The much-maligned Prometheus (2012) saw director Ridley Scott return to the Alien universe for the first time since its creation with Alien (1979). Before its release, there was a feeling amongst fans of the series that he would “right the ship” or recapture the frightening pedigree he had helped create. Unfortunately, Prometheus failed to that that in many fan’s eyes. I was not amongst them. I enjoyed the movie though I acknowledge its minor faults. Its detractors tend to disagree so, I thought I’d try a different tactic. Prometheus is a Christmas movie. Not just any Christmas move either, but an interpretation of the original Christmas story – The Nativity. You might be saying, ‘nah. Whatever Prometheus is, it ain’t that.’ Well, come along with me for a little trip and see if I can’t convince you.
To start let’s refresh our minds with the basic story of both works. The Nativity Story is the penultimate Christian tale of the birth of Christ. Most people know about Mary’s virgin pregnancy, about no room at the inn, about the manger birth, but there was a bit more to it that bears repeating. First, before any of the events already noted, was a prophecy that the one true king would be born. This prophecy got to Herod, king of Judea, so appointed by the Roman Empire. Fearing his rule threatened, Herod ordered all children born around that time be accounted for. A census. We also have the influence of the angel Gabriel. He came to earth and spoke to Mary about her virgin pregnancy and convinced Joesph not to dump her ass. He also spoke to a priest named Zechariah whose wife Elizabeth (related to Mary) was about to have a child of her own. This child was going to be a precursor to Jesus, John the Baptist. During that discussion, Zechariah showed doubt (ya think?) and the angel hit him so hard he lost his ability to talk and hear. Gabriel—God’s pimp hand. Some other parts of the story to remember: On the night of Jesus’s birth, a star shone in the heavens and brought several shepherds to the manger to witness the baby. The same star brought three wisemen who delivered gifts onto Jesus. That’s the quick and dirty version of it.
Prometheus starts with some buff, naked guy melting into a waterfall and creating humanity. But that’s more of a prologue than anything. The rest of movie follows married archeologists/ scientists (Charlie Holloway and Elizabeth Shaw) who, through their work, discover a series of hieroglyphics and paintings that point to star system far beyond ancient humanity’s reach. Luckily, the movie is in the future (2089) and technology is advanced enough that humanity can reach that part of space. To do so, they convince the Weyland Corporation to fund their trip. This includes giving them a spaceship with a captain and two co-pilots, two scientists (Geology and Biology), a company executive (Ms. Vickers), a medical team, a security team, and a synthetic android (David). When the ship reaches its location, there is some doubt about if Holloway and Shaw’s theory is correct, but those doubts are soon washed away. I could continue to go through the various events of Prometheus, but I’ll be touching on some of those later. Suffice it to say, the shit hits the fan after they find an alien ship.
So, no obvious connection yet, eh? Well, let’s see if I can change your mind.
As I stated above, most people know about Jesus’s birth. His mother was a virgin, was miraculously impregnated by God, and gave birth in a manger. Beautiful imagery, and a symbol of purity and innocence (any comparison to that would be monstrous, heresy!)
Prometheus also has a miraculous birth. Admittedly, not as ‘pure’ as the virgin birth, but a miracle all the same. You see, our hero, Shaw is unable to have children. We are told this after the discovery of the alien ship on the alien planet. We are led to believe that Shaw and Holloway have tried to have kids in the past, but due to some physical or medical issues on Shaw’s part, they have been unable to do so. Unfortunately (fortunately?), the ship’s psychopath—er synthetic person, David, poisons Holloway with alien goo. This leads to Holloway’s getting sick, but not before he drops some genetically altered kids into Shaw’s short bus. The baby grows rapidly inside of her and within hours she gives birth to a bouncing baby tentacle monster. I mean, savior of mankind. Er. . . something.
Prometheus does a good job of aligning some characters with those from The Nativity Story. Here are just a few of them.
Shaw is Mary: They both share the miraculous birth thing, sure, but they are also strong women who push on in the face of adversity. Shaw’s adversity is from human capitalist pigs, an insane android, and a murderous alien. Mary’s adversity was less outrageous, but nevertheless prevalent. As a young woman who became pregnant by someone other than her husband and living under an unjust king.
Holloway is Joesph: Both are husbands and both have very little to do with the actual pregnancy of their wives. They also come across as hapless players alongside the story of their wives. For Joesph, he became God’s cuck. For Holloway, he’s unaware of the situation he’s found himself in until it is too late.
