Ridley Scott returns to SF with original film ‘Prometheus’ instead of ‘Alien’ prequel

01.14.11 7 years ago 19 Comments

20th Century Fox

Well, this seems fitting.  Evolution finds a way, I suppose.

For the last couple of years, there has been constant talk about Ridley Scott finally returning to the world of “Alien” with a prequel, or perhaps a pair of prequels, that were allegedly to explore the world of the Space Jockey, the dead alien glimpsed in the original 1979 film.

During this process, I’ve been covering it as politely as possible, determined to wait and see what Sir Ridley was cooking up.  I’m not a fan of prequels in general, and I think they represent a truly destructive drive to over-explain things in movies, robbing fantasy and science-fiction of some of its magic.  Nothing killed The Force more completely than the drive to tie it to space DNA, and my feeling during this entire time we’ve been reporting on this story is that telling the story of the Space Jockey sounds like the single least interesting story in the history of backstories.

When Scott was working with Jon Spaihts on the prequel, the word was that they had so much material that they were considering making it two films.  Spaihts is a really good writer, and his script “Passengers” convinced me that he’s got the right sensibility for hard SF.  He’s got a great sense of how to handle tech and still focus on the human stories in the foreground.  Even so, Damon Lindelof was brought in as “Lost” wrapped up, and whatever it was that he pitched to Ridley Scott radically reshaped the material.  How radically, though, we didn’t realize until today, when 20th Century Fox finally announced what they’ve been up to.

Let’s see what Fox had to say in their press release today, and then we’ll talk about what it all means:

Twentieth Century Fox announced today that Ridley Scott will direct PROMETHEUS, an original science fiction epic, for worldwide release on March 9, 2012.  The initial draft of the script was written by Jon Spaihts (The Darkest Hour) from Scott”s idea. Damon Lindelof (Lost, Star Trek) and Scott have since been working together on the current version which has expanded the story into new directions.

Story details are being closely guarded so as not to spoil surprises for moviegoers, but Scott explained the outlines of the film and its genesis as follows: “While Alien was indeed the jumping off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place.  The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien”s DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative.  I couldn’t be more pleased to have found the singular tale I’d been searching for, and finally return to this genre that’s so close to my heart.”

“In a world flooded with prequels, sequels and reboots,” said Lindelof. “I was incredibly struck by just how original Ridley’s vision was for this movie. It’s daring, visceral and hopefully, the last thing anyone expects. When I sat in a movie theater as a kid, feet raised off the floor for fear that something might grab my ankles, I never dreamed in my wildest imagination I would one day get to collaborate with the man responsible for it.  Working alongside him has been nothing short of a dream come true.”

Of the five major roles to be cast, Noomi Rapace is the first actor signed to star in the film. The young Swedish actress landed the role of scientist Elizabeth Shaw after Scott saw her portrayal of fictional Lisbeth Salander in the film The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, for which she was lauded by Time magazine as a 2010 Performance of the Year. Rapace starred in all three entries of the breakout global franchise based on Stieg Larsson”s Millennium trilogy of books (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet”s Nest are the other two entries), which have collectively grossed more than $212 million worldwide.

There’s a lot to digest in that release, not the least of which is that we’re about to get our first original science-fiction film from Ridley Scott since 1982.  Just 30 years.  That’s all.  Nothing unreasonable.

But what this press release does more than anything is give me hope that maybe things really are changing in this business.  Of all studios I would expect to see this happen at, Fox would be last on that list.  The truth is, though, they’re taking chances these days on some of their biggest commercial titles, the sorts of risks I didn’t expect from them.  The hiring of Scott Frank and, eventually, director Rupert Wyatt for their newest “Planet Of The Apes” film is big and bold in both cases, and with the new “X-Men,” they’ve let Matthew Vaughn redesign one of their biggest franchises in some fairly dramatic ways.  Still, those films are both prequels, still within the established world that Fox is already commercially comfortable with.

It’s exciting to see something original result when the process began as part of a series, and it’s even more exciting to realize that they must be fairly far along at this point if they’ve already got a release date of March 9, 2012.  What I love most about the original “Alien” is something that is lost completely with the sequels, and that’s the sense of discovery.  The first time you saw that film, the greatest thing about the Alien was the way you had no idea what they were or what shape they’d be each time we saw it.  Egg to face hugger to chestburster to full-sized Alien, the biological evolution of the creature was like a mystery movie.  The thing that bothers me most about prequels is that you pretty much strip all discovery out the film entirely, and now, with them dropping the Aliens and simply telling a new story, it’s possible for us to be surprised again.

Of course, the title “Prometheus” suggests what we can expect from the film.  My guess is that mankind is messing with things they shouldn’t be, and they’re going to get burned in the process.  What sorts of things they’re messing with… well, that’s the discovery I can’t wait to make.  I love the quotes from Scott and Lindelof in this piece, and I am excited to see what they’ve cooked up together.

“Prometheus,” starring Noomi Rapace, will hit theaters March 9, 2012.

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