Let’s take a moment to talk about David.
David is easily my favorite character from the film.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints about David not seeming to have a motivation for a lot of what he does. I feel like this stems from a lack of understanding of the character. David is incredibly complex,
possibly the most complex character in the whole film. I would like to offer the explanation.
It is established very early on that David is driven a lot by his ability to observe and learn. Before we even know he’s not human, we see him observing Dr. Shaw’s dreams, watching an instructional video on language, and watching old films and repeating their lines. Throughout the film, he displays a very high curiosity. He appears to have almost been programmed to learn. That’s what drives him to do so much of what he does. His own curiosity. He wants to know what lies on the other side of the door. He wants to know what happens when the goo is ingested by a human. His curiosity is one of his main motivations in the film.
Now here is where I’m about to get really outlandish and crazy.
David learns so much that he has actually learned to have emotions. While he still hasn’t quite grasped the full spectrum of human emotion and empathy, he has begun to understand what it means to “feel”.
Throughout the movie, the crew makes remarks about David’s inability to feel, but each time that happens, the camera would show his face. His face was reacting. The notion that he was not capable of feeling emotion simply because he was not human was upsetting. He was being told he was inferior simply because he was their creation.
Remember when David said that the Engineers were “a superior species, no doubt.”? That was supposed to be a shot. A sting. He wanted to make the humans feel inferior, just as they had done to him.
That’s why he was smiling when the Engineer seemed to be admiring him. For once, David was not inferior to the humans. He felt like he was special. He was finally important.
Now, not only does David react, but he even takes advantage of the fact that the rest of the crew sees him as only a machine. The scene where he infects Halloway is one of the most obvious examples of this. The fact that he was a supposedly emotionless machine is the perfect cover. Who would suspect that David started the infection? It was apparently impossible for him to even have a motivation.
The reason people see this movie and think David has no reason to do any of the things he does is because they have the same mindset that the crew had. You have to let go of this notion that a learning, self-aware android can’t have emotions. It is not only possible, but likely that David had developed the capacity to feel emotion.
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