It would be foolish for me to start this analysis by attempting to recap news everyone probably knows. To compress it into “blipvert” fashion, Ridley Scott returned recently to science fiction, the first time since Blade Runner, directing the space odyssey Prometheus, once known under a different title, Alien 5.
Ridley had been all talk on the subject of sequels to his own work for literally decades until now. There was an anecdote from the set of the first Judge Dredd film of Scott wandering the sets of Mega City and later commenting to director Danny Cannon to keep them up so he could use them for his next Blade Runner film. This was 1995 (funny how the subject of another Blade Runner has also passed around recently). During the commentary for the DVD release of Alien in 2003, Ridley made a passing comment to his co-commentator, Sigourney Weaver, that he was interested in returning to the franchise but only for the purpose of addressing the crashed alien ship and its creators, not the cargo on board. The rest many of you already know—Ridley’s production company Scott Free were given the task of Alien 5 with an innovative but unproven director (Carl Erik Rinsch) at the helm. Given its production budget, Fox pushed Rinsch out and forced Ridley to take the reins personally. Less than a year later, it was revealed that the film’s title had been changed.
To say that this film is the most anticipated movie experience for me since Lord of the Rings is an understatement. People who know me understand my admiration for the Alien series, having made the ALIEN-Fuzion RPG back in 1993 (and still available). Few people know as much about the franchise as I do, having read every (crappy) comic and unpublished script (from David “Riddick” Twohy’s to William “Count Zero” Gibson’s). The question everyone’s asking right now is, “Is it a prequel film, or not?”
Last week, a shaky-cam bootlegged video of the trailer got leaked online, managing to survive a whole five minutes before being pulled. Since then, people who have seen it have claimed an obvious connection between the franchise it was and the franchise it could be. Tom Rothman Fox’s CEO said, “I suppose if you want to definitionally be that literal, but it does it a great disservice. I will tell you, here’s the way to think about it. If you looked at the whole movie, 95 percent of it is entirely unto itself. Ridley said it right: If you’re a fan and you look closely, you’ll spot strands of DNA. I’ll tell you the great thing: It’s way bigger than that. The ideas are way bigger, way more original and — it’s a scary word — way more profound.”
So let’s really look at what that means…and let’s be honest.
Giger’s Alien from the first film was and is truly terrifying, but none of the sequels have been able to replicate that (despite being good films…well, most of them). And after Alien 3, the franchise suffered considerably. “He-that-people-claim-can-do-no-wrong” Joss Whedon had accused Jean Pierre Jeunet of mangling a perfectly good Alien Resurrection script. This was not the case; I’ve read Whedon’s script, and I personally would love it if Jeunet HAD mangled it. It was junk. Whedon doesn’t know how to write realistic characters (I’m starting to think Firefly owes more to Tim Minear) and his proposals for further Alien films were blatantly shot down by both Fox and Sigourney Weaver. But before anyone could do anything to save that franchise (including James Cameron himself, who wanted to repair the damage caused by inane executives to something he took very personally), the franchise was married to one of the most preposterous mythologies ever to emerge from science fiction…the Predators, and a perfectly rich setting got shat on by a race of trophy hunters less plausible than Klingons. The Alien name had been muddled…and I hate to be the one to say it (I can recite dialogue from Alien 3….ALIEN 3!).
To make matters worse, most of the best ideas from the first film have never been addressed. Others were rewritten by later films (looking at you, Cameron). Ridley had spoken often about Alien, and how it could have developed, ideas ignored and modified by the sequels. So here’s my resulting theory regarding Prometheus:
It IS a prequel…but only to Alien, not to any of the other films. So would you hear references to the Colonial Marines, Weyland Yutani, or Gateway station? Probably not, and doubting that fans will be unable to detach Alien from Aliens (the only other film to add as much to the mythology as Alien) and given the lackluster brand name value of Alien today, it would make sense to rename this new film and attempt a new mythology. It would almost be like what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek—create a paradox that erases the entire mythology and starts over. This could very well be an Alien do-over, with two distinct timelines. You would have Alien, Aliens, Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection, and then you would have Prometheus, Alien, and whatever follows.
I expect to have this theory confirmed (as they have alluded to almost as much without outright saying it).
Here are some links you might find interesting:
My original Alien FUZION game, on its trusty (and now nearly 20-year old) website.
The official trailer MUSIC for Prometheus. I post this because of an interesting piece of trivia I immediately noticed. It actually a remixed, enhanced version of the ORIGINAL music from the ORIGINAL Alien trailer.
Don’t believe me?
Strands of Alien DNA indeed.
I wasn’t lying about Carl Erik Rinsch being innovative. Check out why…
The Prometheus trailer release is still not official. I’ll update this when it is.