Big Things Have Small Beginnings – The Connection Between Prometheus And Alien
Please note that the following article does contain spoilers for those who have not yet seen Prometheus.
By now many people have had the chance to make their mind up about Prometheus. They have also had all those questions answered that were posed by the trailers and the marketing, the main question being: how does the film connect to the rest of the Alien franchise?
Well, it’s complicated, as the film doesn’t really give you all the answers and only hints towards things that, down the line, sequels may or may not answer.
That being said, I’m going to attempt to link the two films together by linking the mythology, explaining how the two films are part of the same universe, and how Prometheus becomes an origin story to Alien.
Let’s be clear though: While the two films have a definite link, Prometheus is most definitely its own beast, it is a stand-alone film that can be watched without any knowledge of the Alien franchise. Lindelof and Scott’s tease of the two being “DNA-related” is probably the most concise way to describe the connection. Prometheus acts as a Cronenberg-ian brother to Alien‘s Bergman-esque sister. Alien is an understated and quiet horror classic with a glacial art film pace, while Prometheus is a ripping, genre thrill ride that is, in its own special way, completely cracked.
Ridley Scott’s intention for Prometheus was to answer the question that was raised by many viewers of the first Alien film: What or who the hell was the giant guy sitting in what looks like a massive gun or cockpit of the alien ship when the crew of the Nostromo land on a seemingly untouched planet?
Scott’s intention of Alien was never to answer that question. In fact, that set was originally built as a piece of eye candy. Alien was originally written as a B-Movie for Roger Corman and it wasn’t until Brandywine Productions and Alan Ladd Jr. got involved that it became something more. When Ridley Scott was brought on board, being a very strong and confident visual stylist, he knew he could elevate the film through the way it looked.
Hence Scott’s employment of the likes of H.R. Giger and Ron Cobb. Giger in particular was instrumental in making the film unique and elevating the quality of the creature design and sets to make it an A-movie. Scott instructed Giger to create the set, which charmingly came to be called the Space Jockey, because it was the perfect money shot.
As screenwriter Ronald Shusett said, as the camera cranes out from the explorers to see the set in its entirety you realized you were watching an A-movie. An expensive film with a grand scope. It was a bit of style thrown in, but it also created a lot of questions. After all, he has a hole in his chest and his ship is carrying some pretty dangerous cargo. Scott’s thoughts were that in the sequels, if there ever were any, a filmmaker would pick up on the Space Jockey and tell that story.
That very same Space Jockey became the starting ground for Prometheus. In a recent interview, Scott said the following:
The very simple question was “Who the hell was in that ship? Who is sitting in that seat?” and “Why that cargo?” and “Where was he going?” no one asked the question, so I thought “Duh.” It’s a “duh,” isn’t it?
This is the tipping point, and Prometheus does answer that very question, but in answering it, only raises more questions. The Space Jockey is indeed the driving seat of a ship, but the skeletal monster is actually just a protective armour, concealing something which is more powerful than we could possibly imagine. It is a humanoid, a white skinned alien that looks incredibly human. So therefore another question is raised: who are the white skinned aliens?
Fast forward to 2012 and we come to Prometheus, where Doctors Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, call these creatures the Engineers. They are depicted in ancient cave paintings throughout time, pointing towards a constellation. They are believed to be Gods, the creators of life on Earth. In the opening of the film we see one of the these Engineers standing on the edge of a huge waterfall; he drinks a dark, viscous fluid and disintegrates. His DNA rips apart and he plummets into the depths of the water where the DNA then mutates and forms new cells, thus giving birth to a new form.
This black, viscous liquid later appears when the group of scientists land on LV-223, upon entering a chamber (which isn’t entirely dissimilar to the egg silo in Alien), they discover urns which contain this substance in strange glass phials. The door to the chamber has a corpse at the entrance, the huge stone wall has decapitated him and this looks all too familiar. This head is very similar to that of the Space Jockey we saw very briefly in the first Alien film.
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