From the very beginning of production on Prometheus, Sir Ridley Scott has made it very clear that he does not consider the movie to be a direct prequel to Alien, but rather a movie that exists in the same universe as his 1979 classic, and one that shares ‘Alien’s DNA’.
He continued to state this in almost all of the press he did ahead of the release of Prometheus, but that hasn’t stopped reviewers around the world comparing it directly with Alien. It is, of course, understandable that this will be done, but it is also very unfair on Prometheus. The Alien franchise is one that has been sagging for a long time. Although I personally like Alien 3, it was by all accounts a torturous film to make, and one that director David Fincher is loathe to talk about. Alien: Resurrection has some good ideas, but is a flawed movie, and although I don’t mind the first Alien vs. Predator movie, the less said about its sequel, the better (but it IS terrible).
So it in the current climate, where movies and movie franchises are constantly being rebooted, remade, re-imagined or even re-released, it seemed inevitable that the Alien franchise would be revisited. Thankfully the return to this universe didn’t involve a remake of the original movie, because how can you improve upon perfection? When it was originally released in 1979, Alien received mixed reviews, but has gone on to be recognised as one of the greatest films ever made, and made a star (and female icon) of the then unknown Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley.
Prometheus does take place in the same universe as Alien, and is set roughly 30 years before the events of the first movie, but what happens in Prometheus does not result in a direct link to what happens to Ripley and her crew-mates aboard the Nostromo. But as Scott has said, there is some of Alien’s DNA in Prometheus.
The most obvious (and non-spoilery) connection between the two movies is the presence of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) both in the movie and the excellent series of viral ads released before it opened in cinemas. Weyland is an extremely wealthy man who funds the mission in Prometheus (which apparently cost trillions of dollars) and his company is the one the Nostromo crew are working for, although in Alien the company is literally referred to as ‘The company’ before being named as Weyland-Yutani in Aliens. But in Prometheus, Weyland runs his own company, and there’s no mention of anyone named Yutani.
The bulk on the film takes place on a moon named LV-223, and as all knowledgeable Alien fans will tell you, the crew of the Nostromo initially come into contact with the aliens, and the massive, very dead, space jockey, on the planet LV-426. So while the door is very much left often for a sequel to Prometheus (and Ridley Scott has said he believes there could be another two movies in the series before we reach the events of Alien), there are a couple of decades and at least one other planet to visit before the story is complete.
Prometheus is a movie that questions the origin of mankind, with Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) believing that she has found the home of an alien race that either created mankind, or shaped our evolution. To reveal more would be to stray dangerously into spoiler territory, but what I will say is that any threat the crew of the Prometheus face in the film is not the same as those encountered in the four Alien movies.
Prometheus is a film that I have seen twice, and I enjoyed it a lot both times. It’s not perfect, and there are a few plot holes, but it certainly one of the better films released so far this year. If you can watch it without trying to tie it all in with Alien, you will certainly enjoy it too. But there are clues and hints at what is to come in that movie within Prometheus, and as Ridley Scott has said, the DNA of Alien is there too. So if you watch Prometheus, try and critique it for what it is, and not what you thought it should be.