Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Alien and Prometheus

 As I mentioned earlier this week, I watched Alien twice last weekend. Having seen Alien recently, I thought it might be a good time to listen to the commentary tracks on each version (the 1979 theatrical cut and the 2003 re-edited "alternate" version created for the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set) as I'd never actually gotten around to that*. And, seeing that the Ridley Scott directed / Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts scripted Prometheus is coming out next week, it seemed like a good time to glean some information about the well guarded story.

 Since the announcement that Scott was returning to science fiction for the first time in thirty years, there has been a degree of speculation as to how Prometheus was connected to Alien. Scott indicated that the original plan was for the film to be a prequel to Alien, but that in the course of developing the script he, Lindelof, and Spaihts moved away from that and that the film was a stand alone story. Then Scott indicated that Prometheus shared "DNA" with the Alien world but that there would be no Xenomorphs (the titular creatures of the series, as they don't have a species identified in any of the films). And then the trailers made their way to the internet.

 Without breaking too much down (believe me, type "Prometheus" into the Google search engine and follow any links from online magazines detailing the history of production, questions about the trailer, and articles that deal with questions from the viral campaign), the first teaser had what looked like the derelict from Alien (and Aliens) with the same cockpit Dallas, Lambert, and Kane explore, something that looks a lot like the Space Jockey's head (or helmet) and images that went beyond sharing "DNA". The subsequent trailers (international and domestic) introduced shapes and structures that looked a LOT like Xenomorphs, something that looks like a proto-facehugger, and more than one Space Jockey (with and without helmet, which explains what connects to the cockpit).

 The viral ads online have introduced Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland (one can debate whether this removes Lance Henriksen's Charles Bishop Weyland as the originator of the "Company" - based on the chronology, it's possible Pearce plays his son and therefore not all of the terrible Alien vs Predator films is being thrown out) and introduced David (Michael Fassbinder) as Weyland's android aboard the Prometheus (no Ash-like misdirection this time out), as well as a video from Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) contacting Weyland that also introduces the Yutani into Weyland Yutani (from Aliens).

 I don't even want to talk about some of the spots airing on television because I'm trying to avoid them. At least two I've seen give away far more than any of the trailers have about what the not-facehugger thing is capable of doing and more specific details about Shaw's theory of who the "Architects" are. They have produced one two interesting images (particularly this spot), including the one that conclusively answers the question "is this the same planet where the crew of the Nostromo find the derelict ship?"

 The answer is no: that planet was LV-426**, and this image:

 Makes it clear they're headed to LV-223, so we're not being misled and the fact that a Space Jockey's ship that crashes in every trailer isn't the same ship from Alien. But wait... if we go into rampant speculation mode, what else is there to learn here.

 Well, here's the shot that immediately precedes the image above:

 It shows the planet, the moon (LV-223), and another planetoid orbiting. I point this out because one of the things I noticed while watching Alien again is that LV-426 is orbiting this planet:

 It was actually much more difficult to find good pictures from Alien, but in the film you can see what appears to be a gas giant with a ring around it and two planetoids in orbit (I say planetoid instead of moon because that's how Scott describes it in the 1999 commentary, when he says "they told me the planetoid wouldn't have an atmosphere and I said mine would because otherwise it looked like rubbish.") This shot it from the end of the Alien teaser (hence the tagline in the lower portion of the picture) but you can kind of make out both smaller orbiting planetoids, one of which is LV-426.

 So is the other one LV-223? I don't know, but it was something I hadn't even given though about before putting Alien back on. Yes, the crash isn't on the same moon/planetoid but does that mean the Prometheus doesn't land somewhere very near to where the Nostromo answers a distress call? I guess we'll find out next week.

 Other interesting tidbits from Ridley Scott's commentary (the 1999 one and his sections of the 2003 group track, recorded with and without Sigourney Weaver):

 - He describes Ash as "basically a Replicant" tying together in his mind the worlds of Alien and Blade Runner, made all the more curious as Scott has announced he will be making a sequel to the latter with screenwriter Hampton Fancher (and possibly Harrison Ford in a small capacity) in the next few years.

 - Scott mentions both in 1999 and in 2003 of his fascination with the Space Jockey and his theory that the derelict was a "bioweapon carrier" designed to unleash the Xenomorphs on some unidentified species. He and Weaver agree that the origin of the Space Jockey and the Xenomorphs is the only way to continue making films in the Alien universe and that if either of them were involved, they would want to explore just that.

 - His conception of the Xenomorph was that it could essentially reproduce asexually, and the deleted "cocoon" sequence hinted that it could change its victims into other Xenomorphs. All of this was removed from the theatrical cut and the creation of the Queen in Aliens completely removes this from the lifecycle, but if you put on the 2003 recut of the film and listen to Scott's explanation of what Ripley is seeing, he explains an alternate theory as to how a single Xenomorph could perpetuate the species. Scott frequently refers to the facehugger concept of implanting eggs in living hosts by mentioning insects that have similar tactics.

 So here we are, one week away from Prometheus, and this could all be irrelevant by then. It's hard to say, but I have fun geeking out and speculating every now and then. Watching Alien again (and again) certainly gave me some things to consider until seeing Scott's return to the world of Space Jockeys and alien life forms. I guess I'll revisit this soon...

 * I had listened to the track for Aliens, which is an interesting collection of various participants, sometimes in groups or, in the case of James Cameron, alone, and contains all kinds of information about the making of the film and its relationship with Alien.
** That is, by the way, not speculation. In addition to being able to find that information on virtually any site about Alien or Aliens, it's part of the menu that opens the Alien Blu-Ray, which also provides the name "Acheron" which is what the colonists call the planet in Aliens.

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