Ridley Scott Readies a Prequel to Alien; Guy Pearce Gives Its “TED Talk”

Do you count your­self in that group of cinephiles who have spent years and years patient­ly wait­ing for Rid­ley Scott to get back in the sad­dle? We thrilled to Alien, where pri­mal closed-in pan­ic col­lid­ed with a cast fur­rowed by seem­ing­ly unmar­ketable space-weari­ness, and to Blade Run­ner, whose per­va­sive unclean­li­ness and lin­ger­ing ambi­gu­i­ty sim­i­lar­ly raised it above its futur­is­tic genre trap­pings. When we could­n’t catch a screen­ing of Bar­ry Lyn­don, we even rev­eled in the Napoleon­ic glis­ten of The Duel­lists. But alas, as cer­tain crit­i­cal opin­ions hold, the psy­chic taut­ness ground­ing the elab­o­rate pro­duc­tion of those first few films even­tu­al­ly melt­ed away, inject­ing pock­ets of dis­com­fit­ing empti­ness into a White Squall, or of bloat­ed grandeur into a Glad­i­a­tor. We don’t com­plain that Scott has stopped work­ing; we com­plain that he’s stopped work­ing to our exact­ing (and prob­a­bly unfair) spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

But rumors of a dis­tant Blade Run­ner sequel have sur­faced, and the June release looms of Prometheus, a pre­quel to Alien. Could Scott have found his way back to what­ev­er cre­ative well nour­ished him so rich­ly in the late sev­en­ties and ear­ly eight­ies? Either way, he’ll ride what looks like a groundswell of renewed inter­est in the Alien uni­verse. In recent weeks, I saw enough mid­night-movie types wear­ing T‑shirts adver­tis­ing an enti­ty called “Wey­land-Yutani” that, with assis­tance from Google, I remem­bered its place as the Alien’s pre­sid­ing force of cor­po­rate amoral­i­ty. Things have come along for the com­pa­ny; where once its brand exist­ed only as a recur­ring crate stamp in Alien’s back­drop, now its CEO is giv­ing a dra­mat­i­cal­ly shot TED talk on the state of mankind.

Could this be a two-in-one shot in the arm for both Scott and TED, an inter­min­gling of real­i­ty and fan­ta­sy that revi­tal­izes both the direc­tor’s and the con­fer­ence enter­prise’s sense of cre­ative risk-tak­ing? CEO Peter Wey­land, as played by Guy Pearce, stirs up his crowd with the bold claim that, what with the intel­li­gence human­i­ty can now cre­ate, per­haps we’ve become the gods. But Wey­land’s talk comes cour­tesy of the future, which is also Alien’s past: “now” means 2023, 62 years before the events of Prometheus. As for how, pre­cise­ly, Wey­land’s prophet­ic grand­stand­ing — a behav­ior not unknown at TED’s events, though at least we now see they’re in on the joke — con­nects with Prometheus and the estab­lished canon of Alien movies we won’t know for a few months. Until then, you can watch the new film’s trail­er and spec­u­late for your­self about whether it can pos­si­bly recap­ture that essence of para­noid iso­la­tion that made the orig­i­nal such an endur­ing cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Mak­ing of Blade Run­ner

875 TEDTalks in a Neat Spread­sheet

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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