Did PROMETHEUS save ALIEN: RESURRECTION?

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.

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  1. #1 by Erik Ellickson on 06/09/2012 - 5:57 PM

    SPOILERS:

    Uhm, the entire bit about it not being the EXACT Space Jockey or EXACT ship seen in Alien made clear sense to me after David claimed “There are other ships…”. And, the fact that Shaw and David took off on another ship at the very end screams “IF THIS MOVIE SELLS, SEQUELS FORTHCOMING!” This is also why the alien at the end didn’t quite look like a xeno, assuredly the sequel(s) will hurry along its evolution to what we all know it to be.

    What I couldn’t peace together, thinking in reverse about the film when it was over was… the beginning. That is now more of a mystery to me now than anything else. It was an awesome scene but what was that SJ up to?

    • #2 by thehollywoodprojects on 06/09/2012 - 6:28 PM

      Sure, there are other ships, but it’s also a pretty dead planet and it’s extremely, extremely unlikely that anyone else will arrive on the planet until the Nostromo wanders in there for ‘Alien.’ I think this is why Scott went out of the way to tell everyone it’s not a prequel to ‘Alien’ because, well, it’s not. The film uses all the same images and art and iconic technology, but it doesn’t directly set up ‘Alien’ and a whole lot of things need to happen before the beginning of ‘Alien’ makes sense. So, for whatever that’s worth, I’m going to officially stop calling it an ‘Alien’ prequel until I see something that makes me believe otherwise.

      Which, of course, I don’t think I ever will. I think it’s likely we’ll get a ‘Prometheus’ sequel some day, but I think it’s equally likely that the sequel takes place somewhere else, with (again) no xenomorphs to speak of. The end of the movie is heading off in one direction, and that’s the direction I want to go. Although, for the record, I don’t think we need any sequels. I’m happy where the film left off, and I dig the open-ended nature of the story. Time will tell, I suppose.

  2. #3 by Erik Ellickson on 06/09/2012 - 11:47 PM

    The planet on Prometheus is not the same one featured in Alien. I’m just predicting that in another film or two that the “planets will align” and we will see the stage being set for Alien. So this film is not a prequel per se but I assure you the next and/or final installment of Prometheus will be.

  3. #4 by nathan on 06/11/2012 - 1:14 PM

    prometheus is actually set on a completely different planet to the one seen in ALIEN , prometheus is set on one of the Moons , hence why settings are different and obvious placing of the ship and jockey.

  4. #5 by Lou Zucaro on 06/12/2012 - 4:31 PM

    To address your last comment about them being very similar, I don’t think that’s true.

    If there’s another movie (and there probably will be), it’ll likely follow Shaw and David to either the Engineer’s home planet or someplace else. At some point in that movie, an Engineer vessel will crash-land on LV 426 and end with, probably, the queen bursting out of the SJ’s chest.

    THAT would tie everything up.

    So, in good storytelling fashion, Shaw and David will go to [wherever] and probably there’ll be one more mixture of DNA that leads to the aliens we all know and love. Since we know the Engineers are pretty adept at bio-weapons and genetics, perhaps they have some living creatures that they use for protection, and somehow one of them gets caught up in the fight when Shaw and David get to their destination. That could be the thing that gets them the different teeth and the more Engineers-architecture-like exo-skeleton and tube-y bits on the back.

    BUT…this is MY big question. When they first found the room with the giant head statue, Holloway was looking up at the wall, on which there appeared to be what REALLY looked a lot like the Alien / Queen, with one of the canisters in front of it (aka vases).

    Is it possible that the Engineers had somehow run into these creatures before and either worshiped them or were trying to re-create them from scratch? That scene is worth paying attention to if you see it again, because the creature on the wall really does look very, very familiar.

    • #6 by thehollywoodprojects on 06/14/2012 - 1:01 AM

      I’d LOVE to see the movie with Shaw and David on the Engineer’s planet, although I’m not optimistic about seeing unless the Engineers happen to have a kidnapped batch of humans already sitting around on the planet. Otherwise, too pricey/too weird.

      I still feel like the ending–not necessarily the rest of the film–to a film that’s setting up Alien would have to be so similar as to risk feeling like a retread, and I don’t think Ridley has that in mind. Basically, 99% of the movie could be wildly different, but it still ends with crashed ship, chest-bursted space jockey, planet in the LV system, and a warning left behind for people to stay away. I’d rather just abandon the idea of being a prequel to Alien and go off in the other direction, and let movie junkies like us to sort out what all of that means.

  5. #7 by Lou Zucaro on 06/13/2012 - 1:56 AM

    Sorry…just as a follow-up to my own post, I forgot to write before that that scene almost made me wonder if we had been created solely for the purpose of providing hosts for the Aliens, but that, as the captain said later, they turned on their creators.

    But that actually makes less sense given the DNA shenanigans you wrote about (and the proto-Alien being a combination of Engineer / Human DNA & hosts).

    Which still makes me curious about what Holloway was looking at up on the wall in the “big head room”.

  6. #8 by Robin on 06/14/2012 - 2:01 AM

    I have settled on the goo being evil alien cum seeking a female uterus to settle in. The white snakes overgrown sperm seeking the same goal. I’ve come to realize the squid beasty is a young standard queen from Aliens attacking in a folded forward position. The tentacles are what it uses to attach itself to the environment. Its first act is to produce some drones to bring bodies to the egg chamber so hatching facehuggers have a place to go. A queen is just a specially nourished bloated version of the regular insect in the real world. If you find the image of the Aliens Queen just before it detaches you can see its a combination of facehugger and drone. Imagine its attached to the pipes with tentacles and you basically have the thing that attacks the engineer. If that’s a developing young queen the circle of life easy to follow. If its not we’re back to an insolvable mystery of mix and match DNA. In answer to the age old riddle, You can’t make eggs without the chicken.

    For good reason a lot of people are hung up on Prometheus being about DNA experiments. Its not.
    This is a finished weapon designed to take out life on earth. The goop creates queens which in turn creates drones and facehuggers and so on and so on. Then everybody is dead. Mission Accomplished. I like Alien Resurrection on the grounds that Alien 3 arrogantly destroyed the franchise which still had a lot of good ideas remaining in it. And A.R. played with a few of those comic book style. I liked all of it except the humalien depicted. Its a horrible design, and I don’t mean that in a good way. I don’t think there is any intended direct connection between Prometheus and A.R. but they do indirectly relate.

  7. #9 by rentdownstairs on 07/18/2012 - 2:57 PM

    Didn’t Alien 3 play around with the idea of genetics also? It’s heavily implied with the dog-alien, at least.

  8. #10 by thehollywoodprojects on 06/11/2012 - 1:27 PM

    I actually addressed this in the post. For me, that’s not the end answer, but another question for the filmmakers. Why work so hard to get the movie 90% of the way to looking like an alien prequel (same ships, same aliens, the origin of xenomorphs, a chest wound for the space jockey, a crashed ship…) but actually prevent the movie from locking up exactly? To answer another comment in this one, I wouldn’t want to see the ‘Prometheus’ sequel that ACTUALLY leads in to ‘Alien,’ because they’d have to be very similar.

  1. Ridley Scott movie 'Prometheus' rests on some real astronomy

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