Full disclosure, I went into this one with muted expectations. But unlike those dissatisfied with a film which raises more questions than it answers (co-written by Damon Lindelof after all), I’d argue that that’s pretty much the point.
The connections between the Alien franchise and the stories of H. P. Lovecraft are hardly undocumented, but it’s worth bearing in mind that central principle to the pulp writer’s work: that which is not shown or fully told, which has to be imagined, is infinitely scarier. Without spoiling the film, those questions pose potentially horrifying answers.
This, of course, is the opposite of what the typical Alien fan wants – answers, such as to the enigma of the Space Jockey in the original flick – so perhaps it was wise for Scott and co. to publicly distance the project from the franchise, removing the prequel tag. Nevertheless, this is a film which radically affects our understanding of the Alien films.
Further, it is (obviously) a film with big themes and the Big Questions – squarely, unapologetically in the philosophical end of sci-fi. The execution – which is always a great deal more important than the ‘payoff’ – is actually pretty splendid. A great deal of hinting and teasing so the more you put into it, the more you get out. Sci-fi devotees will enjoy connecting the various familiar tropes on display and connecting them to questions of our existence. It’s Alien meets Contact.
Some will feel that these themes are pretentious, that the characters aren’t developed enough (they’d be too much of a distraction, I’d argue), that the film is stop-start and descends into a blockbuster CG-fest. Fair enough. Others will just complain that it’s boring and they don’t like questions. They can have Aliens vs Predators vs Space Jockeys.