The long-rumored “Alien” prequel is no more. From its ashes rises “Prometheus,” a sci-fi movie from Ridley Scott that will open on March 9, 2012.
BEGIN DIGRESSION THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS ACTUAL NEWS
This is very good news, because prequels are terrible. There’s no upside to a prequel. Your ending is already set, and the film is required to meet a series of strict and stringent story obligations in order to match up with what came before. The odd fascination with prequels has spawned the “X-Men” prequel series, which so far oozed out “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and has “X-Men: First Class” due this summer (Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wolverine” is due next summer and will reportedly be a stand alone film, which means it might also not be awful), “Hannibal Rising” and idiotic attempts to preface “The Exorcist,” “Dumb and Dumber,” “The Flinstones” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
There are two reasons for this: George Lucas and money. The former informs the latter; the most famous prequels in existence are the three “Star Wars” prequels Lucas released between 1999 and 2005, and they largely validate every negative stereotype and viewpoint of the prequel format. But they made SO much money that other studios decided to look into their vaults and see what they could dust off. That’s where money comes in. It’s the same logic behind why “X-Men” transformed a perfectly decent franchise into a prequel factory: Why pay all of the expensive stars of “X-Men” (or any other film) when you can just hire younger-looking actors and cash in on the brand name for a quick buck? In the case of “Wolverine,” they focused on the one star they wanted to keep; in the case of “Dumb and Dumberer,” they just gave two actors similar haircuts and costumes to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels.
The only prequels that have really worked are the ones that aren’t prequels at all. Reboots like “Batman Begins,” “Casino Royale” and “Star Trek” rewound their stories to the beginnings, but instead of bending over backwards to lock into what came later they instead started new franchises that progressed forward naturally (which was particularly important with “Star Trek,” given that franchise’s labyrinthine plotting and fanatical devotees). “The Godfather, Part II” was half-sequel, half-prequel, and the prequel bits actually served as a mirror to the modern day story, which is part of why it’s probably the best sequel ever made. (For my money, “Star Wars: Episode III” was also a good prequel, because it delivered enough of what people actually wanted to see from that trilogy, but I may view it more fondly than necessary because of what came before it.)
END OF THAT DIGRESSION; NOW HERE’S THE ACTUAL NEWS
Given that prequels are terrible, and particularly given the blatant needlessness surrounding this project in particular, I haven’t been awash in optimism for an “Alien” prequel. I mean, the first “Alien” was a classic, inspired countless knockoffs, innovative and terrific, put me to sleep when I was younger, et cetera, et cetera. Did we really need one (or two) movies just to explain how they found that initial alien? Apparently not.
The film’s script began with writer Jon Spaihts and is now a collaboration between eternally self-satisfied Damon Lindelof and Scott. It turned from an “Alien” prequel into “a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place,” Scott told Deadline. “The keen fan will recognize strands of ‘Alien’s' DNA, so to speak.” In other words, when there are people in space and aliens and things like that, you might suspect this thing started out as an “Alien” prequel.
The first actor in the cast is Noomi Rapace (she played Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” films and co-stars in December’s “Sherlock Holmes” sequel). Charlize Theron and Angelina Jolie are reportedly interested in the other female lead.
This is welcome news all around. An “Alien” prequel was unnecessary, while a new sci-fi film from Ridley Scott is actually a nifty prospect. And given that his two main characters are going to be played by women, it’ll be a welcome respite from the male-dominated big-budget sci-fi arena. There’s no word yet on what the rest of the story involves, so we’ll have to wait and see on that front.