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Prometheus: The legend behind the movie and its spaceship

June 08, 2012|By Rene Lynch

"Prometheus"arrives in theaters this weekend with what may be an unfamiliar name to accompany its lofty pedigree.

Prometheus is the spaceship at the center of the movie directed by Ridley Scott as a quasi-prequel to his Oscar-winning "Alien." It's about a team of explorers searching the outer reaches of space for the origins of humankind. Things do not go as expected.

Prometheus is also a powerful figure in Greek mythology -- you didn't miss that day of school, did you? According to legend, Prometheus was a Greek deity who was witness to the birth of humankind. Actually, Prometheus did a bit more than that: He's said to have created humankind himself, using clay.

Prometheus was so enamored with his handiwork that he stole fire from his fellow gods and handed it over to this newly formed race to help it prosper.

As punishment, Zeus -- the king of all gods -- sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment: He was chained atop Mt. Kaukasos to suffer daily as an eagle (the symbol of Zeus) pecks away at his liver. Overnight, the organ would grow back. And with each new daylight, the punishment would begin anew.

"Prometheus" has a slight edge at the box office as it goes up against "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted," according to box office prognosticator Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru. (He predicts a box office haul of $47 million for "Prometheus," which is rated R for intensity and violence, and $45 million for the PG-rated "Madagascar" sequel.)

This much is clear: There will be lines at movie theaters across the country.

While you're waiting, you and fellow moviegoers can debate whose punishment was worse: Prometheus' or Sisyphus'. The latter also had one of those torment-without-end punishments. Greek mythology tells us that Sisyphus had to roll a giant boulder up a hill each day, only to watch it roll back down so he'd have to start all over again.

It was his punishment for trying to outsmart the gods.

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Join Rene Lynch on Google+, Facebook or Twitter. Email: rene.lynch@latimes.com

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