Six new horror films are hitting home this week, including Netflix’s “Incantation”!
Erich Von Däniken first popularized the ancient astronaut theory in 1968 with the release of his controversial Chariots of the gods?, which suggested that human civilization was influenced by extraterrestrials which inspired primitive religions. Although the book was heavily criticized by scholars for its misleading presentation of legitimate historical findings, its popularity has led to everything from sensationalized TV shows to online conspiracy groups, with many people becoming obsessed with this particular pseudoscience. .
Ancient extraterrestrials would explain many coincidences and inconsistencies in the history of our species, so it makes sense that people are captivated by an idea that acts as a bridge between faith and science, mixing traditional evolution with hints of creationism. While the rise of fake news and science deniers has made conspiracy talk a controversial topic, you have to admit that these concepts make for compelling gender narratives. After all, the mark of good science fiction uses futuristic technology and fringe theories to explore inherently human concepts like faith and existentialism, so it stands to reason that ancient astronauts have become part of the fiction. popular.
And the way I see it, there’s one movie in particular that stands out for its chilling use of the concept, which would be Ridley Scottis controversial Extraterrestrial prequel, Prometheus. It’s been a decade since I first saw it in theaters, but I still look back on the film with a mixture of wonder and fascination. Don’t get me wrong, the film isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, suffering from a clunky script, dodgy action sequences, and shallow character work, but the image is built around a series of burning questions that still resonate 10 years later, which is why I’d like to talk about it.
A sequel to the 1997 one alien resurrection was actually in the works since 2002, when James Cameron contacted Sir Ridley Scott with the intention of producing the next chapter in Ellen Ripley’s anti-xenomorph saga. These plans were ultimately canceled when Fox decided to focus on developing Alien vs Predator, which led to a falling out with Cameron. However, the seeds of this unrealized project would eventually lead to Jon Spaihts writing Alien: Engineers in 2009, this scenario becoming the predecessor of Prometheus.
It may not be completely superior to the finished product, but I highly recommend checking out that original script as it makes a bit more sense than the final draft and some of the settings are scarier. Engineers actually led directly to the events of 1979 Extraterrestrial, adding a Lovecraftian twist to the origins of humanity and xenomorphs by filling in some of the gaps left by the original series. In fact, the story was so Lovecraftian that this production ended up sabotaging Guillermo Del Toro’s project. To the mountains of madness adaptation, which featured nearly identical action scenes and plot twists.
However, Scott ended up consulting Lost co-creator Damon Lindeloff before production began, with the writer suggesting the project be revised into an open-ended spin-off only tangentially tied to the Extraterrestrial movies. Not wanting to repeat himself, Scott eventually agreed, hiring Lindelof to rework the story with him over the next two months. Although I have several objections to the changes made to Spaihts script, even I have to admit that doing Prometheus fending for himself was the right decision.
Even so, the overall plot of the finished film was mostly unchanged. It further followed a group of scientists traveling to a distant planet after archaeologists uncovered a series of clues suggesting aliens visited humanity in the past, leaving behind star maps so they could one day get in touch. This (pre-Yutani) Weyland-funded expedition eventually leads the team to an ancient alien-inspired rabbit hole as they uncover the sinister intentions these alien engineers had for our species.
Along the way, the story uses several religious references, incorporating everything from horrific virgin births to multicultural creation myths and even alluding to the Alien Jesus conspiracy theory. Although this important part of lore is removed from the finished film, Scott would later admit that one of the Engineers’ main motivations for wanting to exterminate mankind was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, who was apparently a peaceful extraterrestrial emissary sent by a higher species to help us in our cosmic evolution.
While deleting such a controversial idea makes sense from a marketing standpoint, it’s a shame Scott wasn’t allowed to go all out with these wild theories. The director is clearly fascinated by religious and existential themes, and even if you’re not a fan of Prometheus, you have to admit, these are brave concepts to explore in a big-budget blockbuster. Scott would even come back to several of these ideas later in the two Alien: Alliance (another underrated sci-fi/horror game that deserves its own reassessment) and the tragically underrated HBO series Raised by wolves.
Prometheus is actually filled to the brim with references to Scott’s other works, with several sci-fi elements reminiscent of blade runner. Weyland’s “I want more life” motivation is clearly a nod to Rutger Hauer’s Roy Batty, and Michael FassbenderThe entire character seems to be a riff on the themes explored in Phillip K. Dick’s iconic adaptation. Although David isn’t technically a replicant, additional material from the film hints that Weyland and the Tyrell Companies competed to produce synthetic life, placing the two franchises in the same universe.
Beyond the esoteric story, the rest of the film is also a masterful achievement in cinema. Thanks to the royal influence of Sir Ridley Scott, this pulpy sci-fi thriller boasts a surprisingly star-studded cast, featuring the likes of Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and the always friendly Benoit Wong. Even stereoscopic photography is top-notch, with Dariusz Wolski making it one of the most impressive 3D movies out there.
The horror elements are also quite effective, with sinister touches like the composer Marc Streitenfeld have the orchestra play its score (and unused Alan Silvestri compositions) backwards, then reversing the music so that it sounds weird in the final film. This creative take on the film’s scares also extends to its visual design, with the production team originally wanting to avoid copying HR Giger’s iconic visuals. However, they soon realized that it was impossible to get away from the artist’s biomechanical nightmares when designing an object related to the xenomorph, so Giger was inevitably hired as a consultant. Prometheus is actually the latest film to benefit from the Swedish artist’s contribution, with Giger contributing to the project with several new alien designs.
Those qualities don’t quite excuse infamous gaffes like Raptor engaging in intense action sequences minutes after undergoing horrific surgery or less-than-smart moments like supposed experts endangering the whole world. shipping due to unprofessional behavior, but I strongly believe that the creative intent here overshadows the film’s flaws. If you think about it, these imperfections only stand out because the cinema around them is so damn good in the first place, not because they spoil the experience.
In all honesty, the only issue that really bothers me here is the bloated ensemble, which doesn’t allow for talented actors like Elba and Guy Pearce fully develop their admittedly interesting characters. The overreliance on supplemental materials like the viral marketing campaign (which produced a series of brilliant shorts and in-universe commercials) to fully understand the story is also a bit annoying, especially when so many cool concepts and of monster designs ended up on the cutting room floor.
While it’s fun to speculate which movie Prometheus could have been, I still think it’s a miracle of a movie despite its many flaws. It is certainly the most creative property to come out of the Extraterrestrial franchise since the 1979 original, and I think the prequel’s reputation as a missed opportunity is largely unwarranted. In a world where interesting intellectual properties are usually wasted on boring repetitions, Scott has managed to give us a clever standalone thriller that still offers plenty of treats for the hardcore. Extraterrestrial fans, and that’s why it’s still worth revisiting 10 years later and beyond.