The ‘Prometheus’ Question: ‘Alien’ Prequel Or Not?

By Matt Adler

It has been a passionately debated subject in the lead-up to the release of Ridley Scott’s latest directorial effort “Prometheus.” Is the film a prequel to his 1979 classic “Alien,” and by extension, the rest of the films in the franchise? Scott and the co-writer of the film, Damon Lindelof, have been coy about the subject, admitting that the two films exist in the same world, but stopping short of terming it a prequel.

To shed some light on the question, we’re going to take a look at the connections between the films, so you can judge for yourself.

Warning: this post is spoiler heavy, so click after the jump to read on if you dare!

“Prometheus” initially began life as a sequel, rather than a prequel, to the “Alien” franchise, albeit one intended to explore the origins of the titular aliens. “Aliens” director James Cameron was originally involved, but departed from the project when the studio decided to pursue “Alien vs. Predator” instead.

By 2009, the project had been revived with the initial drafts of the script composed by screenwriter Jon Spaihts, who envisioned the film as a direct prequel to “Alien.” Scott brought Spaiht’s script to Lindelof for consultation, and Lindelof argued that the film would be better off standing on its own, rather than serving as an explicit prequel. Scott agreed, and the film was rewritten to remove many of the more explicit “Alien” connections. Despite this, ties remain to bring “Prometheus” into the larger “Alien” mythos.

The central connection point for “Prometheus” lies in the discovery of the Engineers, an extraterrestrial species that played some role in humanity’s creation. Fans of the original “Alien” will remember the Space Jockey, a gigantic elephantine corpse discovered by the crew of the Nostromo that sets the events of that film in motion. “Prometheus” reveals that the Space Jockey is one of the Engineers.

The role of the Engineers in the rise of the human species is carried out through their use of a mysterious dark liquid, which has evident mutagenic properties. When the existence of the Engineers is discovered in the year 2089, the crew of the Prometheus travels to a distant moon to learn more about them. There they discover containers of the liquid, which they become exposed to. The liquid proves as much an agent of destruction as one of creation for humans, since direct contact causes an infection that ends in a grisly demise. Secondary contact has other effects, as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discovers.

After an intimate encounter with an infected crew member, Shaw realizes that she has been impregnated with an alien monstrosity, which she then surgically removes from her womb. This monstrosity strongly resembles the Facehugger, the stage in a xenomoph’s lifecycle in which, as a parasitic organism, it attaches itself to its victim’s face and implants an embryo.

The crew discovers a living Engineer and learns that although these creatures may be responsible for humanity’s creation, they now have the opposite intent; the surviving Engineer intends to pilot his spacecraft to Earth and release a payload of the deadly liquid, potentially wiping out human life. The crew of the Prometheus stops the Engineer by causing his ship to crash.

In the final battle, the alien Shaw “birthed” turns on the Engineer, attaching to his face. The film ends with the classic “Alien” chestburster ripping its way from the Engineer’s chest, bringing the film full circle to the discovery of the Space Jockey corpse in “Alien,” which was found with its chest ripped open.

Although the connections to “Alien” are clear, “Prometheus” provides enough of its own direction, and raises enough new questions, so it’s clear to see why the filmmakers consider it a new franchise. Whether it truly qualifies as prequel however, is a question best answered by the audiences in theaters.

Do you consider “Prometheus” to be an “Alien” prequel? Let us know what you think in the comment section or on Twitter!