Even with all of the flawed logic and character decisions (and there’s plenty of both) taken into consideration, I’m still a fan of Prometheus. I revisited the film on Blu-ray recently and aesthetically it really holds up, it’s an enormously watchable film. So while I’d certainly be down for a sequel, it’s a bummer to think that it’s probably not going to happen.
The reason? Momentum. It just doesn’t seem to be there anymore. Back in March there was a lot of back and forth about Damon Lindelof creatively painting the franchise into a corner and, regardless of where the blame lies (if indeed it lies anywhere), I sort of agree. Not from a creative standpoint, but a marketing one. I know that’s a weird place to operate from as a film fan, but hear me out.
Prometheus hobbled its franchise potential by being the ultimate half-measure. It wasn’t enough of an Alien film to invest its audience in the Weyland-Yutani/pre-Nostromo mythology that original writer Jon Spaihts planned on exploring in the new trilogy he was conceiving. And this isn’t necessarily Damon Lindelof’s fault, either. Spaihts’ draft introduced the Engineers after all. So even though his script actually takes place on LV-426 and implies that Rapace’s character Shaw had sent the distress signal that attracts the crew from Alien (not to mention featuring actual xenomorphs), he was already bringing some new ideas to the table.
When Lindelof was brought onboard to nudge those new ideas into the narrative spotlight (at Ridley Scott’s request mind you, it’s not like he snuck in and did all this without permission), that was the moment Prometheus likely lost its tether to any sort of trilogy involving the Weyland-Yutani corporation (as was Spaihts stated intent). However, by positioning itself as an Alien prequel (all coy statements aside – just look at the trailer), Prometheus also ensured that a significant chunk of its audience wouldn’t invest in the new mythology either.
I’d certainly be okay with two films featuring Fassbender and Rapace jetting around space looking for our “creators,” but are enough people really onboard with that to justify the cost? At a reported $130 million production budget (and a worldwide advertising budget that likely nears that figure) the film grossed $126 million domestic and $277 internationally for a worldwide total of $403 million. That’s “gross” not “net” so I’d guess that the film was only just approaching profitability before home video finally swung it into the black. And while $130 million is already a surprisingly modest budget for a film this size, it’s hard to pedal backwards and make a sequel for much cheaper. The entire appeal is the enormity of the thing, not to mention the fact that no one’s going to take a pay cut for this.
So here’s the dilemma (and this may be why Fox was “freaking out” six months ago) – either way the sequel probably makes less money than the original. There’s no way to put that “Alien prequel” curiosity back in the bottle, it’s gone. And while I’d (again) be okay with seeing an expansion of the new universe Prometheus hinted at, how many people are actually with me on that? Half the audience? $200 million worth of people at the (worldwide) box office? That’s not enough. $250M or $300M worldwide would still be more risk than incentive. Even if Scott and Fox made a truly great film the next time out it would be almost impossible to position it properly.
This isn’t a case like The Avengers or Avatar where the film made so much money that the studio is almost obligated to follow it up. This is a film that made just enough to think about a sequel. And, at this point, they may be wondering whether they should think about it at all. Even if they’ve hired a writer and are in development (which they’ve announced), I’d be surprised if it actually happens. I’d love to be wrong, of course. But I have a feeling the next time we see something even tangentially related to Prometheus on the big screen, it’ll be in an Alien reboot.