In the pantheon of science fiction cinema, there is no event on the horizon more important than Prometheus. Ridley Scott has made two science fiction films. Alien and Blade Runner. His entire science fiction output fits in the top five science fiction films of all time. No other director can say the same, not Lucas, not Cameron, not Spielberg, not Kubrick. Prometheus will be Scott’s third science fiction film, and it comes out June 8, 2012.
The trailer, available from 20th Century Fox, reveals that the film tells a story of a spaceship crew discovering an alien threat, set in the universe of, but prior to the events in, Alien. The title cards suggest that the humans are exploring our origins, which tips off the film title’s allusion to the ancient Greek origin myth, in which the Titan Prometheus steals fire from Zeus to give to the mortals. We also see the return of the extraordinary and enigmatic setting from the original 1979 film. One of the things that Scott does with masterful skill in Alien is reveal an alien derelict craft and fossilized pilot that are deeply bizarre, beautiful, and not of our civilization. Driven by the seductively grotesque visualization and craftsmanship of Alien Designer and Dali disciple H.R. Giger, these scenes exude an otherness that is subconsciously familiar given Giger’s characteristic biomechanical phallic and yonic elements. These moments anchor the audience’s imagination and set the stage for a transfixing narrative for the rest of not only this film, but an excellent sequel, and some ongoing Grand Guignol commercialism for 20th Century Fox. That derelict and pilot, who is also known among fans as the “Space Jockey,” make a return in Prometheus.
For the past three decades, we have wondered about the Space Jockey. Who is he? Where did he come from? What happened to him? Was he deliberately transporting these eggs as a biological weapon and lost control, or was he attacked by another force? The subsequent films have provided no explanation. But at second 44 of the Prometheus trailer, we see his pristine navigation chair and telescope rotating and unfolding up out of the floor, and at long last, his lanky gray form heading for the chair. For better transport control and clarity than YouTube offers, download the 1080p trailer from Apple, view in QuickTime, and use your keyboard’s arrow keys to step through the entire trailer, frame by frame.
However, once you apply this level of scrutiny, spiritual revelation merges with primordial fear. At second 28 of the trailer, we see a field of cylindrical canisters spread out, in a fashion reminiscent of the egg chamber in Alien. We also see at second 33 the human crew examining a Space Jockey head in their medical room, that mirrors Kane’s body scan in Alien. What I’m getting at is this. Mr. Scott. Are you simply remaking Alien? Are you having a human crew discover the same derelict, lean over the wrong egg-like object, take an alien back to the ship, have it go on a rampage leaving a lone survivor, just earlier in time? I sincerely hope not. Here is a wonderful opportunity to tell a broad, vivid origin story. Please, oh please, do not simply remake the same movie you already gave us. Charlize Theron stripping out of her bodysuit at second 36 won’t make up for it. Well, not fully.
The film is done, so there’s no changing it at this point, so instead I hope that I’m getting the wrong impression from the trailer. We do in fact see the derelict in flight, the Space Jockey alive and walking, so perhaps there’s more going on than just humans finding the monster again. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that the allusion to classical mythology delivers something more expressive than the conventional haunted house story arc. I’m deliberately staying away from all other information about the film, and a friend working on key aspects of the film is doing a great job of honoring his confidentiality. Instead, I am treating this with cautious optimism. We’ve all been burned with demographically commercialized prequels that retrace plot beats in pale mimicry of the original films, so I’m trying very hard not to descend into that spiral of thought. Instead, I’m going to go back to my original thought at the beginning of this piece. The man is batting 1000 in category. If anyone can pull it off, Ridley Scott can.
See you at the first screening.
SF: Wow, this totally slipped my radar, but reviewing the trailer has me pretty jazzed. I do share some of your trepidtation. Revisiting a masterfully rendered universe is fraught with problems, as we so painfully learned in the Star Wars experiment. I do not necessarily object to the retelling of the tale, but if I find out that aliens were actually a time traveling minstrels from Area 51, I’ll lose my damn mind. Handle with care, strong intellectual property is a terrible thing to waste.