7 things you should know before watching Prometheus

Contributed by
Dec 17, 2012

It's been a long wait, but Ridley Scott's latest sci-fi epic Prometheus finally opens this weekend. To make sure everyone is up to speed on what to expect, we've put together a list of seven things it'd be good to know walking in.

Though everyone from Scott to co-writer Damon Lindelof has said Prometheus stands well on its own, it is still set in the Alien universe—and a little bit of background never hurt anybody.

So here are the basics:

What is the space jockey?

First introduced in Scott's 1979 flick Alien, the mysterious alien creature corpse nicknamed "the space jockey" was found by the crew of the Nostromo while investigating a distress signal coming from the moon LV-426.

The big guy essentially remained a mystery left behind in Alien until Prometheus, which evolved from Scott's never-ending itch to explain the creatures' origin.

It turns out the space jockey is actually a member of a race called the Engineers, who essentially created life in the universe.

The background on Weyland-Yutani

First introduced in Scott's Alien, Weyland-Yutani (typically called "The Company") mostly represents the worst of big business in his vision of the future. It's a huge, profiteering company that is often up to some shady dealings. Throughout the Alien film series, it's hinted that the company is involved in some political corruption to protect its business interests.

The Weyland family is really into searching for alien life

In Prometheus we will meet Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), who is acting CEO of the Weyland Corporation. Since Prometheus is set before the events in Alien, it apparently comes at a point before the Weyland Corporation merges with the Yutani Corp. Peter Weyland sends the Prometheus on its alien-seeking mission. We meet the mid-2000 Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henriksen) in 2004's Alien vs. Predator, back when the Weyland Corporation was in its infancy. Easter egg: Henriksen also played the android Bishop in Aliens.

The common theme: Those Weylands always seem to be looking for E.T.

Human-like androids are normal and kinda creepy

Ever since Alien, human-like androids have been an integral part of Scott's universe—used most effectively with the surprise reveal that the murderous Ash (Ian Holm) is actually an android, with nefarious intent programmed by The Company.

In Prometheus, the android David (Michael Fassbender) is a key member of the cast and tends to the ship while everyone is in stasis during the journey.

Don't be expecting a sequel/prequel

The film's development has been tracked closely, and Prometheus started out as more a direct sequel to Alien—but eventually evolved into a standalone film set in the same universe. Scott and Lindelof have been adamant that Prometheus stands apart from Alien but will fit nicely into the puzzle for fans who already know the background (or future, technically) from the Alien series.

So, Prometheus should still be good with no prior background—but going back and watching Alien at some point this week probably wouldn't hurt.

Space travel is fast, but not THAT fast

Interstellar travel is obviously a big part of the Alien and Prometheus universe, but don't expect everything to be moving at Warp 7.

Space travel is a lot faster than what we have in real life, but it can still take a few years to get where you're going—which means most of these ships (including the Prometheus) come equipped with stasis areas for the crew to sleep in during the lengthy runs through deep space.

Aliens like to get in (and burst out) of our bodies

If you remember any scene from the original Alien, it's likely the horrifyingly awesome chest-burster scene.

One of the key characteristics of the Alien aliens is that they often use other species as incubators, meaning they'll take up residence in the human body until they're ready to pop out.

Now, we don't exactly know how the aliens featured in Prometheus get in (or out) of some unlucky crew members, but we've seen enough from the trailers to know that some critters definitely get a little more up close and personal than they should.