Spoiler alert, no. The answer is no. Prometheus did not save Alien: Resurrection. But there’s a strong link between the films that deserves to be identified. SPOILERS ahead–big time, major ones. Don’t read unless you’ve seen Prometheus or don’t care about knowing its big reveals.
So Rae and I trotted off last night to see Prometheus, despite some worrisome reviews scattered around in all the places we normally trust. I’m not going to take up space with a detailed review, but in general I thought it was a very high-quality production of a somewhat questionable script. I had the same issues with the film that others did—don’t pet the dangerous space cobra!–but the big ideas in the movie and the amazing spectacle of it all allowed me to give some of that stuff a pass.
So, first, the big question: is it a freakin’ Alien prequel or what?
Yes, it is. I guess. I mean, kinda? Alien is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I’ve seen it probably dozens of times, and there are a lot of obvious ways that the film places the pieces on the game board for the crew of the Nostromo to later find. But on the other hand, it’s hard not to nitpick the details the film seems to whiff on. First of all, the entire planet is wrong, from its name all the way to its terrain. Second, and most significantly, in Alien, the doomed Nostromo crew members find the space jockey still sitting in his chair, with chest trauma–ie, a chestbursting alien wound–in his suit. In Prometheus, and again major spoilers here, the space jockey dies on another ship altogether and with a much larger wound in his chest, guts, and everything else.
So it doesn’t fit in very neatly with the series its meant/not meant to precede, but OK, whatever. Nothing in the film directly contradicts the idea that, hey, maybe some shit went down later on after the credits. More interesting to me, however, was the unexpected way that Prometheus connected with the last film of the series, Alien: Resurrection. In fact, those two films can now be read as bookends for the series in ways I’m not sure anybody planned for.
In Prometheus, some scientific mumbo jumbo goes down that basically establishes that the “engineers,” as Shaw calls the space jockeys, have seeded Earth with their own DNA and that, in fact, “engineer” DNA and human DNA are basically the same. There’s also a lot of weird genetics at play in the engineers’ weapon, the eradicating DNA goop that they’d hoped to unleash on Earth and that pretty much kicks the Prometheus crew’s asses all over space. What the goop SEEMS to do, without ever actually spelling it out, is break down a victim’s DNA strand to its core components and then restructure them in different, monstery, ways. That leads to all the body-horror insanity in Prometheus. The goop is engineered (heh) on space jockey DNA, and so all the beasties and monsters follow that pattern. The worms in the vase room are transformed into strong, albino snake monsters. The scientists infected by the goop transform into jockey-like zombies, etc.
Now, let’s consider the fucked up shit that happens to Shaw. After her lover is infected with the goop, they have sex and she becomes pregnant with an alien critter, an early un-evolved morph of a chestburster and a facehugger that later grows, on its own and with no nutrients, to the size of a Buick. Why the fuck would it have grown so large and so fast?
Because it was part space jockey, of course.
See, basically the humans in the film wandered into the wrong fucking place at the wrong fucking time. Some kind of genetic accident happened on the planet sometime around the age of Christ, and the jockeys lost. The monsters we see in Prometheus are built on jockey DNA and grow accordingly because that’s all they had available. How did these jockey-monsters lead to human-sized facehuggers on the alien ship in Alien? Probably because the queen at the end had some of Shaw’s DNA in it. Shaw was its mother, after all, and the jockey was its host, and since the later movies establish that the host contributes to the parasite alien’s DNA, that means every alien in the entire series came from a soup of both jockey and human DNA.
Which leads me, at last, to the only other film in the franchises that even thinks about genetics.
The key plot point in Joss Whedon and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s batshit-loco sequel is that scientists, in an effort to get their hands on a queen, have genetically cloned a new Ripley, but couldn’t quite get the mix right. Ripley is now part-alien, with acidy blood and a bad attitude and all of that jazz. On the flip side, the queen alien is also changed, and can now give human birth. It’s all weird and very Brundlefly, but by far the strangest element is the critter that the queen births at the end of the movie, the Newborn.
I mean, holy crap, right? One of the nagging problems I’ve had with Alien: Resurrection from the beginning is that the Newborn seems to come out of left field. How did alien + Ripley = that?
If nothing else, the groundwork laid in Prometheus almost makes sense out of the Newborn. The salient point with the Alien: Resurrection isn’t that Ripley and the queen have traded features, because that’s not how DNA works. What’s actually happened is that the scientists kicked two species (aliens and humans) back into the DNA soup together, with no clue that that aliens and humans actually shared common ancestry (because, until Prometheus, they didn’t.) If humans and aliens and space jockeys all share the same core DNA code as Prometheus posits, then couldn’t that explain why the Newborn arrives at about, oh I dunno, 9 feet tall and albino?
Ridley Scott accidentally(?) made the Newborn plausible. Once all the DNA strands were jangled up again, it’s as if a latent strand somewhere in the code programmed the Newborn to resemble its great-grandfathers, the space jockeys. The thing even wakes up in a murder mood, just like the one jockey we see alive in Prometheus. Going a step further, if the space jockeys engineered the aliens to destroy their creations–us–then it stands to reason that they are the true villains of the series, which means that the last proper film of the series (because fuck Alien v Predator movies) ends with Ripley–a woman whose DNA is caught somewhere in the middle between two of the jockeys’ creations–rejecting a monstrous version of her creator. It’s the mythical Prometheus returning to tear down the gods.
Alien: Resurrection is still a pretty bad movie, but it’s suddenly, at least for me, much more interesting. Prometheus isn’t a great movie either, but it’s an A-list science fiction movie that brought some big ideas and some new images to the screen, which makes it one of the most satisfying films of the year. It also found a way to add to its franchise without damaging it beyond repair. The Alien series is now a whole lot richer, which I wouldn’t have thought possible before last night. Good, bad, whatever, I’ll take those results all day long.