The publicity campaign for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is reaching boiling point. We’ve had teaser posters, plenty of production stills, viral videos featuring cast members that don’t even mention the film’s title and more traditional trailers and posters. A new fad in movie marketing has seen announcement teasers circulate the internet to build up hype. “Don’t forget to watch the new trailer for Prometheus!” is the general message there.
With Prometheus, do we really need ‘hype’? The fact this is Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi movie for thirty years and that he directed the mighty Alien is surely enough to create interest and fan fervour? Add to this Prometheus’ links to the 1979 sci-fi horror flick, and we’ve got some serious anticipation at play. And is it the kind of buzz that will destroy a picture if we don’t get a direct link to Alien?
On 10th April, Twentieth Century Fox decided to show the UK press a handful of non-spoiler scenes from their sci-fi spectacular and host a short Q&A with Ridley Scott, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender.
The footage shown appears to all take place more or less in the first act. On the whole, there was little in the way of grand revelations. In fact, the best we can say is the montage reel revealed character personalities and dynamics. And it, of course, looked absolutely stunning.
The first clip features Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discovering a star map in a cave on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It is short sequence which reveals a major clue for the young archaeologists and shows Shaw and Holloway are a bit loved up.
The second clip featured a stunning shot of outer space. The stars shimmered and blazed and the 3D was gorgeously used. Something comes into view and eagle-eyed fans will notice –immediately – that it echoes the opening of Alien, but slyly subverts it so the outer edge of a surface enveloped in darkness turns out to be the Prometheus spacecraft and not a planet.
We are now in the year 2093, and deep in space. David, the android, walks about the ship preparing for everybody to wake. The crew clearly suffer from the effects of travel. Elizabeth Shaw throws up into a container and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is quickly established as a bit of a corporate bitch.
Those images last year of Theron supposedly naked doing push ups are a bit off. She’s clearly wrapped in bandages to cover her modesty. Vickers, out of all the characters shown in the clip, is the most clearly defined. She speaks in a cold and aloof tone, but surely this is some sort of ruse and her character will grow – she doesn’t look the ‘Screaming Lambert’ type.
The next clip shown features Guy Peace (heavily made up with prosthetics) as an elderly Peter Weyland. He’s recorded a message for the Prometheus crew explaining why he gave Holloway and Shaw a spaceship and funds to find the origin of life. Weyland tells everybody gathered that David is like a son to him even though he’s a robot servant. Here we have a scene that tries to establish the backstory – one man’s riches help fund a space mission. Peter Weyland is not a major character but we know from Alien he is part of Weyland-Yutani, the corporation that asks the Nostromo to seek out the distress signal on LV-426. This is actually a great link itself because it is suggested ‘The Company’, in Alien, have prior knowledge of the alien menace. The crew, they discover to their absolute horror, is expendable.
The origins of Prometheus reside in Scott asking himself a simple but salient question: “who is the big guy in the chair, who was fondly after ‘Alien’ called The Space Jockey?”
From this notion grew an idea to make a prequel which then subsequently, we’re told repeatedly, veers away from Alien and only really provides a connection in the last ten minutes of the picture. “I went in to Fox with four questions. Who are they? Why are they there? Why that cargo and where were they going or had they in fact had a forced landing? And so in fact it was a study of a pilot and Tom Rothman said, ‘That sounds good to me’. And so off I went with two writers, John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof and we came up with the screenplay, the draft. It’s interesting when you start off with an interesting idea like that and you don’t know whether it’s going to be a prequel or a sequel, it gradually adjusted itself into much larger questions and therefore now the actual connection to the original ‘Alien’ is barely in its DNA.”
The question we have to ask is ‘Do we believe him?’ It must be difficult to balance something that is essentially connected to Alien but wants to be its own thing. Scott is a director who doesn’t repeat himself. The drip-feeding of images online, one of which shows off a xenomorph bas-relief, allows film fans to notice the general design of the alien planetoid clearly echoes H.R. Giger’s iconic and deeply weird work.
Alien is a genuinely mysterious picture and Scott is right to say his fellow directors, who worked on subsequent pictures, did not ask about the other alien creature, which is certainly more intriguing as a premise than Ellen Ripley’s unfortunate encounters with the xenomorphs. Not one of them seemed to ask where did these monsters come from – and who is the Space Jockey? Scott, finally, wants to address these questions.
Prometheus and its secrets were kept under wraps during the preview footage and the director and cast remained tight-lipped on many things. One thing is abundantly clear: the film will be stunning and give fans a sci-fi horror experience which simultaneously takes us back whilst giving us new experiences. Whether it turns out to be a close cousin to Alien or merely a distant relative remains open. Scott won’t tell us, so just wait for the finished film on 1st June.