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Prometheus and the Alien canon

July 12, 2012

 

Warning, spoilers here if you haven’t seen Prometheus!

tldr: Is Prometheus part of the Alien canon? Not really, although it might be an Alien prequel.

I finally went to see Prometheus. Surprisingly late for a franchise fanboy, but nevertheless. This won’t be a review, as there are plenty of those around. This won’t even be a rumination on Prometheus‘ themes, as there are plenty of those around too. This will simply be an account of my thoughts on how Prometheus relates to the Alien canon.

I you’re one of those people who can’t really be bothered to read through a whole bunch of text for a simple conclusion, but the tldr (too long, didn’t read) is too short for you, I’ll just quote a piece of Wikipedia for you.

Lindelof suggested that the other parts of the script were strong enough to survive without the Alien hallmarks, such as the Alien creature which he believed had been “diluted” by the exposure it had received since, and the burden of “all the tropes of that franchise with Facehuggers and Chestbursters”. He offered that the film could instead run parallel to those films, such that a sequel would be Prometheus 2 and not Alien[...]

That’s basically it.

While I enjoyed Prometheus despite its many shortcomings, I don’t really see it connecting with the canon established in AlienAliensAlien³ and even the much maligned Alien: Resurrection. For me, it’s somewhat similar to the AvP films in that regard, although obviously superior (and remarkably similar to the first one).

Why? Simply put, Prometheus doesn’t feel like it. The whole concept of giant, god-like creatures creating human life in their own image…it’s a bit too space opera, a bit too…just a “no”. For me, the concept of Alien lies in the name. It’s literally something alien, very much different from us. While interesting similarities can be seen (the mother theme being the most prominent), at the end of the day it is not us. The Space Jockey is also something different – a massive humanoid with an elephant-like head – of which nothing is revealed. It hints at something far beyond our knowledge. It’s strange, alien.

Prometheus bypasses this theme, actually reversing it. In a very literal sense, the Space Jockey is us. By extension, the proto-Aliens, created by the Engineers, are created by us. The Aliens are no longer alien, simply our own creation. This pretty much flattens the Alien canon. While it doesn’t of course destroy it logically, it does so thematically. The whole Alien saga becomes something not about the Alien, but humans. Even the Space Jockey is revealed to be basically a giant human in a suit. AvP made the same basic mistake in a very similar way, having the Predators worshipped as gods and so on.

The internet is full of Alien fans doing their best to tie Prometheus smoothly into the Alien saga. While this can obviously be done (“Oh but it was probably a different ship and maybe there are two different groups of Engineers and the proto-Alien was simply a different version!”) I find it easiest to simply accept that it isn’t necessary. Prometheus simply doesn’t fit the established Alien canon, no more than the graphic novels and the like.

What about the obvious similarities then? As the creators themselves said, Prometheus is set in the same world as Alien. It provides a lot of fan service, enough references to make a fanboy froth at the mouth and things like that. It’s definitely something of an Alien movie. Ridley Scott has said that Prometheus needs at least two sequels to reach Alien. This sounds reasonable. It would also make for a new canon: Prometheus, Prometheus 2/3, Alien. With the sequels not existing, it’s very difficult to say whether it would work. The leap from Prometheus to Aliens is simply too big, that’s for sure. As it is, Prometheus is a fairly interesting what if -scenario set in the Alien universe.

Parallels can be found, one being the new Star Wars trilogy. The original trilogy was about Luke Skywalker, with Darth Vader being an interesting antagonist, dramatically revealed to be Luke’s father. Then along comes the new trilogy, and suddenly the whole Star Wars saga is actually the tale of Darth Vader – even if he only plays a fairly minor role (in terms of screen time) in the original films. Like it or not, if there’s a Prometheus trilogy and it’s linked with the Alien canon, then all of a sudden the whole series of seven movies becomes a story of giant god-like beings and humans as their creation. All because of a very minor character/plot element, the Space Jockey, being shown. It’s no longer the Alien saga.

I don’t know about you, but in my opinion Alien – the Eighth Passenger is a hell of a lot more interesting than Humans – the Seven Other Passengers.

That’s why, dear readers, Prometheus just might be an Alien prequel, but for me it’s not part of the Alien canon. For me the Alien saga will be about the Alien, and Space Jockeys will probably always remain a mystery. I’ll keep my Xenomorphs and Space Jesus separate, thank you very much.

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4 comments

  1. Honestly, I think Prometheus would have been better received if it had not lashed itself to the mast of the Alien mythos. Yes, the movie would have its own narrative faults, but it would at least be judged on its own merits, and with less of a direct comparison. And the few parallels that did make the crossover could easily be altered to something else.


    • Paul, Gabriel, I’m agreeing with you both – as you’re saying pretty much the same thing. Prometheus would’ve been better without the attempt to tie it into the Alien franchise, although that would’ve probably cost it a hefty percentage of its viewers. There were plenty of irksome things in the film, but the main annoyance for me was the movie’s messing about with the Alien canon.


  2. I agree a Hundred percent. I watched this with a great hope that it would be fantastic and bring back the Alien franchise to its heyday. Instead is basically created a NEW (possible) Franchise that really deviates from the things that we loved most about the Alien movies. While I found it enjoyable, I didn’t see it fully connecting to Alien in any way except for set pieces.


  3. I definitely agree, very insightful here. Frankly…you can’t have Alien without H.R. Giger, and his designs were sorely missing from this movie. Ridley Scott can go to his design team and say “I want an alien creature that’s both a penis and a vagina” (not being lewd here…that was LITERALLY his request for the alien snake creature dubbed the “Hammerpede”), but frankly the designs of the creatures in this movie, and the way in which it affects the design of the Alien as we know it, just doesn’t measure up, and in fact dilutes the entire concept.



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