying to place yourself above me in maturity level is warranted.

          I own the Alien Quadrilogy. I own the Alien Anthology. I still own HR Giger’s Alien design book in hardback that I had to save up for in junior high school(my grandparents never looked inside it luckily). I own the Colonial Marines Technical Manual. I own every single DH Aliens comic and not just in the omnibuses. First printings of the first two series and issues up to what was originally called “Hive”. More things I won’t go into. I only bring these up to make a point:

          I love the Alien series. I even enjoy the fourth as like a comic book-y parody of a serious Alien film. I just don’t personally count it. I’m a dick about it, but I very well know it exists.

          Some people get worked up about Star Wars. For some it’s Star Trek. For some it’s sports.

          I have one realistically silly and pointless mild obsession in this life and it happens to be the Alien universe. It is the only thing that gets me this upset that doesn’t actually mean anything at the end of the day. I acknowledge that it is a bit ridiculous but it comes from a strong emotional connection to the material from my youth.

          I’ve been waiting to see this movie since hearing it existed in any way and overall I went in with as open a mind as possible. I was overall happy with it but it’s not a perfect film by any means for me, not a great entry in the Alien universe.

          But I recommend it to everyone who asks me what I thought. I want it to succeed for a few reasons and I would honestly enjoy a sequel with even less attachment to what I guess I will think of as the more traditional Alien canon from here on out.

          I did dislike how the entire last half of LOST ended up too so I’m starting to think I just don’t enjoy how Lindelof approaches storytelling.

          Anyway, too much caffeine strikes again and I’m writing obnoxious amounts on something other than my own work so I am going to return to that.

          TL;DR I focused on the negative too much and I’m sorry for that. It comes from a genuine place and I didn’t mean to upset anyone. I will continue to recommend the movie as I have been since seeing it.

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    • felixbrewer

      Sure, I could stand to lose a little weight I guess… but what are your thoughts on Prometheus? ;p