Take a second and think about this: Ridley Scott has only made two science fiction movies in his career. Two. Not only that, but they’re two of the most influential contemporary sci-fi pictures– so his batting record in the field is pretty impressive, to say the least. Scott’s so celebrated for his work in the genre, through both Blade Runner and Alien, that you’d think he constituted something of an authority on science fiction cinema, but when one stops to consider that next year’s Prometheus marks his first foray into the narrative category in almost thirty years, the realization’s effect is somewhat staggering.
With that in mind there’s more than a bit of pressure on him to fashion Prometheus into something truly special. He has a legacy to live up to here, and the idea of Scott bungling a science fiction film might make even a casual admirer shudder inwardly. So when Entertainment Weekly published a hefty preview article in their December 2nd issue containing new images from the set of Prometheus, as well as some chit-chat with the cast and Scott himself regarding the secrets of the film’s heavily guarded script, I naturally approached the piece with anticipation and trepidation.
After checking out the article for myself, I’m still left wondering which Scott we’ll get in the final cut of the film– the Scott of the past ten years or the Scott of the late 70s and 80s– but if I was excited about the project before, I’m completely, hopelessly invested in it as of now.
Maybe all of that can be filed under “inevitability”, though. Prometheus, so goes the rumor mill, shares common ties with Scott’s Alien, something the EW article revolves around playfully– particularly in a quote from Scott himself, who hints that there may be “some slight DNA” from Alien in Prometheus. Frankly, I wouldn’t put much stock in the hints dropped by anyone involved with the picture, even (perhaps especially) Scott; apart from the fact that cast members’ respective stories seem to conflict with one another (Michael Fassbender is quoted as confirming that aforementioned link to Alien; Charlize Theron, on the other hand, offers a statement to the opposite effect), there’s little to be gained by buying into the remarks made by the actors on set. Don’t trust quips and innuendos; trust what you can see.
I have a lot of faith in my eyes and my ability to process and interpret, and therein lies my excitement. Entertainment Weekly‘s article tells us little and less about the film that hasn’t already been explained or flirted with in news pieces on film news aggregate sites across the Internet, but it does supplement leaked photos of the project with snapshots of its own which, all told, say much and more about Prometheus and the identity of its potential progenitors. If we can believe what we see, then there’s likely at least a fraction of truth to the rumblings from Scott’s set about the film’s relationship to 1979’s science fiction horror masterpiece.
The biggest piece of evidence that can be fashioned into a link between the two films lies in a very specific atmosphere and a very particular aesthetic. What’s more integral to the quality and the success of Alien as a film– the direction of Scott or the contributions of one H.R. Giger? A fair response would point to the synthesis of both talents but Giger’s vision undoubtedly gives Scott’s fictional universe an immediately distinguishable exterior and a unique visual identity that makes Alien undeniably Alien. To the best of my knowledge, Giger isn’t actually involved in Prometheus, but his spirit nonetheless exists in the set designs; if his influence can’t be found in the film’s DNA, it certainly can be found in its skeleton. The very walls of the sets, as seen in these photos, absolutely scream of Giger’s sense of stylization– the textures, the color schemes, the shapes all recall his artistic proclivities.
Shared sensibilities in design alone serves as a strong connector between both Alien and Prometheus, but let’s talk about how these photos indicate that the latter is trying to ape specific images from the former. Take a look at the headlining picture; even casual fans of Alien are like to recall the egg chamber depicted early on in the film immediately. Familiarity being such an ever-present element in the released photographs, the image of the massive statue head standing atop a cavernous chamber populated with what appear to be oblong containment units should resonate strongest among xenomorph historians and aficionados. Of course, there’s the chance that Scott’s being cute with that particular image, but I don’t think he’s the sort to include a call-back to one of his most iconic films just for the hell of it– and besides, there’s obvious intent in these pictures that mere words can’t convey as easily.
Going forward, there shouldn’t be much debate over whether Prometheus is directly related to Alien or not. What’s still worth discussing may be the proximity of their kinship and the capacity to which Prometheus connects with Alien, but there’s not a whole lot of room left in which to argue that they’re not meant to exist in the same reality and within the same narrative as one another. That said, the EW article and the images both give a distinct sense that Prometheus will serve Alien as The Hobbit serves Lord of the Rings; these won’t intertwine with one another by happenstance or through incident but will directly speak to or shape the events that unfold in each.
One major question remains, though: is it worth it for Scott to explore the Alien mythology any further? Personally, I feel like there’s a lot to be gained from revisiting that franchise and delving into its roots. A good bridge film or prequel can add to a picture like Alien rather than diminish it; in Prometheus lies opportunity to create a fully-realized universe and heighten the impact of Scott’s essential picture. But there’s risk involved, too, a chance that the series could be demystified. At this point I’m willing to give Scott the benefit of the doubt here– what about the rest of you?
*There are a few mocked-up images out there which highlight the object in the lower-right corner here and point out that it appears to be a humanoid being lying prone on the ground. Meanwhile, that looks strikingly similar to an alien facehugger egg, doesn’t it?