The wait is over for Ridley Scott's Prometheus, the much-discussed quasi-prequel to the director's Alien, which is considered one of the very best science-fiction films of all time. There is no Ripley or aliens you are entirely familiar with in Prometheus, but Scott is downplaying matters when he told the press that his new rated-R movie only "shares some strands of DNA" with Alien. The crew of Prometheus—including Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender—fly off to a distant planet after discovering evidence on earth that humanity was engineered by supreme beings. On the remote rock that harbors some slithery new alien life-forms, they must face the terrible truth that meeting one's maker could quickly bring about one's end.
You don't need to watch Alien or any of the other movies in the Alien franchise to understand Prometheus, but fans of the 1979 classic that introduced the world to the double-jawed xenomorph will appreciate the references. In Alien, the crew of the Nostromo follows what they think is a distress signal to a crashed spaceship on a distant planet. That crescent-shaped spaceship known by fans as the Juggernaut appears in Prometheus, although it is not the same one on which the Nostromo crew finds Alien pods and the facehuggers within. Swiss artist H.R. Giger designed the unsettling bio-mechanical look of the ship's hallways and main control room, which is where the Nostromo explorers discover an oversized humanoid creature we now call the Space Jockey dead in his command chair. The same Giger-designed grand control room appears in Prometheus and we gain further insight into who the Space Jockeys are and what their connection is to the acid-blooded xenomorphs.
Alien concludes as Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) blows up the Nostromo and the last Alien out the airlock, but some 50 years later—after a long hypersleep—Ripley returns to LV-426 with a military team in James Cameron's Aliens. Weaver returned in Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection, but sat out the crossover films AVP: Alien vs. Predator and AVPR: Aliens vs. Predator—Requiem. Scott, too, was not involved in any of the sequels, although he admits to The Hollywood Reporter he was pissed that he was passed over for Aliens in favor of Cameron. All six Alien movies are available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as on cable On Demand this month.
Scott's next foray into science-fiction—and his last until Prometheus—was 1982's Blade Runner. Set in a rainy, neon-lit Los Angeles circa 2019, Blade Runner is based on Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and follows the blade runner Deckard (Harrison Ford) around the city as he hunts down several Replicants—artificial humans with a four-year lifespan—that have escaped from an off-world colony. Deckard doesn't expect to fall in love with a Replicant named Rachael (Sean Young) and, by the end of the movie, begins to wonder if he is a Replicant himself. Although the Replicants bleed red and appear "more human than human," as the Tyrell Corporation boasts, there are similarities between their behavior and that of the android David (Michael Fassbender) in Prometheus and the android Ash in Alien.
The existential questions at the core of Blade Runner are "What does it mean to be human?" and "What is it like to meet your maker?" This is the exact same theme of Prometheus and one Scott keeps exploring the answer to with the help of artificial beings that have appeared in every one of his three heady science-fiction masterpieces.