With Prometheus 2 set to start production in January 2016 and Neill Blomkamp dismissing the rumours that producer Ridley Scott's push for the film would delay his Alien 5 pet project, its looking pretty good for the franchises right about now. However it does seem that we'll be seeing Prometheus 2 before Alien 5, as the latter is still working through pre-production with no filming or release dates yet solidified. But if the concept art is anything to go by, it's going to be a doozy.
Now, one of the biggest criticisms of Prometheus was the fact that it didn't connect dot-to-dot to the events of Alien, which was what a lot of fans were expecting. I'm not saying that there has to be a neat, no-holes tie up between the two franchises, it's fine if they just exist in the same universe, but I know a lot of people were pretty let down when Prometheus - which had promised to be a prequel to Alien and provide answers about the xenomorphs - failed to deliver on that point. Ridley Scott has since said that Prometheus was only intended to be a "loose sequel" to Alien, which is fair enough. But I digress.
Prometheus came across to me as a film that was perfectly watchable if you didn't think too hard about it. There's nothing wrong with that - in fact that is the basis of the escapist attractiveness of Hollywood cinema. I'd say it's disappointing when you compare Prometheus to Scott's previous work but that wouldn't really be an apt comparison as he's a very hit and miss director. For every Blade Runner, there's been an Exodus: Gods and Kings. Regardless it was a little disappointing to mark his return to the alien universe with something as underwhelming as Prometheus. Or maybe that's just my opinion, I know a lot of people did enjoy it, which I have no problem with.
Ridley Scott on Prometheus & Prometheus 2
"The very simple question was “Who the hell was in [the ship found in Alien]? Who is sitting in that seat?” and “Why that cargo?” and “Where was he going?”. I just kind of sat and thought about it for a while and I was busy, so I didn’t really do anything about it and then when they finally put it to bed in Alien vs. Predator I thought “You know what? This is a good idea here.” The more I talked about it, I thought “God damn….”
I was going to call [Prometheus] 'Alien: Paradise' because I thought that had a spooky connotation to the idea, because it concocts our notion and idea of paradise and what is that? And paradise to us suggests religion and religion says 'God' and then God, who created us, and that’s certainly… you’ve got a scientist who believes in God and there’s lots of scientists who believe flatly in God and even though they may be in quantum physics, they say “I get to a wall and some times wonder 'who the hell thought of this one?' and I can’t get through the wall. When I get through the wall more is revealed and I still see another wall, so who is making this shit up?”"
Now this is a good central concept, and though it may have gone a little awry previously it seems that it is the direction they're running with for Prometheus 2. Both Ridley Scott and Noomi Rapace have spoken about her character Elizabeth Shaw's search for paradise and "God".
"I know that Elizabeth Shaw wants to go to paradise. I say that in the first one. I don’t wanna go back. She can’t go to Earth. There’s nothing left for her there really. She wants to go where they come from, those giants, those creatures. In her head that’s the dark paradise. What’s there? God, maybe? God or [the] Devil." - Rapace
Shaw's strong Christian beliefs are alluded to throughout Prometheus, and they are what drives her exploration of humanities origins. Indeed the search that she has been on is for all intents and purposes a search for God; whilst it may not be a representation of God in the traditional sense, the Engineers are the creators of humanity, and the would-be destroyers too.
"If it is paradise, paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous." - Scott.
Where does this all fit in the timeline?
Below is a very abbreviated Timeline of the events as they unfold in the Alien universe (as according to Alien wiki)
3.2 Billion BC: An Engineer sacrifices itself in order to create the building blocks of life on Earth.
35,000 BC - 2996 BC: Engineers visit Earth, leaving instructions to find them when human civilisation has matured enough.
18 AD: A lone Engineer travels to Earth to instruct humans, however, he is seen as a threat, misunderstood by many, and is killed and crucified.
36 AD: Engineers learn of the fate of their ambassador and decide to exterminate all life on Earth using of the chemical agent A0-3959x.91 – 15. On their moon outpost LV-223 an outbreak of A0-3959x.91 – 15 infects and kills all Engineers, except one who remains in hibernation on the ship.
