After a duo of poorly received sequels, it seemed that the Alien franchise was dead, save for a two spinoff crossovers with Predator. Then in 2012, the xenomorph’s original creator Ridley Scott returned for a prequel that promised to bring prestige, and qualify back to a series that had long been suffering.
Prometheus delivered exactly what Scott set out to do, a deeply philosophical sci-fi/horror film that blended monster horror, body horror, and the ponderings of the meaning of life. However, audiences didn’t take too kindly, lamenting that the xenomorph barely appeared and that it didn’t feel like an Alien movie.
The result was the desperate course correction that was Alien: Covenant, and it pleased absolutely no one (more on that here). But as we look back at Prometheus, now celebrating its 10th anniversary, is it possible that we judged it too harshly? Was it a decent film all along that just didn’t match up with what audiences expected?
The biggest criticism fans had of Prometheus was that the xenomorphs don’t show up at all, except for a post credit scene. And while we can’t fault Alien fans for expecting the titular alien to show up, it doesn’t discount everything that this movie was trying to do.
Even from the beginning of the series, these deep philosophical roots were present. All the way back to Ian Holm’s Ash in the 1979 original, boasting about how the xenomorph was the “perfect organism”. So it makes sense that a prequel about the creation of this perfect organism would be rooted in creation mythology itself.
Prometheus gives us a fictional sci-fi account of humanity’s own history and it creates a rich mythology, made even richer when you look at a particularly deleted scene. In the original script, it was revealed that Jesus himself was one of these “engineers” behind creating life on planets and that mankind’s persecution and execution of him is what led them to turn their backs on humanity.
These are genuinely fascinating ideas that probably would have played out better, had Prometheus been a stand alone film. It’s not unlike Halloween III: Season of the Witch suffering the ire of audiences because of its association with other movies. The point is, it perhaps wasn’t fair to try to compare this to the original Alien, when it was never trying to be that to begin with.
It’s a bit ironic that audiences didn’t like this film because it was too different from the original, when the first sequel was completely different and that’s why it was celebrated. Alien has long since been considered a suspenseful space slasher, while its sequel Aliens went full 80s action movie. They’re both brilliant classics because they do their separate tasks very effectively.
But when a much more philosophical and dramatic storyline emerged, fans complained that it wasn’t the exact same as what came before. To be fair, Prometheus was released during the age of the legacy sequel, and there was an expectation that one would essentially try to remake their original films, but keep the continuity going.
Underrated, Not Perfect
Let’s be clear, we’re in no way stating that Prometheus is without fault. Guy Pearce’s old man makeup is laughable, some of the CGI didn’t hold up as soon as it got released and Charlize Theron is not giving it her usual best. Much like Alien: Covenant, Michael Fassbender’s David steals the show.
Point being that this was a movie that certainly has its flaws, but it deserved much better than its reception, and genuinely didn’t require the course correction that was its subpar sequel. And seeing as how the franchise hasn’t really gone anywhere since, this may be the last decent movie we get featuring our beloved xenomorphs!
What did you think of Prometheus? Do you feel it belongs in the Alien franchise? Let us know in the comments!