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Peter T. Chattaway


In the Soup

Ridley Scott's "Prometheus."

For years, he was known only as the "space jockey." The creature, about whom nothing was known except that it came from another planet, first appeared in Ridley Scott's Alien (1979) as a sort of giant fossilized something—maybe a corpse, maybe a skeleton, maybe even a spacesuit—that sat, lifeless, in a chair on a spaceship that had crashed on some desolate planetoid many years ago. On that spaceship were thousands of eggs, one of which unleashed a creature that attacked a human explorer who dared to come near it, and that creature, in turn, impregnated the human with yet another creature which ended up killing all but one of the human's colleagues. Later movies would return to this planetoid, and to the creatures that hatched out of those eggs—with diminishing returns for the most part[1]—but none of these sequels or prequels ever returned to the "space jockey."

So when Scott was offered a chance to return to the franchise that he had inaugurated over three decades ago, he decided to put the "space jockey" front and center. But he wasn't content to make another sequel: instead, he would make a prequel that explained, to some degree, the origin of the previous movies' aliens. But he also wasn't content to make another monster movie: he wanted to make a movie that would tackle some of the Big Questions, like where we come from and where we are going. (Not only that, but, just so there would be no confusion, he would put characters in the movie who explicitly told us that they were tackling the Big Questions.) Hence Prometheus begins with a giant musclebound albino standing near a waterfall on some primitive planet, drinking some black goo, and disintegrating into the rushing waters, whereupon the remains of his DNA recombine to form the building blocks of life as we know it.

Um, okay.

Much has been written about how Prometheus abandons the blue-collar naturalism of its predecessor (once famously described as a movie about "truckers in space") in favor ...

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