Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a fantastic film. It’s one of the best science fiction films that I have seen in a while. Prometheus exists in the same universe as Aliens and is in many ways a spiritual prequel. But can it hold up to cinematic and cultural titan that is Alien?
Comparing Prometheus and the Alien franchise is like comparing apples to oranges. They’re similar but different. The films within the Alien franchise vary as well. Alien is essentially a horror film set in space. It has a great sci-fi setting and vibe, but is shot and presented more as a horror film than a straight-up science fiction film. Aliens and the other sequels focus much more on the action side of the story. The horror is still there, but is sacrificed to make way for the guns and explosions, which was not always a bad move. In terms of style, I’d say that Prometheus is more like Alien. The film has action moments, but the real adrenaline rushes come from the horror elements. It has its share of jump scares and frightening moments, but also the film’s tone is one of a creeping horror.
There’s a constant sense of wrongness once the titular ship lands, that there’s something not quite right going on. Alien has this as well, with the scenes without the alien present being more frightening than those with it. It also has this sense of eerie wrongness. Also, the themes of the two films are very similar: the idea of corporations funding expeditions for personal gain and the differences between the working class members of the crew and the scientific members. These similarities are likely because the director of both films was Ridley Scott, as opposed to James Cameron or David Fincher.
Overall, I’d say that Prometheus is a better science fiction film overall than Alien and the rest of the franchise. Prometheus is in many ways a very straight forward science fiction film. It does have some horror elements, but is essentially a story about mankind trying to find its place in the universe and trying to answer some of the biggest questions we’ve ever asked: “Who made us?” and “Why are we here?” It’s about going to new worlds and trying to see if we are alone in the universe. In that way, it’s a very pure sci-fi film. As an overall film, it’s harder to say. The acting is fantastic, the plot and script is tight with few wasted scenes.
The characters are rich and have clear motivations and real depth to them. The rest of the Alien franchise does have a great character, Ripley. But the other characters in the franchise, while entertaining and generally well-acted, seem to lack some of the depth that the crew of the Prometheus have. This doesn’t mean that the Alien franchise is bad or weak, it’s just that they seem small in comparison to Prometheus. Both Alien and Prometheus are very good at what they do; they just do very different things. Alien is a better horror film, and Aliens is a better action film. Prometheus is a better science fiction film. And, no disrespect to Alien, is a better film overall. Its scope and themes about mankind just make it a better film.
I think that Ridley Scott topped himself with Prometheus. It takes the universe of the Alien franchise and fleshes it out it new and exciting ways. It makes the whole world seem bigger than we had previously expected it to be. It makes a great addition to the universe of Alien.
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