Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green.
In 1979, Alien indelibly stamped itself on the consciousness of filmgoers with its memorable sequence of the alien creature bursting forth from John Hurt’s stomach before running amok on a space ship in outer space, where no-one could hear you scream. Thirty-three years later, director Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise for this prequel which is set in 2093, some forty years before the events of that landmark sci-fi horror film. Through his films like Alien and 1982’s classic Blade Runner, Scott has established a reputation for intelligent sci-fi, and his direction here is as assured and confident as ever.
Prometheus doesn’t have the formidable Sigourney Weaver/Ripley character as a strong focal point for the action. Rather, Scott makes do with Noomi Rapace (best known for her role in the original Swedish Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy), who has a feisty presence and resilience of her own, despite the occasionally shonky accent.
Rapace plays scientist Elizabeth Shaw who heads a mission into outer space and a distant moon hoping to learn more about the origins of mankind. Shaw and her team are curious after they discover a series of prehistoric cave paintings that have clear links to other unrelated civilizations. The expedition is financed by billionaire industrialist Peter Weyland (played by Guy Pearce, who is almost unrecognisable under layers of make-up that convincingly age him), whose unscrupulous company has sponsored other voyages in the franchise.
But what they discover is something far more malevolent and hostile. Inside a giant dome, they find alien humanoids, in a state of suspended animation, that seem to have DNA that matches ours. They also encounter a fearsome and seemingly indestructible breed of hostile parasites. That is when the crew’s desperate battle for survival begins. Once the crew begins to perish, though, Prometheus does become a little formulaic.
There are a couple of shocks along the way and a gross-out scene involving some rough do-it-yourself surgery. While it is not as claustrophobic or as scary as Alien, Prometheus still boasts a couple of impressive set piece and develops an element of suspense. It also has an intelligence and rigour that was missing from the last couple of films in the franchise. The film deals with some big ideas and themes, and raises questions about the origin of human life itself, but Scott still hands us an ambitious spectacle.
The film is visually impressive, but is let down by the script, which sometimes lacks clarity and cohesion. The script has been written by Jon Spaihts, who previously worked on The Darkest Hour, and Damon Lindelof, who has worked extensively on the tv series Lost, as well as films like Cowboys And Aliens. While it borrows elements from the Alien mythology itself it leaves many questions unanswered. The film also borrows ideas from Erik von Daniken’s Chariot Of The Gods as well as Kubrick’s impenetrable classic 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There are some superb special effects sequences courtesy of New Zealand’s WETA workshops as well as a host of other visual effects companies. And once again, Oscar-winning HR Giger has created the iconic design of the alien creatures. There are also a couple of sequences that make the most of the 3D process.
Scott has also assembled a solid ensemble cast that includes Rafe Spall, Sean Harris and Logan Marshall-Green in roles as expendable crewmembers. Charlize Theron brings a steely authority to her role as Meredith Vickers, the tough-as-nails captain of the Prometheus. Idris Elba (from Scott’s American Gangster, etc) plays Janek, the no-nonsense and heroic pilot of the Prometheus.
And Michael Fassbender (Shame, etc) plays David, the enigmatic synthetic android that seems to have his own agenda on the mission. Fassbender follows in the footsteps of Ian Holm and Lance Hendricksen, who have played similar androids in earlier Alien outings. But David is imbued with his own colourful personality, as he has modelled his speech and mannerisms on Peter O’Toole in Lawrence Of Arabia.
Prometheus was largely shot in Iceland and its jagged, otherworldly landscapes perfectly add to the inhospitable alien environment encountered by our heroes. Veteran cinematographer Darius Wolski has shot the film in moody tones that heighten the suspense. And Marc Streitenfeld’s score is appropriately ominous.