Prometheus: The Art Of The Film by Mark Salisbury (book review).

In the introduction to this book, director Ridley Scott says that the alien xenomorph (just to paraphrase a little to differ from other aliens mentioned here) has been done to death and he wanted to explore the ‘space jockey’ (not a name he originally coined for it) and why its spaceship was carrying such a cargo. Oddly, although he saw this alien as wearing a tight spacesuit, he misses the reference from the 1978 film where Captain Dallas describes the jockey as growing out of its couch left it at that. I doubt if any fans of the films really dwelt on that other than the space jockey was just really comfortable where he must have sat for long days. I always took the giant telescope looking device it was sitting under was well…I still didn’t really know, probably a telescope for navigation, not that he was actually the pilot.


The focus of attention over the years has been on the xenophobe, mostly because it was the star not the dead remains of the alien ‘space jockey’ who was transporting it. If memory serves, these space jockeys only appeared in one story from Dark Horse at the time and no one quite knew what to do with them other than making them walk like that. It’s taken Ridley Scott some thirty-five years to come back to address these aliens in the ‘Prometheus’ film. This book about the making of said film covers everything from pre-production to design and end product. As I showed concern about the lack of emotional content and why should I care for this human crew when I reviewed the DVD, I hoped to find some of the answers here.

There was some five months pre-production design even before Ridley Scott got the go ahead to make the film. Thinking about that, I couldn’t help but wonder if he wasn’t on for a cert anyway. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see another Ridley Scott film in the ‘Alien’ franchise? The fact that it was going back to the origins than moving forward wouldn’t have made much difference in that respect, although it might have been interesting to see if they were still out there somewhere and coming back.

I’ve often thought that the xenomorph physiology incorporated components of the ‘space jockey’ anatomy but it now raises question marks as to where did it get the those things sticking out of its back. There’s even a hint, based on the photos here of the jockey platform that it is part of that. Considering this platform is kept under the floor when not in use suggests a species who have minimalist tastes. When you compare this to the clutter that humans have with their spaceships, you have to wonder just how much we’re supposed to be related to them.

I’m definitely a little uneasy about Scott pointing to the Von Däniken proposal of extra-terrestrials visiting the Earth in pre-history, mostly because it’s an idea been done to death in Science Fiction, even before ‘Chariots Of The Gods’. As to Scott’s assertion about ancient paintings always showing a giant among normal size people, is that so unusual? I mean, look at how even today we still photograph the extremes of height, both tall and small. Like other physiological differences, it’s something that fascinates humans.

Probably the biggest eye-opener was that the Engineer who took the drink and dissociated in the river was actually on Earth. That clearly didn’t come across in the film. I mean, when you compare the scenes leading up to his death and the planet the humans visit, they looked awfully similar to me. Whether the Engineers manipulated or completely took over organic life evolution on Earth tends to become a gray area. However, when you look at the xenomorph, the Engineers are more manipulators than not. Considering how much detail is given in this book, it’s a shame not more insight is given as to what these Engineers are doing. If they consider human manipulation a mistake, simply for when they arrived and woke them up, then the xenomorphs are an even bigger failure. From a Science Fiction perspective, you would have to ask how such a species as the Engineers would have developed as they are so error prone.

Back to the book, considering the number of times that HR Geiger is referenced for source, I’m surprised Ridley Scott didn’t hire him even as an advisor. Then again, considering how much reference material was referred to from ‘Alien’, I shouldn’t have been that surprised. If you’ve got ‘The Book Of Alien’ by Paul Scanlon and Michael Gross (pub: Titan Books), then you should have access to some of the design material that wasn’t used in the original film but was referenced.

I did find it interesting that Ridley Scott didn’t want to use the big spacesuits from the Nostromo but they are hardly on the same planet. As a blue collar spaceship, the Nostromo wasn’t likely to have state of the art in everything anyway. The environmental suits used out of the Prometheus for EVA only had to worry about the cold and an air supply and didn’t need to be bulky.

Looking at the leisure area on the Prometheus, I did wonder where the customary toys to indicate gravity was working wasn’t there. Time to watch the film again and check if they made the final cut.

What is significant is how much of the film was practical effects than CGI, which must surely make it easier for scratch-build model-makers to use this book to do their things. The detail shown on all these vehicles make for beautiful templates, likewise the blueprint to finish of the space jockey chamber could be Engineer sent.

Oddly, there are few pages for the xenomorph and even the Engineers. Considering their height, you would have to have thought the Engineers were CGI but this is clearly not addressed.

Although I still have some reservations about ‘Prometheus’ as a film, I do rate this book highly purely from the design aspect. With a second film in the works, I really do hope that it also gets a book like this and more explanation.

GF Willmetts

(pub: Titan Books. 192 page large horizontal hardback. Price: £24.99 (UK), $39.95 (US), $47.00 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-78116-109-8)
check out website: www.titanbooks.com


Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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