BySierra Marie Wallace, writer at Creators.co

"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable. That is the natural order of things."

In the 2012 Ridley Scott Film Prometheus, this quotation on kings is delivered in the midst of a slow, uncomfortable scene during the confusion of Prometheus's transition from climax to falling action. While the line seems throwaway or faux philosophical, it grabbed my attention, and not just because of Charlize Theron's natural and disturbingly sexual delivery.

The statement itself refers to her dying father, but, in many ways, it very subtly ties together the themes of the film in just a few words. The purpose of the mission is to find the origin of life on Earth, and to meet those who sparked the wildfire of human life on Earth.

These beings, the engineers, who Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) were desperate to find, had created life; they were gods through the eyes of both science and spirituality. But they were revealed to be no gods, and thus always to tyrants, they fell due to their own overambition.

From the outside, the quotation works very well in discussing how Alien and Aliens were fantastic movies, but Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection kicked off the downward descent in quality and audience happiness. Prometheus had a tall order to fill, and maybe it didn't in the ways of canon continuity and the prequel it sold itself as, but it was a quality movie that did a fantastic job avoiding what made the past two films tank.

I've rewatched Prometheus several times as more information comes out about the sequel, Ridley Scott's Alien: Paradise Lost. The only way, as a huge Alien fan, I've been able to enjoy Prometheus is by detaching it from the Alien films. It is a mediocre prequel, but it is a very good standalone science fiction film. However, the more thought I put into Prometheus and the sequel, I began to realize how blind I had been to the fact that Prometheus may be a dreadful prequel, but is an amazing addition to the Alien Franchise as a whole.

Paradise Lost might just be able to go past solely being a good installation in the franchise and delve into the prequel concept in a way Prometheus didn't deliver. The video game Alien: Isolation was the first critically acclaimed game tie-in to the franchise... ever, and along with rumors and promises of Alien 5, I think that Prometheus might have been the spark that set off a future for the Alien franchise that I view quite optimistically.

The one concept that needs to be discussed before moving on into just how Prometheus 2 can get it right and continue the Alien Franchise: Resurrection is why Prometheus toes an uncomfortable line between a bad prequel, a secretly good prequel and a fantastic standalone movie.

Reasons It's a Bad Prequel:

1. Its main failing as a prequel is related to a consistent crutch of Hollywood assuming that there will always be a sequel. If Prometheus was made with the thought in mind that it all had to be in this movie, and all had to be digestible, the sparse and subtle clues overshadowed by ham-fisted philosophy and an overcomplicated and underexplained black goo backstory would have likely become more clear. When a prequel is presumed to be a trilogy, it means the first part is very likely going to come up short.

2. The audience demands a Ripley! Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is great character and a very different character from Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). However, it feels like any attempt to develop Shaw as a unique character gets crushed by the attempts to transform her into Ellen Ripley. The cesarean was a fantastic and tense scene, and I was cringing repeatedly when Shaw was running after that, but it did feel forced on a number of levels. The truth is, everyone loves Ellen Ripley, and it wouldn't be an Alien movie without her. But trying to replicate Ellen Ripley just emphasizes the lack of her, instead of introducing an interesting new character. Unlike clones, Shaw can share traits with Ripley that give her the same type of sympathy while remaining herself, but the imbalance between making her "Ripley Redux" and giving her freedom to be another strong protagonist made a mess.

BAMF
BAMF
BAMF: No Relation
BAMF: No Relation

4. The alien ship that the crew of Prometheus stumble across is nigh identical to the one that the crew of the Nostromo have the misfortune of exploring. However, there isn't even a tiny hint about how those things could be connected. Honestly, if only one small improvement was made, it would be setting the story on LV-426, which would tie together that one of the engineers was found dead there in Alien and give a strong bond between the movies that could gloss over some of the imperfections.

Reasons It's a Good Prequel:

1. Weyland Corp. In Aliens (and they're implied to be The Company in Alien) they're the cringeworthy, money-grubbing jerks who risk lives willy nilly to get their hands on the xenomorphs as a bioweapon. I wonder how that worked out for them. Oh, wait, I remember...

Nobody predicted that for some reason.
Nobody predicted that for some reason.

This nonsensically evil company sends Burke (Paul Rieser) along with the marines in Aliens to play the role of a villain who is made fantastic solely because he is so convinced that he is doing the right thing. He seemed like a good guy before that twist.

Just look at those eyes and hair. How could those eyes and hair ever be evil?
Just look at those eyes and hair. How could those eyes and hair ever be evil?

In Alien the crew is woken by a warning that they misinterpreted as a distress call. The odds of a coincidence are astronomical; I strongly speculate that Weyland Corp wanted that xenomorph at all costs. In Aliens, the same corporation has learned what the xenomorph did to a colony, yet they still ordered Burke to try to "impregnate" Ripley and Newt (Carrie Henn).

Weyland Corp got stretched so thin in the subsequent two movies that they dropped any hopes of giving The Company logical motives and just made them evil, greedy people who don't give space miners their proper wages.

But, Prometheus reveals that Weyland Corp had a lot of interests other than cold hard cash. Like the lore surrounding the xenomorphs that goes right back to the first mission. The engineers knew how to change the entire climates and surfaces of worlds. That would be tempting to any business.

