I just saw Ridley Scott's “Prometheus” and I’m still confused about how the black liquid works. Can anyone elaborate on what its function was and the mechanism by which it operated?
I surmise that it was meant as a biological weapon (something they mention in the movie at various points), that was released prematurely and infected the developers (the “Engineers”, so named by the characters in the movie), but I still don’t understand the exact mechanism by which it functioned.
From what I can tell, it infects a host, whereby it either:
- kills them
- mutates them into a killing zombie, or
- uses the host to gestate another more complex organism in the host or anyone that the host comes in contact with.
Can anyone elaborate under which conditions these symptoms arise or whether they’re even correct in the first place?
Some examples of the black liquid’s various effects are:
- When the scientists find the pile of dead engineers. Presumably they were infected and died from their infection (but perhaps this was not the case and they were killed from a quarantine protocol?).
- When trying to revive the head of the decapitated engineer, it burst
- In the opening scene, an engineer is seen drinking the black liquid which then proceeds to destroy his body (though this may be a different black liquid, not meant as a weapon but meant as a life-seeding operation? See here).
- Fifield (the geologist played by Sean Harris) came back to terrorize the crew of Prometheus after he had his face doused in acid and had presumably been exposed to the black liquid (i.e. he became a “killing zombie”).
- Dr. Charlie Halloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green) “impregnated” Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) with a squid-like alien after being infected himself and having intercourse with Dr. Shaw (i.e. the black liquid giving rise to a more complex organism).
In addition, there is some evidence that the black liquid alters the organism it infects to produce a more complex “seeding” organism. For example, when the chamber with the giant statue of the Engineer head is (where they find the head of the decapitated Engineer), we see earth worms writhing in the soil. Later, in the same room, we see a snake-like alien come out of the pools the black liquid that kills Millburn (the biologist, played by Rafe Spall) by going down his throat and presumably planting another organism for gestation.
In the same vein, we see a small writhing worm-like organism coming out of Dr. Charlie Halloway’s eye when he was inspecting himself in the mirror and when he first noticed his infection.
From the original Alien canon (both from the movies and comic) it’s been clear that the face hugger is meant as a “bootstrap” organism whereby it implants a seed organism into the host which then uses the host’s DNA to better adapt to its environment. This can be seen in Prometheus as well after an alien bursts from the revived Engineer’s chest in the final scene.
Though the facility to create more eggs (or face huggers) was never explicitly mentioned (to my knowledge), from the fact that there was a queen alien in the “Aliens” movie I took the aliens to be more ant-like, where, given the need, an alien could differentiate itself and become a “queen” alien to then lay eggs. I’m unclear as to how this fits into the information from “Prometheus”.
I am tempted to think that it is sloppy story-telling meant more for effect without regard to consistency, but out of respect for Mr. Scott I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and see if there is a consistent set of rules by which all the evidence above makes sense.