The movie I’m most excited for this summer movie season—after Marvel’s The Avengers, of course—is Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. It’s billed as a film that’s sort of set in the universe Scott established in his 1979 science-fiction/horror masterpiece, Alien. The viral marketing campaign for the upcoming film has begun, and I think it’s by far the smartest and best executed this movie season.
The first video is a talk given by Guy Pearce’s character, industrialist Peter Weyland, at a 2023 TED conference. “If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to change the world,” he says. It’s sleek and smart, capitalizing on TED’s reputation as a program that spreads the ideas of the world’s thinkers and doers.
The most recent video we’ve seen is the introduction to Michael Fassbender’s character, an android named David. Fassbender is fast becoming one of my favorite actors working. His turns in X-Men: First Class and Inglourious Basterds were nothing short of phenomenal, and I think he could easily replace Daniel Craig as James Bond.
Before these videos came out, I barely looked at a cast list for this film. I’ve been trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible for this movie—because really, what good is a thriller if you know its secrets?—so this viral video really hit me between the eyes.
To some, the fact that David is introduced as an android might not be all that anticipation-inspiring, but my guess is that those people have forgotten about the long, grand tradition of androids in the Alien series. Starting with Ian Holm as Ash in the original film, moving on to Lance Henriksen’s Bishop through the next two films, and ending with Winona Ryder as Call in the final Alien film, androids have been some of the coolest and most memorable characters in the Alien saga. To add Michael Fassbender to that list is thrilling.
It also raises a lot of questions. Will he be a twitchy android like Ash and try to stuff a porno mag down one of our protagonist’s throat? Or will he be helpful and benevolent like Bishop? I’m confident he won’t be a secret android, like Call, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other secrets he could be hiding.
Weaving Fassbender’s David into the tapestry alongside Ash, Bishop and Call is an exciting concept. Androids—or “artificial persons,” as Bishop indicates he prefers—are unknown factors in this universe, and no one knows how to wield them better than Ridley Scott.
The video in question—titled “Happy Birthday, David”—is simply creepy. There’s no better word for it. It’s a commercial for the new line of androids being produced by Weyland Industries, a pitch for why David is the cutting edge of android technology. Fassbender, as David, tells us that his functions include doing things that humans might find distressing. Or unethical.
The creepiest moment comes when David explains he can’t feel human emotions, but can emulate them to make him easier to interact with. Then he begins to cry as he explains all the things that make him sad. It’s at once spine-tingling and unsettling. You really just need to watch it, but it raises so many questions. What is he capable of? What is his function on the crew? Will he snap? Is he capable of it?
If nothing else, this is an example of the perfect viral marketing campaign. These videos are in-universe, yet won’t appear in the movie. As far as I know, they’re not giving anything important away.
And that’s the way I like it.
Bryan Young is editor-in-chief of BigShinyRobot.com.