By A.J. Serrano
The marketing team behind the highly anticipated summer release Prometheus is either extremely smart or incredibly stupid. My opinion on the matter changes daily.
Let me explain. Prometheus marks director Ridley Scott’s first return to the science fiction genre in thirty years-a genre that he single-handedly turned on its head with his films Alien (1979) and Blade Runner (1982). Within that thirty year sci-fi drought, Scott has engaged in an impressive amount of genre jumping. He has dabbled with old-school sword and sandal epics (Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven), embraced his inner feminist (Thelma and Louise), abandoned his inner feminist to embrace his inner machismo (Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, Black Rain) and then abandoned his machismo to make a film featuring Tom Cruise and a unicorn (Legend). His predilection for variety has produced a couple movies that are regarded as modern classics, but for the most part, critics and audiences will point back to his early science fiction films as evidence of Scott’s genius.
Prometheus is a chance for a legendary filmmaker to return to his roots. A few years ago, the story was being developed as a prequel of sorts to Alien. That bit of speculation was met with slobbering excitement by fanboys and critics alike. After years of trashy Alien wannabes (Event Horizon) and the soul-crushing and (thankfully) short-lived Alien vs Predator franchise, Scott had returned to set things straight with the genre. By all accounts, Prometheus should be a cause for celebration. That being said, why the hell is the marketing team acting like they’re the only ones not invited to the party?
They have vehemently denied that Prometheus is an Alien prequel, saying that the new film is set in the same “creative universe” as Alien but not the same universe. After watching both Alien and Prometheus‘ trailers, this “creative universe” stuff sounds like a crock of horse shit to me.
If you check out the original Alien trailer, you will hear an eerie scream that starts in around the 0:48 mark and recurs throughout the duration of the preview. Though many horror film previews have used the scream tactic ad absurdum, the Alien scream is particularly unique and has not been used in any other preview since. That is, until the trailer for Prometheus debuted.
There it is, blaring in at the 0:32 mark and continuing throughout the trailer. If viewers missed it the first time, it is used once again in the second official trailer. To cap it all off, the film’s title slowly assembles out of seemingly random jagged white lines in a strikingly similar manner to the original Alien trailer. Oh yes, and the film is about a group of space explorers stumbling across something unexpected (my guess is aliens). My point is, for a film that claims to have no affiliation with the 1979 classic, it sure has a lot of explaining to do.
If the movie really is not a prequel, then the makers of the trailer deserve a strongly-worded scolding for getting movie-goers all riled up for nothing. That’s not to say that a trailer can’t toy with the audience’s expectations, but the marketing team is setting Prometheus up to be the cinematic equivalent of blue balls. This could be a genius business decision on their part if expectant viewers dish out the big 3D bucks to see what all the hoopla is about, but then again, it also results in a lot of angry audience members who are going to be wary of all your future products.
Regardless of whether this is a prequel or not, why all the secrecy? Ridley Scott reportedly dislikes the term, which is understandable considering how much his sequel to Silence of the Lambs was lambasted by critics and how poorly sequels and prequels to classic films in general have been received in the past (Indy Jones 4, all of those new Star War films, Teen Wolf Too). But even if this is not an Alien prequel, why not target that film’s vast, loyal audience anyway? Hollywood has always hated placing their bets on original screenplays that aren’t easily commodified for mainstream audiences (case in point: the horrendous campaign and subsequent box office failure of Disney’s John Carter).
One would think a simple flash of the inter-title”From the director of Alien” in the trailer would all but guarantee a pre-sold audience lining up for Prometheus‘ midnight showings. Or perhaps this film being a prequel is supposed to be a “surprise,” even with the preview’s obvious allusions to Alien. Unfortunately, the marketing team has forgotten one thing: in space, no one can hear you scream but in a movie trailer, everyone can. I can’t wait to say “I told you so.”