Alien was destroyed by its own creator with Prometheus and Covenant

AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10: Director Sir Ridley Scott attends the "Alien" premiere 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 10, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)
AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 10: Director Sir Ridley Scott attends the "Alien" premiere 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals on March 10, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW) /

With his two prequels, director Ridley Scott damaged the Alien more than the sequels ever could.

Being a month of mischief and the macabre, October is a time when many people indulge in horror movies, and they had plenty of properties to choose from this year. A few of the most iconic are Dracula, Frankenstein, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Evil Dead, Halloween, Predator, and, finally, Alien.

The monsters at the heart of these tales have haunted our screens for decades. Thanks to creative designs, marketability, suspenseful scripts, filmmaking craft, and simply coming at the right time, these famous foes continue to fuel the nightmares of audiences the world over.

You know what makes these scary stars less interesting, though? Do you know what saps them of their seemingly insurmountable menace? Well, a lot of things can do that, come to think of it. However, the answer I was headed toward was the dreaded prequel.

Hollywood is not blind to the success of its stars. They have tried numerous times to capitalize on the popularity of horror villains through prequels, delving into the origins of these creatures to show us a different side to them. In essence, they retroactively change how we’re meant to view these infamous adversaries. Sadly, most of these prequels turn out to be hot garbage, diminishing the impact of these onscreen legends and destroying any sense of dread they once had.

The Alien ceases to be alien.

One of the many horror icons that have suffered from this is the Alien, also known as a “xenomorph.” This franchise was run into the ground with a slew of sequels and spinoffs, becoming progressively more bombastic and turning the monster into a joke.

One day, Ridley Scott, director of the original film, returned to the series. He promised to not only restore its dignity, but also to answer viewers’ burning questions regarding the derelict ship in the 1979 classic.

His plan involved a series of prequel flicks depicting the ship’s backstory and how the xenomorphs came to be. Thus, 2012’s Prometheus was born, followed by Alien: Covenant in 2017. Guess what? They screwed things up even more than the sequels.

The first major issue lies in the idea, which is fundamentally stupid. I don’t want to know where the Alien comes from. In the same way, I don’t want to know any more about the creatures from Predator or John Carpenter’s The Thing. Giving me that explanation undermines the fear factor.

One of the main reasons that the Alien is scary, particularly in the earlier films, is that it’s unknown. We as human animals are afraid of the unknown. That’s the whole point. Scott understood that, and so did the people behind those other creature features.

The script purposely doesn’t elaborate on the monster. What little is revealed is often done so through cryptic snippets or at the cost of the characters’ lives. For the most part, you as the audience don’t know what this thing is, where it came from, or what it can do. This places you in the same boat as the characters, allowing you to experience the same paranoia that they struggle with. Now, though, you don’t feel that paranoia anymore since we know the origin of the Alien.

Stupidity masquerades as smart.

Of course, it doesn’t help that the prequel movies suck. Although they’re both shot well, they’re plagued by nonsensical-yet-pretentious dialogue, questionable CGI, unintentionally funny scares, storytelling so self-indulgent and convoluted that it would make Westworld blush, and painfully moronic and archetypical characters who are just there to die.

It turns out the Alien was birthed due to stupid people doing stupid things. Even taking out the crew of cannon fodder, though, the biological origins of the xenomorph sound like something that Scott and company came up with during a hardcore weed session.

A crew of scientists travels to an uncharted planet in search of godlike beings who may have secretly engineered the human race. One of these “Engineers” is subsequently assaulted by a squid creature extracted from the main protagonist, who was impregnated by her infected boyfriend. This resulted in an early version of the xenomorph. Then, an evil robot unleashes this “perfect lifeform” on the other Engineers and later infects a group of colonists bound for another planet.

Did that sound as silly to you reading it as it did to me writing it? Suffice it to say, these pseudointellectual scripts aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are, rife with plot holes and logical flaws—a common problem with Damon Lindelof’s work.

More to the point, the writers seem bound and determined to overexplain the xenomorph and the derelict ship, and the ideas that they come up with are so ludicrous and desperate that it’s hard to take them seriously.

Imagine if they took the same approach with another mysterious monster, such as King Kong. The reason he’s so big is that his ancestor ate a forbidden fruit from a tree planted by cosmic beings from Mars.

Skull Island is actually their spaceship, which crashed on Earth and killed the dinosaurs. The few dinosaurs that remained were kept on the ship, and the island’s primitive natives are really the descendants of the aforementioned cosmic beings, who lost control of the animals once Kong’s gorilla ancestors rebelled.

This isn’t 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Even if you take out the inherent ridiculousness, you still have the core issue of turning the Alien franchise into something that it’s not. They may be sci-fi flicks, but they are primarily horror stories. They’re creature features designed to scare us. Then, Prometheus comes along wanting to be a thought-provoking space exploration film about creationism.

If the filmmakers were going to pull a 180 in terms of genre and subject matter, then they should have done so in a new IP. Attaching it to Alien (no matter how coy Scott tried to be with it) causes the film to feel out-of-place in the context of the series. This is only amplified in Alien: Covenant, which winds up as a sloppy hybrid of a Prometheus sequel and a traditional Alien flick.

Granted, how well these two films fare can largely come down to personal preference and what you think the Alien property should be. Entertainment is subjective, after all. However, it’s hard to imagine these two movies measuring up to viewers’ own versions of the xenomorph’s backstory.

That goes back to the earlier point: ambiguity can be a good thing. What you don’t see is often more provocative, frightening, and intriguing than what you do see. It allows you to fill in the blanks and conjure your own fear.

Never underestimate the power of your own imagination. If you’re dealing with an unknown creature or something hiding in the dark, your mind can easily wander. You don’t know what will come jumping out at you, thereby heightening the sense of danger.

In the same way, if you see signs of some significant scenario, like a battle or other grim event, then it’s potentially more chilling when you’re left to wonder. You’re already on edge due to the damage and/or bodies left behind, so whatever scenario you picture in that agitated state is likely more dramatic and heart-pounding than what really transpired.

Knowing the details of what happened, on the other hand, robs you of the mystery. It becomes just another event that occurred. In the same way, the ship and its resulting xenomorphs are now just another fiasco in just another sci-fi flick. That is the last thing that Alien was meant to be.

Are you a fan of these flicks? Do the prequels deserve more credit? What is your favorite horror icon?

Next. What scary stuff can you watch on HBO Max?. dark

Alien is currently available on HBO. You can also find it at most retail stores.