Ridley Scott is doing the press rounds for Alien: Covenant and he’s getting asked about Prometheus. A few sites have been circulated a headline saying Scott is apologizing for Prometheus but the actual quote is more interesting and nuanced.
“….we discovered from [Prometheus] that [the fans] were really frustrated. They wanted to see more of the original [monster] and I thought he was definitely cooked, with an orange in his mouth. So I thought: ‘Wow, OK, I’m wrong’.”
“The fans, in a funny kind of way — they’re not the final word — but they are the reflection of your doubts about something, and then you realize ‘I was wrong’ or ‘I was right.’ I think that’s where it comes in. I think you’re not sensible if you don’t actually take [the fans’ reaction] into account.”
Creativity in a Post-Instant Criticism World
It must be hard to be a creator in this day and age. People can instantaneously comment on every little piece of work even if the full product isn’t out yet. Look at the DC Extended Universe. That series has been one reactionary product after the other. It doesn’t feel like the films have committed to a centralized idea or tone, but rather have tried to respond to what they think audiences and fans want.
In regards to Alien: Covenant, it’s clear that it’s a reaction to what people wanted from Prometheus. Having seen Alien: Covenant, I can tell you that it’s much more of the B-movie horror that the Alien series became known for. It’s not interesting in answering the big philosophical question that Prometheus posed. In a way, Alien: Covenant wants to be more “fun.” It wants to deliver what people seem to want from an Alien film. Prometheus was using an Alien film to smuggle in things that Ridley Scott (read: Damon Lindelof) was interested in.
Whether or not that’s a good way to make art is debatable. Should artists be delivering what fans seem to want, or should they only be interested in bringing what they want to bring to the table? Is being reactionary the best way to make movies or TV shows or comic books or any kind of art?
Personally, I do think you need to listen to your fans and critics. But, that doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. The best way you can improve is to listen to what other people think and process that. Some criticisms (or praises) you’ll disagree with. Hopefully, you’ll also find things you agree with and can try and build from that. It sounds like that’s what Ridley Scott did with Alien: Covenant and it led to a movie that is much more palatable than Prometheus.
But, he also mentions that fans should not be the final word. That is an important distinction. While fans should be acknowledged and considered, they shouldn’t be the core of any creative endeavor. If you try to please everybody, you’ll end up with some pretty bland material. It’s great that Ridley Scott understands that he should try to do what people want, but he also doesn’t make those opinions the final decision. Finding that balance is important and it’s one of the reasons Alien: Covenant works so well.
But, people will surely disagree with that and those criticisms may very well influence the next Alien film. We’ll find out very soon with Alien: Covenant opens in the UK on May 12 and in the US on May 19.