People often use the phrase "space truckers" in relation to Alien, which amuses me because from the appearance of the Nostromo and its crew, it seems like Weyland-Yutani ("The Company") is actively trying to combat that image. The aesthetic of Alien was a purposeful step away from the gleaming consoles of Star Trek and other classic space adventures, with most of the action taking place against a backdrop of murky, dripping corridors and the functional and battered interior of the Nostromo's control rooms. But there are several indicators that originally, Weyland-Yutani's preferred image was that of the sparklingly clean, iPod-like spaceship. Rooms that don't see much active use, such as the medical bay and the hypersleep pods, are still pristine, even while the engine rooms look like a sewer and the control room is literally held together with gaffer-tape.
|The medical bay of the Nostromo.|
|Ash's MU-TH-UR room is the most spaceship-looking place on the Nostromo.|
the trailer, looks very similar to the one encountered by the crew of the Nostromo. The trailer even shows a scene where the spacesuit-clad explorers find a Xenomorph egg chamber and Space Jockey. Now, I'll get back to Prometheus in a moment, but first let's take a look at the Nostromo's planetary-exploration suits.
|Nostromo crewmembers on Lv-426.|
The suits worn by Kane and the others when they go planetside are really quite odd-looking. They're heavy, with a strong emphasis on durability and insulation (presumably because the mining planets they visit are often uninhabitable) and no emphasis whatsoever on looking good. The pads around the shoulders imply that they're designed to withstand rockfalls, and the padded shins would protect the wearer's legs from any rubble or sharp objects they wouldn't be able to see through the restricted view of the helmets. With regards to what I was saying earlier about futurism, this kind of design almost goes in the opposite direction, although not quite to the extent of steampunk. They're more like the outer-space equivalent of mechanic's overalls. The white suits Ripley finds in the escape shuttle, however, are very similar to the sort of space suits that were around in real life when Alien was being made.
|Promotional still from Prometheus.|
From what I can see from the Prometheus trailer and promo pics, the suits worn by the explorers are very different from the ones seen in Alien. They're a far more modern design than the suits in Alien, but even though this film is set decades before the Nostromo landed on LV-426 you can't ignore the obvious fact that it's being made now. If they'd gone for similar level of technology and set design to a film made in the '70s it would look clunky and ridiculous, even though Alien itself still doesn't particularly give that impression. But if you feel the need to rationalise the knot of futuristic/retrofuturistic issues created by a prequel film made 30 years after the sequel, try this for size:
- The characters in Prometheus are on an exploratory mission, funded by Weyland. This is set in a time when space travel is still new and exciting, so they'd be kitted out with far better gear than the crew of the Nostromo both for PR reasons (I'm assuming this is a public mission, reported by the news and therefore partially an advertisement for Weyland) and because far more is riding on them than on the low-level corporate employees we know from Alien.
- These suits aren't made to be worn by mining and refinery workers who'd only expect to go off-ship once per journey, if that. They provide a far better range of movement, as if designed for people who'd expect to be walking or climbing. This is a high-minded exploratory mission.
- The skin-tight suits worn by Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and the others look like they're tailored to the shape and dimension of their wearers, and therefore must be very expensive. The crew of the Nostromo, on the other hand, are definitely part of the "one size fits all" class.
|Noomi Rapace in Prometheus.|
Dava Newman's streamlined "Bio-Suit". This suit was invented very recently, and I think it bears a strong resemblance to the skin-tight ones seen in Prometheus.
Retrospective of early spacesuits at the Smithsonian Museum. Here are some spacesuits from the 1960s, showing early designs prior to the introduction of the now very recognisable white suit on which Ripley's escape suit in Alien was probably modeled.
Trailer for Alien, recut in the style of the Prometheus trailer. (Purely because this is straight-up awesome.)
Continued in: The Costumes of Aliens.