It’s perplexing to survey the recent surge of excitement from sci-fi movie fans about Ridley Scott. Sure, Scott’s two directorial sci-fi films—Alien and Blade Runner—set the benchmarks for the sci-fi horror and the sci-fi futuristic thriller, respectively, but Scott hasn’t directed a sci-fi film in thirty years. In fact, Scott hasn’t garnered much critical or financial success for a large chunk of his recent work (Body of Lies, Robin Hood, Kingdom of Heaven and A Good Year). So this excitement must be the result of two forces: 1) the studio’s clever marketing strategy of highlighting the fact that Scott only directed the original Alien, thus forgiving those late, lackluster spin-offs in the franchise; and 2) moviegoers’ desperate yearning for a credible companion piece to that same landmark 1979 film (e.g. Roger Ebert on the fourth Alien film: “There is not a single shot in the movie to fill one with wonder”). Considering these notions, Scott’s newest film, Prometheus, is destined to come under harsh scrutiny.
For starters, Prometheus was long thought to be a prequel to Alien—until Ridley Scott vehemently insisted that Prometheus was not a “prequel” per se, but a film that occupied the same fictional universe—a dark, capitalism-gone-awry space frontier full of privately funded space vessels and government-manned cargo ships—Scott created with Alien. This notion clashes with the studio’s marketing strategy of anchoring both Scott and Prometheus with Alien trademarks (the similar font for its title in the trailer, a strong female lead battling monstrous beings, etc.). As a result, much Internet speculation has surfaced regarding the possible linkage between Alien and the new Prometheus; where would Scott’s new film take place and would it feature the franchise’s aliens? The irony here is that Prometheus—once shrouded in secrecy—has become one of the year’s more transparent blockbusters. After releasing three (yes, three!) teaser videos announcing the arrival of its first theatrical trailer back in December 2011, Prometheus began a viral marketing campaign illustrating the visual history of its own place in Scott’s fictional universe. And if one were to do some homework and logical placement of events, the Prometheus-universe timeline would look something like this:
2023 – Weyland Industries Founder Peter Weyland gives a bold speech at a TEDTalks event, declaring humans’ new roles as Gods because of their ability to create human-like “cybernetic” individuals (a reality embodied in the Alien franchise, with Androids like Bishop and Call).
2089 – Archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw discovers an ancient map in a cave and then sets off a series of events leading to a space expedition to discover the origins of human life.
2093 – The Weyland Industries expedition crew, aboard the spaceship named Prometheus, lands on the distant moon LV-223. Instead of the origins of human life, they discover destructive beings (but not the titular monsters from Alien). The crew is killed. In the end, one of these destructive beings evacuates LV-223 in an ancient space pod of some sort.
The next date is not a Prometheus viral video; it is a known event from the original Alien film.
2122 –The crew of USCSS Nostromo (the cargo vessel carrying Alien heroine Ellen Ripley) investigates the planetoid LV-426 (which wouldn’t be too far from LV-223) and discovers a wrecked alien ship. Lo and behold, they find the fossilized remains of the destructive being from Prometheus.
In conclusion, Scott seems to have created a “peripheral prequel” to his historic sci-fi horror film Alien. There are no direct character lineages (outside of Weyland Industries) or same alien threats (presumably). The important difference between Alien and Prometheus seems to come down to Scott’s polarizing themes. With Alien, Scott set out to rewrite the space opera (e.g. Star Wars, Star Trek) into a terrifying gore fest. Judging from the ideas and content in the Prometheus viral videos (the origins of life, man’s ambition to play God), Scott now looks to expound on the hazards of ambition and hubris. If that’s the case, then maybe Scott’s thirty-year absence from sci-fi is worth the wait.
But this is all speculation. Maybe Scott just wants another monster to pop out of someone’s chest. We’ll find out on June 8th.
Nelson Carvajal is an independent digital filmmaker, writer and content creator based out of Chicago, Illinois. His digital short films usually contain appropriated content and have screened at such venues as the London Underground Film Festival. Carvajal runs a blog called FREE CINEMA NOW which boasts the tagline: "Liberating Independent Film And Video From A Prehistoric Value System."