Vickers is Herod: Vickers is the buxom corporate executive (and Weyland’s daughter). Like Herod she fears her power being undermined and is jealous of Weyland’s reverence to Shaw and Holloway. Instead of calling a census, she idly threatens our protagonists and, not so idly, murders Holloway with a flamethrower.
David is John the Baptist: As an android, David represents humanity’s first attempt at creating life outside of itself. In The Nativity Story John the Baptist is Jesus 1.0, the prototype. John is to pave the way for Jesus. We discover that Weyland wants to speak to the Engineer aliens to overcome death, extending his life. David represents his first attempt at doing just that.
Weyland is Zechariah (John’s father): Not only does Weyland refer to our John the Baptist surrogate as his son, but he acts similar to the ill-fated priest. Weyland is a believer, sure, otherwise he wouldn’t have funded the trip in the first place. However, his intentions aren’t so pure. Here is where Weyland and Zechariah diverge. The priest does nothing wrong but question or doubt Gabriel’s word. In response, he is punished. Weyland doesn’t doubt, but he puts his need to live above others, possibly all of mankind. He also approaches the engineer as an equal, which, if Engineers are gods, as Prometheus often proclaims them to be, is a bad idea. For both digressions, Weyland is thus punished—harshly.
The Flight Team are The Shepherds: The Nativity Story doesn’t give a specific number of shepherds, but in Prometheus we have three, Captain Janek and his co-pilots, Chance and Ravel. Just like shepherds they try to keep their flock from danger but also understand that there is a power/ need above their own wants and desires. In The Nativity Story the shepherds leave their flock. In Prometheus the flight crew sacrifice themselves to stop humanities extinction.
The Scientists are The Wisemen: The Nativity Story usually mentions three wisemen, and in Prometheus we have two scientists (Fifield and Millburn) and a medical specialist (Ford) on board. Scientists can usually be considered smart and wise, right? As such we can compare these three with the wisemen. All three were present upon the first visit to the alien ship and each provides a gift to the story. Fifield gives his pups (Gold), Ford with her work on the Engineer’s head (Frankincense), and Millburn with his horrible, stupid death. Er. . . sacrifice (Myrrh—what is Myrrh anyway?).
Still not convinced, eh? Okay, let’s look at some more concrete comparisons.
First of all, Prometheus takes place at Christmas. That’s right, the ship wakes up the crew on December 21 and the movie ends on New Year’s Day. Christmas/Holiday week! While historically we know that Jesus was likely born earlier in the year and his birth was moved to the end of the year to combine with various pagan celebrations (such as Yule), it is still a nod to the type of movie this is—a Christmas movie.
As mentioned above, in The Nativity Story the shepherds and the wisemen were guided to the manger and Jesus by a star. That happens in Prometheus as well. Remember how I said that Shaw and Holloway found hieroglyphics that pointed to a star system? Yeah, they were quite literally guided by a map of stars. They would not have found the alien planet or the aliens without the star map, just like the shepherds and wisemen would not have found Jesus without the star.
In The Nativity Story, the manger is the last safe space that Mary and Joesph can find. This can also be true of the lifeboat in Prometheus. At the end of the movie, the Prometheus is destroyed, the only place that Shaw can find shelter is in the jettisoned lifeboat. While it isn’t safe for long, it does allow her to restore her air supply and escape from the chaos that has become the outside world. Another comparison between the lifeboat and the manger, both Shaw and Mary give birth there. While Shaw’s experience is less like a birth than a surgical procedure, it produces the same outcome—a new little baby in the world.
Joesph is a little put out in The Nativity Story when he finds out that Mary is pregnant, and he hasn’t even hit it yet. However, as already stated, the angel Gabriel convinces him that everything is fine, that God is a gentle lover. He also takes consolation in that he now has an important job, to raise a child will be the one true king. A similar experience happens with Holloway in Prometheus. After their initial foray to the alien ship, Holloway is disappointed that he wasn’t able to speak with the Engineers. So much so that he drowns his sorrow in alcohol. David, the little scamp that he is, approaches him and they have a conversation about Holloway’s beliefs and convictions. During the conversation, Holloway reveals that he would do anything to meet his makers. As such, the conversation with David has rekindled his belief, just as the conversation with Gabriel rekindled Joesph’s belief.
There you have it. Prometheus is a Christmas movie. THE Christmas movie. Or not. Ultimately, I'll let you make that decision.
However, this holiday season, if you are bored with Home Alone, tired of National Lampoon’s, sick of the Grinch, why not pop on Prometheus and experience The Nativity in a whole new way?
Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals!