"When I behold your heavens, the work of your hands, the moons and stars which you have set in place, I ask: What are we, then, that you should be so mindful of us? Who are we that you should care so much for us?" Psalm 8:4-5
Prometheus is not seeking to be a mindless summer popcorn movie. This is a film that, instead, asks a lot of deep questions... BIG questions like "what is the origin of life and why were humans created?" Not something you'd normally expect in the midst of mega-blockbusters in cool air-conditioned multiplexes.
The movie is set almost a century into our future (the year 2093 to be exact) when the spacecraft Prometheus is sent to a distant solar system that our human ancestors painted on cave walls thousands and thousands of years ago.
Finding a link between the future and the past, between planets light years away and our own earth, is what motivates archaeologists like Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), the scientific leader of the spacecraft's crew. It is also what compels business industrialists like Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and their self-motivated android David (Michael Fassbender).
Questions and curiosities like the origins of the universe and the act of creation have been on humanity's mind for as long as we could think and reason. And when there is some indication that a few of those questions might get answered, like the crew of Prometheus, we are often ready to jump in feet-first.
This is where the movie takes a dramatic turn from being an exploration of deep theories to a story of survival. Whether planned or accidental, the crew find themselves faced with uneasy answers and certain danger as they land on planet LV-223.
Yet through all the catastrophes, aliens, and infections that result from this interplanetary expedition, Dr. Shaw remains the stalwart force behind the crew, continuing to ask the tough questions and stay true to her beliefs that our origins have purpose and meaning.
Shaw stands as a testament to those who persistently pursue the discovery, knowledge, and understanding of the meaning and relationship of life, the universe, and the divine.
Too often, we live in the here and now, forgetting grand philosophies and theological truth in favor of surviving whatever situation we find ourselves in. From time to time, this is okay to do so that we don't become aloof and distant from the world in which we live. However, to push it off the side altogether is foolish and shortsighted.
For the most part, the crew of Prometheus was overly concerned about their survival and protecting their own self-interests - and ultimately paid the price for it (though I would expect no less in a science fiction horror story like this). In the film, for instance, two characters (a biologist and a geologist who should be excited by the new discoveries in their fields on LV-223) run scared of the dark, get themselves lost (despite one being the mapping expert of the crew, but I digress), and make some fatal mistakes with alien slime, due in large part to their myopic focus on survivalism and their dismissal of the new discoveries that could await them.
Dr. Shaw, on the other hand, clearly shown with her cross necklace around her neck in most scenes in the film, kept her eye on and her faith in something far more important.
She reminds us of the psalmist whose eyes are fixed on creation and the Creator: "When I behold her heavens, the work of your hands, the moons and stars which you have set into place, I ask: What are we that you should be mindful of us? Who are we that you should care so much for us?" (Ps. 8:4-5)
As an archaeologist and a person of faith, Dr. Shaw knows how incredible the gift of life and humanity are. She seeks to know more about the universe and the origins of the life she holds so precious. She travels across the stars to find answers, and when they offer her more questions, she continues to pursue those, too.
It is this dedication and pursuit that keeps Dr. Shaw alive. Nothing, even an alien infection, can divert her from the truth.
In our lives, do we act like the disposable crew members and focus all our energy on surviving our daily grind? Or do we, instead, act like Dr. Shaw, keeping our eye on the ultimate prize?
One can imagine the psalmist in the Scriptures looking up at the night sky above him, breathing in the breadth and majesty of creation and his Creator. How often do we do the same? While unpacking the questions of humanity's existence and purpose might seem like a job for philosophers, theologians, scientists, and explorers, God calls us all to go deeper, "to put out into the deep and lower the nets for a catch" (Lk. 5:4).
Even though summer is often a time to rest the mind and body, and relax in an air conditioned movie theater, we cannot stay idle for too long. It's good that movies like Prometheus want to pose fascinating and challenging questions of us. It's also good that we don't go through life without really exploring big questions.
Let us take into prayer more than our everyday anxieties and worries. God has created our lives to be bigger and more important than those fleeting concerns.
God has mapped out an entire universe to explore, yet at the same time, cares for the smallest parts of his creation. Why is that? How is it possible? These are the questions that the psalmist poses, that Dr. Shaw has shot off into space to discover, and that each of us is worthy of exploring in our own way.
Blessings on your own exploration, and we all look forward to whatever new frontiers you may yet unlock.
(though do be careful in the very unlikely event that you do run into any creepy aliens... but as this movie shows, even then, you can still make it through if you're truly focused :-)