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Five “Alien” facts to know before you see “Prometheus”

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After months of waiting, the release of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus is finally here. Having sifted through all the posters, trailers, viral videos and press conferences, all of our theories about what the film will explore and how it connects to “Alien” will be revealed. Before they pull the curtain back, we decided to take one more dive in the the rich history of the science fiction classic that started the franchise and talk about some of the more obscure facts behind “Alien” that appear to be present in promotional materials for “Prometheus.” Note: This article contains spoilers for those who have not seen the original 1979 film.


1.) The temple from “Prometheus” was originally going to be in “Alien”

When Scott and his team first set off to make “Alien,” the egg chamber where John Hurt’s character Kane is infected was supposed to be in a temple separate from the crashed spaceship. In the original screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset, the crew lands on the planet and investigates the Space Jockey’s ship, discovering a triangular shape etched in to the vessel’s walls by hand. As the crew begins to explore the planet, they spot the the pyramid, but ignore that the wall etchings were a warning rather than directions. Then 20th Century Fox cut the budget, so the egg chamber had to be built on the same set as the derelict spacecraft’s control room.

Now in “Prometheus,” Scott finally got his temple. It’s an interesting comparison in plot development that “Prometheus” is all about chasing a race that possibly created mankind across the galaxy based on cave drawings and winding up at a temple where horrible dangers may be waiting (which, we totally know it is).


2.) Hieroglyphics played a key role in the original screenplay

In losing the temple set, the film also lost the element from O’Bannon and Shusett’s draft where the evolution of the alien is presented to the crew in the form of hieroglyphics on the temple walls. The description shows the cycle of egg/squid/monster, and the crew don’t put the pieces together until they encounter the full grown xenomorph. They also eventually realize that if the monster has its way, they will transformed by the creature in to eggs, starting the cycle over again for the next victims who come across their craft.

Ridley Scott filmed the scene that shows Ripley finding the creature’s nest in the bowels of the Nostromo, where her crew members are being transformed, but later cut it for the theatrical release.

It’s significant that in the trailer for “Prometheus,” there are hieroglyphics in the temple that depict a creature that looks like H.R. Giger’s alien. It’s almost as if Scott and his writers liked the idea of explorers ignoring the blueprint of their own destruction sitting right in front of them so much that that had to resurrect the juxtaposition 33 years later. Now we’ll get the chance see if the characters are smart enough to figure it out. Anyone want to talk about the odds of that?


3.) Ripley was originally going to be a guy

Horror films have a pretty steady (and appalling) track record for their depictions of women being sexually victimized, but there was something about the string of movies in the later 1970’s that lit a fire under Dan O’Bannon. “Alien” was to be the exact opposite, with an entire male crew encountering a menace that violates its victims orally and impregnates its host, non-biased of gender. When 20th Century Fox brought in Walter Hill and David Giler to re-write the screenplay, they changed the cast around so that there would be both ethnic and gender diversity. In the end, while Ripley is the last member of the crew standing (albeit, after being chased around in her undies), Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright) is the only one of the creature’s victim’s who ends up stripped and hanging from the ceiling, which defeats the original thesis. Even so, “Alien” and its sequel became praised for their depictions of Ripley as the ultimate sci-fi female protagonist.

I’m guessing from all of the screaming and underwear lurching we see in the “Prometheus” trailer, it doesn’t look like things are going to fair well for either sex in the new movie, but I did also notice that the characters played by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are the only two crew members we see running from the crashing alien ship. We’ll have to wait until the film comes out on the gender equality scale.


4.) The Android was an Add-On

Another change that Walter Hill and David Giler made to their draft of the screenplay was the addition of Ash, the science officer played by Sir Ian Holm that reveals itself to be a menacing android in the third act. After losing their captain to the alien, Ripley uncovers that Ash has been using them all along to get the creature home, and responds to getting caught by trying to murder her with a pornographic magazine (as if “Alien” needed more sexual subtext). In a film that’s all about physical violation, Ash adds even more injury in the betrayal of the crew’s trust, both in their co-worker and the company that employs them. Ash’s entire presence on the crew is to make sure that the cargo makes it home even if the crew doesn’t.

Ridley Scott’s next film “Blade Runner” continued to explore the idea of androids meant to serve, but not necessarily fond of their human masters. That “Prometheus” features an android completely undisguised as a crew member in Michael Fassbender’s David 8 is interesting, both to see what Scott does with the character in the story, and also to see why years later Ash has to pretend to be human. Having an android on the crew of a deep space vessel sounds like a great idea, especially when handling biologically hazardous entities. So what does David 8 do in “Prometheus” that the company starts hiding them in plain sight by the time Ash joins the crew of the Nostromo?


5.) Ridley Scott is wrong about the Space Jockeys

For the last few months of press conferences surrounding “Prometheus,” we’ve heard Ridley Scott repeatedly say that the “Alien” franchise focused on the monster and ignored the big dead guy in the chair. And while he’s right about that in regards to the movies, what it doesn’t acknowledge is that in 1988, Dark Horse comics published a sequel to “Aliens” that followed an adult Newt’s journey to the far reaches of the galaxy to find the origins of the creatures that had destroyed her youth, and winds up coming face to face with the Space Jockeys. In the book, it was revealed that the ship the Ripley and her crew mates encountered had been a bomber, sent to deliver the alien eggs as biological weapon that would devastate their enemy’s planet, only the pilot became victim to his own cargo.

“Alien 3” completely knocked this story out of canon (and subsequent re-printings have the changed Newt’s name to avoid confusion), but at the time it was an incredibly popular book with an intriguing theory about how the ship got there. Considering how well versed screenwriter Damon Lindelof is in science fiction and comics, I wouldn’t be surprised if he read those as well, and it will be interesting to see if they impact the back story in “Prometheus.”

Are you excited to watch the mysteries of “Prometheus” unfold this weekend? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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