2089 - 2379: The Cinematic Timeline
2089: Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover the star map located on the Isle of Skye. Weyland funds the creation of the vessel Prometheus to follow the map.
2091: Prometheus begins its voyage to follow the Engineers to the distant moon LV-223.
2092: Ellen Ripley is born.
December 25th, 2093: Prometheus arrives at LV-223. The events of Prometheus unfold. Shaw and David continue on the search for answers, to find the Engineers home-world.
2122: Alien. Ripley is the only survivor.
July, 2179: Aliens. Ripley, Newt and Hicks are the only survivors.
August, 2179: Alien 3. Ripley sacrifies herself to kill the xenomorph.
2379: Alien: Resurrection. Ripley clone 8, Annalee Call, Johner and Vriess survive and return to Earth.
It's tricky to estimate timelines for Alien 5, given that the only two in the series so far that occur within the same timeframe are Aliens and Alien 3 - both occurring in 2179. On the other hand, Alien occurred 57 years prior in 2122 and Alien: Resurrection 200 years later. The massive gaps are due to Ripley being a) in cyro-sleep and b) a clone of the original.
It's useful to think of Aliens as the anchor point for the Alien side of things, as this is where Blomkamp's film will be picking up with Ripley. It's previously been reported that Alien 5 will ignore the third and fourth films in the Alien franchise, but rather than disregard them as 'cyro-sleep nightmares' as per the popular fan theory, Blomkamp says he's not writing off Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.
"I’m not trying to undo Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection. My favourites are the first two movies. I want to make a film that’s connected to Alien and Aliens. That’s my goal." - Blomkamp
So Blomkamp's film will take place after Aliens but won't undo the events of the following films in the canon. Rather it seems like he intends to make a sibling film, perhaps an alternate universe setting? Given that Alien 5 is set to feature Corporal Dwayne Hicks scarred from the xenomorph's acidic blood (as shown above) there is certainly going to be some deal of canon shifting going on, but unfortunately we'll have to wait until more details emerge before we can make an educated guess on that point.
It's likely that Alien 5 will address one of the big unanswered questions from the canon: what happened to LV-426 after Aliens? As far as estimating a place on the timeline for it to take place however, at lot depends on whether or not cryo-sleep is involved. Given the ages of the cast and the concept art characters, if cryo-sleep isn't utilised as a plot device, we'd be looking at Alien 5 taking place around 30 years after Aliens, which would take us up to 2209 on the timeline. Not quite as far as Alien: Resurrection, but then we all know how that ended. (With me making a voodoo doll of Joss Whedon, that's how.)
Since Prometheus 2 is expected to pick up with Shaw and David directly after after the events of Prometheus, it's fair to say that we'll probably be looking at that being set about 85 years prior to Aliens, roundabout 2094. However - given that they're likely to be setting out on a long journey with limited supplies - if Shaw was to go into cryo-sleep on the journey we could end up at any point in the future. What's to say that she couldn't sleep for 30 years, ending up around 2120, and having a direct hand in the events that lead to the Engineer ship crashing on LV-426?
Could the Engineers, realising that their plans to destroy humanity have failed, attempt to set out again when Shaw arrives on the scene in Prometheus 2? This could provide a narrative vehicle for the crash landing of the original craft on LV-426, setting up the whole Alien franchise. And, how did The Weyland-Yutani Corporation in 2122 know about the xenomorphs in the first place? Could David be relaying information back to Earth about the Engineer's weapons? This is another way Scott could use Prometheus 2 to directly set up the events of Alien, if he decides to go that way.
After all, these are the gaps that still have to be bridged in order to bring the narrative full circle. Though Scott has never been one to pander to the fan-base, if he's looking for a way to tie it up in a neat bow, and silence the critics of this aspect of Prometheus, this gives him an excellent vehicle with which to do so. Especially since he's said we won't be seeing the xenomorphs in their full form in Prometheus 2. Boo.