Warning: the following contains much conjecture about the plot of Prometheus.
The element of surprise was vital to the success of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Back in 1979, early audiences were utterly unprepared for the one-two punch of the suffocating facehugger leaping from its leathery egg, or the hideous, phallic monstrosity erupting from John Hurt’s chest. Alien was a sci-fi movie that, to paraphrase a recent quote from Scott, scared the shit out of movie-goers everywhere.
It’s therefore unsurprising that Ridley Scott has kept his forthcoming Prometheus veiled in mystery. In an age where high-profile films are subjected to relentless pre-release scrutiny, Scott’s reluctance to divulge anything particularly significant about the nature of his film is quite unusual; only Christopher Nolan can match such a strict level of secrecy in recent years.
Once confidently billed as the Untitled Alien Prequel, even this aspect of the film was abruptly torn down; instead, Scott tells us to expect a very different sort of movie set from Alien, albeit one set in the same universe as the franchise he started in 1979.
In the absence of solid information, speculation has rushed in to fill the void. Earlier this year, an intriguing synopsis, purportedly leaked from Prometheus’ production, hinted at a story possibly inspired by Quatermass And The Pit. Upon discovering that humanity was the creation of a race of xenomorphs, the Weyland-Yutani corporation sends a group of travellers into space to meet them. The first contact is amicable, but one traveller’s attempt to steal the secret of life itself results in terrible repercussions, as their once benign hosts unleash a horrifying biological weapon – one that spells disaster for both explorers and aliens alike.
Shortly after that supposed leak appeared, Fox stated that it was entirely false, and countered with an official synopsis of its own:
“Visionary filmmaker Ridley Scott returns to the genre he helped define, creating an original science fiction epic set in the most dangerous corners of the universe. The film takes a team of scientists and explorers on a thrilling journey that will test their physical and mental limits and strand them on a distant world, where they will discover the answers to our most profound questions and to life’s ultimate mystery.”
What is quite significant, though, is that every little hint that either Scott or writer Damon Lindelof has subsequently dropped about Prometheus appears to fit perfectly with that earlier, supposedly false synopsis.
One of the first things Ridley Scott said in reference to Prometheus – that his film would concern “gods and engineers” – appears to tie in directly to the leaked synopsis’ notion that life on Earth was sparked by extra-terrestrials. Damon Lindelof further backed this up at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, where he said the following:
“Space exploration in the future is going to evolve into this idea that it’s not just about going out there and finding planets to build colonies. It also has this inherent idea that the further we go out, the more we learn about ourselves. The characters in this movie are preoccupied by the idea: what are our origins.”
It’s been known for some time that Prometheus would see its human protagonists encounter the apparently extinct race of creatures briefly seen in Alien. Aboard the eerily beautiful, horseshoe-shaped ship discovered by the luckless space truckers of the 1979 film, a strange, long-dead extra-terrestrial, dubbed the Space Jockey, sat at the helm of what looked like a gigantic, semi-organic telescope. In Prometheus, the theory goes, we’ll finally discover the history of these mysterious beings.
Last week, Sigourney Weaver, who, as far as we know, has no involvement in Prometheus, briefly mentioned the presence of the Space Jockeys in Scott’s film. “When you first find [the alien] in the first movie with what we call the Space Jockey, the kind of strange creature with the elephant face,” Weaver told Hollywood Outbreak, “the eggs were in its ship, so where did they come from? So its like kind of following that storyline with, I hope, another great ensemble.”
If we put all these fragments together, along with what we know based on Alien and its sequels, a roadmap appears to emerge, a possible route that Prometheus’ plot could take. Could it be that, in making contact with the Space Jockeys in Prometheus, the Weyland-Yutani corporation is indirectly responsible for the alien creature as we see it in 1979’s Alien?
Ridley Scott has said elsewhere that Prometheus is based entirely around one aspect of Alien that, so far, has been largely overlooked. “I realized that there was something in the original Alien that no one has asked a question about,” Scott said, according to the LA Times. “And I thought, well, that could be the centerpiece.”
That question could well have something to do with the appearance of that titular alien itself. The monster that lurked in the ducts of the Nostromo, as well as being humanoid in shape, also bore more than a passing resemblance to the dead Space Jockey and the rib-like, biomechanical interior of its ship. This was probably because the alien had taken on some of the characteristics of both the Space Jockey earlier in its evolution, but also the bipedal, upright shape of John Hurt’s character, Kane. This fits in with the events of Alien 3, in which the creature that emerged from the dog (or bull, depending on which cut of the film you prefer) took on the quadrupedal stature of its host.
It’s entirely possible, then, that we’ll see an alien in a vastly different form in Prometheus; one that could look more like a Space Jockey than a human, or even an entirely unrecognisable guise we’ve never seen before.
Weyland-Yutani’s hand in the birth of the alien as we recognise it would also explain several other longstanding questions in the franchise’s lore. It would explain, for example, why the Nostromo happened upon the planet LV-426 in the first place – the ship was deliberately sent in its direction, without the crew’s knowledge (other than the treacherous science officer Ash, of course), rather than merely happening upon it by chance.
It would explain the presence of the Company’s Special Order 937 on the ship’s computer (“Return alien life form, all other priorities rescinded”). It would also explain why the Company was so desperate to get its hands on the creature – it already precisely what a deadly weapon it could be – and would even explain where the terraforming technology demonstrated in Aliens came from.
If you were to really delve into the minutiae of the franchise, you could even say that Private Hudson’s line in Aliens, “Is this a stand-up fight, or just another bug hunt?” was an unwitting reference to the science expedition undertaken in Prometheus.
Of course, this is all merely exciteable conjecture, an attempt to take a franchise written by several different people over the course of more than a decade as a kind of gospel. But it is, at least, conjecture based around all the little bits of information we’ve heard about Prometheus so far. If our guesses are accurate, then the film would dovetail beautifully with the Alien movies we’ve already seen, while at the same time serving up an entirely different sci-fi experience, and one that works as a stand-alone movie – just as Scott promises it will.
It’s also likely, though, that our guesses are entirely wrong. If that’s the case, then we’ll merely return to a single sentence uttered by Scott in relation to his film: “Of course, what I want to do is scare the living shit out of you.” If Prometheus manages this, we’ll be more than happy, whether our conjecture turns out to be accurate or not.