Now, in Alien: Paradise Lost, I think that Weyland Corp needs to be filled in even further. Are those xenomorphs the last thing left of an abandoned but epic project? Do they have a use far different than just a really, really stupid idea for bioweapons? By being frustratingly complex and a very poor prequel, Prometheus and its sequel somehow have generated the ability to make the xenomorphs more than just killers.

Tell us Ridley Scott, please.

2. On the same topic as Weyland Corp. being a bafflingly ridiculous villain in the entirety of the franchise, learning about the aliens was the most enticing string pulling me through movie after movie, but I wasn't satisfied. In Alien, the monster is just a shadow with no meaning and no existence until Ripley kills it. In Aliens, we see them up close and see what they do to humans. Next, we needed more. We got a dog. It did introduce the fact that the aliens were meant to reproduce through other creatures, and were not strictly humanoid, but then there's just another muddle of excuses.

But Prometheus remedies that mistake. The aliens were created as a biological weapon, and in wild speculation, the aliens could have been tailored to obliterate each species that they had cultivated. To adapt. And to kill. But perhaps more than that. It was, of course, crushed the moment the only actual glimpse we had of a concrete origin of the xenomorphs was just tacked on at the end of the movie.

This was disappointing. I won't lie.
This was disappointing. I won't lie.

3. Finally, while the outward attempts at fan service are rushed and eye-roll worthy, the small themes that weren't stripped out of Prometheus connect back to the first movies well. There is, of course, the fiasco about not giving proper quarantine; it could easily be a forewarning to any of the fans of the franchise - if Ripley had been listened to and Kane (John Hurt) was quarantined off of the ship, they would have never run into their problem. Use of the past movies to build dread, in many other ways, is fairly clever. Sometimes a movie doesn't need direct surprises to be intense.

Reasons This Mediocre Prequel Was Exactly What the Alien Franchise Needed:

Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection were condemned to failure due not to their copious shortcomings, but mostly due to how well received Aliens was. That sequel deserves its praise; it was made with no attempts to water down the film in case of a franchise to come after it, and that was what made it a sequel of such high caliber.

The most important component of a good sequel is heightening the stakes, and fleshing out the Universe: Aliens upped the stakes through the roof and offered more tidbits of information about the xenomorphs without sacrificing the tension and plot. The best example of this is not the addition of the 'S' in the title, but the finale in which Ripley faces off with the Queen. In Alien, Ripley shot the first monster out of the airlock while fighting against her fear. She trembled, sang to herself and was in a horrified reverie. This time, Ripley is fighting with anger instead of fear, and that is great character development and makes for a finale that has fan-service similarities to Alien, but it is different because of how much riskier and more dangerous the situation is this time. Ripley is fighting a much more dangerous perversion of the first alien, and she is fighting with the rage fueled by her past. She is angry and ready to tear that Queen limb from limb.

Best. Movie. Line.
Best. Movie. Line.

Now, how does Aliens screwing over Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection by being unspeakably awesome give me such a positive outlook on Alien: Paradise Lost? Prometheus did everything that Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection could not, however, given the trainwreck of the previous two films, it meant starting anew.

Maybe, I remember thinking, they should just quit now before they make mistakes. That it was time to retire; a writer needs to eventually put the pen down or the revisions will turn a story into a mess. But...

"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable. That is the natural order of things."

I think perhaps it was not the entire series that reigned and died; I think that in order to start anew with Prometheus and breathe life into the dead Alien franchise, they had to remove countless aspects that had bogged down new installments due to fear of taking risks. The tropes had to die in order to start again, but abandoning the series so thoroughly alienated the people who most wanted a new Alien movie.

A lot of Prometheus's risks didn't pay off, but it's a thousand times better than if it recycled a disappointing plot we've seen go awry twice now.

Love means never having to say you're sorry. But the writers of this film probably should.
Love means never having to say you're sorry. But the writers of this film probably should.

The Reign of Alien and Aliens will potentially go on forever (and Neill Blomkamp of Alien 5 seems to share the sentiment). But high hopes in the past for a solid Alien franchise had failed so abysmally. It seemed like Prometheus had followed suit.

But Prometheus stripped away everything the Alien franchise stuck with long until those tropes were killing the series. Prometheus may be unrecognizable as an Alien movie if you're not straining your eyes and tearing out your hair looking for the hints and shared themes. But deviating from the formulaic Alien films is the best thing that has happened to the franchise.

If only for the fact that we get a taste of the background of the xenomorphs and learn that they were bred from biological weapons, Prometheus delivered on what was lacking in sequels. While the attempts at philosophy are wholly muddy, confused and overreaching...

"A king has his reign, and then he dies. It's inevitable. That is the natural order of things."

Meredith (Charleze Theron) implies you can't cheat death, but Shaw, much like Ripley, and much like the Alien franchise, somehow manages.

My fingers are crossed for the rumored "Ripley Connection" and I hope for clearer information and another great story. Alien: Paradise Lost is up in the air with no concrete reason to deem it "good" or "bad" but I think that, looking at the franchise as a whole and not just Prometheus to Alien has made me realize just how much potential Prometheus had, and now that I've given the positives some credit, I think Prometheus is the best jumping off point to really make it into a fresh take on the Alien Universe and narrative.

TL;DR: Aliens was a tough act to follow, and so Prometheus decided to go before it by a century.

Wise move.

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