Prequels, sequels, and remakes are dangerous territory for any classic film. As such, I was anxious when last year I heard that Ridley Scott would be working on additions to two of my favourite films, Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982).
Early on Scott made it clear that the Alien Prequel and Blade Runner sequel would be parallel storylines ‘set in the same universe’ as the originals, rather than direct chronological expansions. I was optimistic as this method would allow Scott to take the best parts from the originals and alter the storyline, but without seriously upsetting how the originals are viewed.
On Monday night, after months of seemingly endless trailers, teasers, and spoilers, I finally got to see Ridley Scott’s Alien ‘prequel’ attempt, Prometheus. Easily one of the most anticipated films of the year, I desperately wanted to love it. Unfortunately, I have to agree with nearly every other critic when I say that it was a very poor film. Those expecting a film in the vein of Alien (or even its progressively worse sequels) will be let down. Prometheus is an entirely different film to Scotts original claustrophobic, dystopian, psychosexual nightmare.
The comparisons with Alien are easy to draw as explicit references and subtle allusions to it are made. Much has been said of actor Noomi Rapace embodying Sigourney Weaver’s powerful Ripley. However Rapace’s character, Dr Elizabeth Shaw, simply isn’t the same. Doctor Shaw is a passive protagonist who never really commands - as Ripley does in Alien - even when she is awkwardly thrust into the lead role. I saw this as being down to the undeveloped relationships between the 13 strong cast of Prometheus. Scott should have known how successful a small cast is of achieving genuinely human interaction, as his intimate crew of 5 (6 including Jones the cat) does in Alien. Confusingly, in Prometheus Scott decided to make the crew strangers to one another. The chance for interaction is further compounded later on when the crew splits up, a few staying on the ship and the rest exploring the moon.
Aside from the weak lead, one of the most concerning and irritating aspects was that Scott found the need to explain the origin or background of trivial features. From the first scene of an alien sacrificing itself to produce life on earth, to the dead father story for Shaw, the film was distracted and confused by a multitude of plot points.
The reason I am concerned by this apparent need for ‘origins’ is because I fear Scott will apply the same approach to the Blade Runner sequel he is working on. Unlike Ben Child at The Guardian, it was the mysteries of Blade Runner that first captured me and continue to intrigue me with every viewing. The complexity of the film is built through hints and allusions, miniscule details that are never visited on screen. Rachael’s comments appear to suggest that leather products are illegal, the vagueness with which the design and creation of replicants is treated contributes to the questions on exactly how human they are, and of course it is never resolved whether Deckard himself is a replicant.
In my opinion, leaving the viewer to consider and imagine makes an infinitely more enjoyable film. My worry is that the Blade Runner sequel will be treated in the same cack-handed manner as Prometheus, and will lose the humanity, claustrophobia, and mystery that defines the original.