How the hell long has director Ridley Scott been planning to make “Prometheus”? Could be since 1979, when he unveiled his spaceship-horror classic “Alien,” famous for an exploding-chest scene and the shiny, black, murderous, merciless alien monster with a stabbing killer boner for a tongue. (It has sharp little teeth and screams.)
Scott’s been touring the press to promote “Prometheus,” and he keeps saying it’s based on a weird and unexplained story arch from a single scary scene in “Alien.” Three crew members of the ship Nostromos board a crashed ship to investigate its distress signal. Inside is a giant alien skeleton seated in (maybe even fused to) a massive telescope or gun. The mysterious Space Jockey (as “Alien” nerds have named the skeleton) is long dead, with a hole in his chest.
His crashed ship is loaded with hundreds of waist-high eggs. One of those eggs opens, and shoots a spider-like sucker alien onto the face of Younger John Hurt. (As opposed to Older John Hurt, sadly tainted by “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”) They take Younger John Hurt back to the Nostromos. A rude baby monster interrupts dinner by bursting from his chest.
Because a massacre ensues, no one bothers to go back and further investigate the mysterious Space Jockey. Over three sequels and two goofy spinoffs with Predator, Space Jockey’s existence is never explained, even though he’s got something to do with where these slimy, evil monsters come from.
It’s exciting to see Scott getting back into the “Alien” franchise. The original was a product of late-70s horror effects, and the game has obviously changed big-time since then. Scott’s completely on board with huge effects that can be wholly digital. The creatures on “Prometheus” are going to be pretty realistic and scary, I’d bet.
There’s another more over-thought, Flip-Side-In-Santa-Fe-esque reason Ridley Scott may be revisiting “Alien,” and it has to do with America’s economy and the Supreme Court case called “Citizens United.”
Well, not really. It is about corporations, though.
Consider what’s actually going on in “Alien.” There are a few early scenes when two sweaty grunts on the Nostromos start whining about how unfair their bonus payments are compared with the other five members of the crew. (The ship is towing thousands of tons of special ore through deep space for the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.) The pair are later seen griping that the rest of the crew never goes down to the Nostromos’s engine deck, where the real work gets done.
Why are the towing pros in “Alien” even investigating a crashed ship with a giant skeleton monster on board? Because their own ship woke them up from cryogenic sleep, halfway through the multi-year trip home, to go get one of the aliens. Slowly we learn that their employer, through the ship’s computer called “Mother,” is manipulating events so the creature is brought back to earth to be studied and turned into weapons.
The employees are as expendable as expendable gets. The company has planted an evil android on board named Ash. Everyone else thinks Ash is human, until he becomes willing to kill them all to preserve the monster. Parker knocks Ash’s head off with a fire extinguisher.
The late 1970s was an era when companies started taking on an ethos that bottom-line profits were more important than workers. “Alien” was about gory spaceship carnage, but it was also about the realization that our bosses don’t give a shit about most of us any more.
What do you think we’re in store for now, with “Prometheus,” in the time of the 99 percent versus the one percent and corporate personhood? Scott might be playing his thrills completely straight, but there is probably more to it. The best horror and science-fiction movies are so often a reflection of what’s happening politically or socially in our grand reality. Don’t be surprised if “Prometheus” has something to say about corporations and the way they treat people.
I cannot wait.