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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Shaw and Holloway take the head, whilst David takes one of the urns unbeknown to any of the other crew members. What they don’t know is that the atmosphere has caused a big change in the room and the urns begin to melt, and while the crew go back to the Prometheus, worms start writhing in the black stuff.
Aboard the ship, Shaw and another scientist open the head which is revealed to simply be a helmet, a very strange space helmet designed perhaps for travel, just like an ordinary astronaut. Inside we instantly recognize the head as being of the same species we saw at the film’s opening. Meanwhile, David is quietly examining the urns, breaking open the phials to find the black liquid, leaving a globule on his finger.
This is where David’s motives begin to lose their foundations, and our trust in him is radically transformed. He takes this bit of fluid and dips it nonchalantly into Holloway’s drink without him noticing. Whether David knows exactly what he is doing or if he is conducting a simple scientific experiment remains entertainingly unclear, an ambiguity which is of course helped by Michael Fassbender‘s fantastic performance. This foreign agent turns violent against Holloway, but also against Shaw.
That night Holloway and Shaw engage in intercourse, and while Shaw believes herself to be infertile, she later finds out that she is pregnant. But as David tells her, it isn’t a normal fetus. This black liquid is a violent viral weapon, which were intended to be used by the Engineers against the human race. They intend to destroy what they created through this horrific, mutating beast. The mutation is shown back in the cave where the worms have transformed into constricting, alien snakes; when extracted from Shaw (in the film’s most gut wrenching sequence), the fetus is a pale, tentacled squid-like creature.
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So how do these gigantic plot points link back into Alien. First of all, Shaw’s baby further transforms into something which resembles an oversized face-hugger which then latches itself onto the face of the last surviving Engineer of LV-223; in the film’s closing moments a xenomorph-like creature spills out of the Engineer’s abdomen. This suggests that later down the line of evolution we will get the incredible, perfect killing machine we see throughout the Alien franchise.
It also goes someway to explain what the function of the Space Jockey is in the first Alien. In that film, Kane, Dallas and Lambert board a strange ship and find him, as well as the eggs, this is exactly the same vehicle we see in Prometheus and have seen all the way through the marketing campaign. Of course the crash landing we’ve witnessed throughout the trailers was assumed to explain the crashed ship in Alien, but it isn’t the case. Alien is set on LV-426, not LV-223 like it is here.
My theory is that on one of the other 4 planets, there are more Engineers who go back to LV-223 and discover the xenomorph which has hatched from the body of one of their fallen brothers. They then develop and refine this killing machine further to create another (failed) attack on Earth. But the machines they created were too perfect and turn violent against them, hence the hole in the chest of the Space Jockey on LV-426.
Ridley Scott has said that there are two more films to go which follow Prometheus before we fully link back to Alien. At the end, Shaw and David fly away on another abandoned craft to search for the planet where the Engineers come from, hoping to learn why the human race is intended for destruction.
We must wait to hear of this weekend’s box office grosses to see if we’ll actually see more from the Prometheus universe to completely mould with the Alien one. If it all works out, though, it could turn out to be the most highly developed and intricate film universe that we’ve seen in some time.Previous