Spoiler Alert: In keeping with director Ridley Scott’s spoiler-phobia, I should say that if you want to avoid spoilers completely, you probably shouldn’t read this post till after you watch Prometheus.
Spoiler-free technology note: I watched Prometheus in 3D, and this was the first time it didn’t ruin the film for me. I usually find that 3D messes with proportion and perspective, so that I can’t get a sense of the sizes of things in relation to each other and people look like little video game figures projected onto a backdrop. In this film, objects seem tangible and textured, and people appear to be fully integrated into their environments. I still got a headache, and I still prefer 2D (I know, I know, I sound like the Luddites who scoffed at the development of talkies) but if we’re stuck with 3D, then I hope Prometheus represents the direction the technology is moving in.
I’m not an expert on the minutiae of the Alien franchise, but since I just watched Prometheus and re-watched the 2003 director’s cut of Alien, here are my thoughts about the connections between the two films: there are some indications that Prometheus is a direct prequel to Alien – the moon that the Prometheus lands on seems to orbit the same ringed planet that the Nostromo approaches to investigate the mystery transmission in Alien. The transmission itself, “more of a warning” rather than an SOS, as Ridley puts it, sounds like it could be Elizabeth Shaw’s final transmission from the Prometheus, in which she warns against coming to look for them because “there’s only death here.” But then there are the inconsistencies: in Alien, Dallas and Lambert find the space jockey strapped into the pilot seat of his ship; in the new film, however, he (if it’s meant to be the same character) chases Elizabeth onto the Prometheus and is killed by the alien there. Also, the Nostromo is ten months from Earth, while the Prometheus is more than two years away from Earth. Since Ridley Scott himself is cagey about the relationship between the two films (we can now take his frequent comment that they “share some DNA” rather literally based on the genetic revelations in the new film), I suppose we can all make what we want out of the inconsistencies/ambiguities.
If the inconsistencies are meant to suggest that the events in Prometheus are not direct precursors to the events in Alien, then, frankly, that makes Prometheus kind of unnecessary and redundant. Elizabeth Shaw’s desire to meet our Maker(s) lacks urgency and isn’t a particularly compelling impetus for the plot. That leaves us with just another sci-fi horror flick that, to my taste, veers too far into gross-out horror, as opposed to the minimalist, suggestive approach of Alien. And finally – this is where Prometheus feels really redundant – can’t filmmakers find something interesting other than motherhood to say about female characters? The only thing the writers could think of to give context to Elizabeth’s search for humankind’s creators is her own inability to create life? Unimaginative and reductive – as though a woman is defined by her ability or lack thereof to have a child. It’s especially unimaginative and repetitive if Ridley Scott does want us to connect this film with the Alien franchise, since Aliens(albeit with James Cameron directing) already highlighted the themes of motherhood and protective maternal instincts in the face-off between Ripley and the Alien queen-mother.