Scott has announced the provisional title for his next movie, Alien: Covenant, which will be yet another prequel to Alien (1979). This was dispiriting news because Scott has already given us one mediocre Alien prequel, Prometheus (2012). He has fallen into the same trap as Lucas, another major filmmaker who emerged in the 1970s with a culturally transformative science fiction series.
There’s a root conceptual failure at work here. Both the first Star Wars movie and Alien made the masterful decision to begin in medias res, to throw the audience into a mysterious world replete with complex entities and cultures that simply exist. So we experienced those stories the way the characters in the films did, as an unfolding narrative whose end we didn’t know.
When we first meet Darth Vader, he’s a mythical figure, an emblem of aristocratic, confident evil. But Lucas decided to go back in time and explain what Vader was like as a boy and how he ended up going bad. This is as unsatisfying as learning that the Big Bad Wolf had a troubled childhood.
In the case of Prometheus, the terrifying alien is reduced to being part of a dopey Chariots of the God mythology about space engineers who seeded the earth. What was once an unfathomable enigma of an alien race has become dim-witted pseudo-science.
Ultimately, prequels like Prometheus are an abnegation of storytelling. Instead of telling a tale, they are filling in the background of an existing work with unnecessary details.