I also saw Prometheus as going for a more cerebral big question sort of feel. But where 2001 never verbally voiced any questions - it visually gave us clues, then visually pointed us towards answers, and left us to arrive at conclusion that may or may not have been Clarke and Kubrick's intention, but still could work for the individual viewer.
As has been said, Prometheus flat out asks a question, answers it, asks another question, then really doesn't go anywhere with it (both figuratively and literally in terms of the constant toing and froing between ship and temple).
Here is my view of this. Of course I do not expect anyone to agree with me. I'm just sharing.
* Big question science fiction movies/TV can be seen as being symbolic of primal forces in the universe.
- With "2001" the space aliens who are represented by the monoliths can be viewed as a creative power.
The apes in The Dawn of Man sequence are shown to be helped along in their evolution by the space aliens/monolith.
At the end of "2001" Dave Bowman is transformed, in a sense reborn.
- All this points to an ultimate power of creation.
- Culturally in our world this is seen, as a positive creative force.
- This is a message which can be understood by a Western audience.
- But there is an opposite to creation which is destruction which is seen as an evil.
In "The Thing" (1982) the alien is an unrelenting infection which seems to be unstoppable.
It takes over, it mimics and by its nature is destructive.
This leads to a message of evil.
- Imo "Prometheus" is ultimately outside of that.
I'll begin with a question.
Shaw: They created us. Then they tried to kill us. They changed their minds. I deserve to know why.
Naturally since Shaw's character is a Christian, she would want to know why the Engineers did this.
And much of the audience want to put the Engineers in the buckets of either creator (good) or destroyer (bad).
- However, the audience is given an answer which many of them may not have seen or may not want to accept.
David: The answer is irrelevant. Does it matter why they changed their minds?
And the statement which Ridley believes is key to "Prometheus";
David: Sometimes to create, one must first destroy.
* What is this? It is a concept of ultimate power in the universe which is foreign/strange to many westerners.
In Hinduism there is a creator (Brahma), a preserver (Vishnu) and a destroyer (Shiva).
It simply is the way of things from that tradition.
* In an interview, Ridley Scott covers a lot of ground including about the Engineer who sacrificed himself in the beginning of "Prometheus".
If you parallel that idea with other sacrificial elements in history – which are clearly illustrated with the Mayans and the Incas – he would live for one year as a prince, and at the end of that year, he would be taken and donated to the gods in hopes of improving what might happen next year, be it with crops or weather, etcetera.http://www.fandango.com/movie-news/interview-sir-ridley-scott-explains-prometheus-explores-our-past-and-teases-future-alien-stories-716238
* While some viewers are focused on getting an answer that is consistent with Christian or Jewish religion, Ridley wanted to go beyond that.
From Damon Lindelof;
Yeah it’s interesting, because one of the things we kept coming back to, and what Ridley really wanted to do, was how do we take creation myth? This is something that is in Christian-Judeo culture is Garden of Eden, God creates Adam and Eve, etc, etc. He was like, prior to that, I’m interested in Greco-Roman creation or Aztec creation where there are many gods and these gods basically make man out of themselves. This idea that they sacrifice themselves or take a piece of themselves and create man in their own image. I think that’s very interesting. Can we do that on a sci-fi level? And so the opening of the movie is basically this idea of dissolving one’s self, sacrificing one’s own protoplasm or genetic material in order to become the birth of a new life form. http://diymag.com/archive/a-long-prometheus-discussion-with-writer-damon-lindelof/
* Imo certain viewers are looking for an answer in "Prometheus" which is not intended by Ridley to be there.
- The Engineers create and destroy. That is who they are.
That is what David is pointing to where Shaw with her background cannot understand it.
- And the cultures that Ridley was referencing in the film; Greco-Roman, Aztec, Mayan, Inca; death is part of life, and destruction is part of creation.
This is why the Engineer does not respond positively to Weyland's speech in the extended / deleted version of the encounter or with David's explanation.
For the Engineers on LV-223, it was time for the humans on earth to die/be transformed.
* Many people I've discussed this with on IMDb have disagreed with me.
But that's how I see these issues in "Prometheus".
Imo at least.