“It’s Christmas time and I want to open my presents,” sternly declared by Logan Marshall-Green’s scientist, shortly after landing on the mysterious planet that he and Noomi Rapace’s partner and fellow scientist intend to explore in their attempt to seek answers to the most significant of life’s questions. Since announcing back in 2010 that Sci-Fi maestro Ridley Scott was to return to the genre that he rubber stamped his name on, fans of the original Alien back in 1979 will feel Christmas has come early. Shrouded in secrecy with the outstanding trailers giving very little away and an impressive viral marketing campaign, Prometheus should (hopefully at least) answer the die hard fans of the franchise whether this is a direct prequel to Alien or a standalone film. Without going into spoiler territory, it does contain strands of DNA from Ridley Scott’s original Sci-Fi classic and is set within the same universe of Xenomorph’s, Space Jockey’s and chestburster’s.
These are the differences. Set thirty years before Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley’s nightmare on the Nostromo starship, scientist pairing Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie (Marshall-Green) join a 17 man crew aboard the Prometheus to discover the true origins of mankind and to finally “Meet our maker.” Upon discovering ancient markings from different civilizations on Earth all pointing to the same distant planet, the God believing Shaw and opposing believer Charlie think they have the evidence that this is an invitation to find out where they came from and why. Backed by the shady but enormously wealthy Weyland Company, the Prometheus fleet touch down on LV-223 with a carefully controlled eye kept on them by the icy Weyland representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). Lacking any kind of belief in the expedition, Vickers is the total opposite to Aliens’ Carter Burke: minus the sliminess.
We find ourselves in Déjà vu mode when the scientists, along with several forgettable biologist and geologists (including Brit Sean Harris and Edgar Wright regular Rafe Spall) trek through never ending and ominous tunnels to come across countless urns oozing dark fluid situated before a giant head within a closed chamber. It’s uh oh time! At this point the atmospheric tension mounts, palms begin to get clammy and this is where Ridley Scott does what he did back in the late 70’s and early 80’s and defined the Sci-Fi/Horror genre. Fish bowl spacesuit helmets melt like Clover’s finest butter, ill health scientists are fiercely incinerated and those pesky, icky Xenomorph’s trickle their way to cause blood splattering demises.
After breakout roles as Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium Trilogy, Noomi Rapace’s strong and anchored performance of Elizabeth Shaw ranks her as one of the most consistent actors working today. She is different and similar to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley as a non-fierce, gentler female clinging to the idea of God and not afraid to swiftly act when forcing to come a little too close to one of the film’s “Engineers” in her smalls in one of the film’s standout scenes.
Where Alien exceeded and Prometheus lacks is character development. Many of the crew are not given sufficient, if any screen time to draw in the audience and make them take any sort of interest in them, before they do inevitably meet their maker. Where character development lacks, you have the likes of Rapace, Theron and the mighty and ever reliable Idris Elba as the ship’s captain who is handed a welcoming amount of unexpected time on screen. But, after startling turns in such a short space of time in the likes of Hunger, X-Men: First Class and most recently baring all in Shame, Michael Fassbender’s career has all of a sudden burst into hyperspace and his turn as android David is nothing short of a master class. After the opening credits, we find David ambling around the starship bleaching his hair, watching and studying Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia’s performance and readying the ship for the crew members to awake from their long term slumber. These initial moments alone prove how magnetic his screen presence actually is; he is charismatic and considerate like Aliens’ Bishop and doesn’t lack empathy unlike the Nostromo’s Ash.
On the subject of Peter O’Toole, or at least his generation of actors, it is a great shame that Ridley Scott didn’t select someone similar and suitable for the role of a frail Peter Weyland instead of the strange choice of Guy Pearce. As a superb that actor he is, the Memento actor under heavy amounts of prosthetics seemed a strange choice. Surely a Donald Sutherland or a Christopher Plummer would have been at least a call-up.
After a thirty year hiatus from the genre, Ridley Scott returns to the deepest and darkest parts of the universe with big spectacle. The film is shot beautifully and impeccably designed. The opening scene alone in all it’s grainy landscape wonders overlooking a never ending waterfall is something to savour. Nothing like a bit of 3D then to add no value whatsoever. In the continuing debate of whether the additional dimension is hit or miss, this is one small step for man, one giant mistake for Scott and Co. Where people were expecting facehuggers to snap up to the screen from their succulent eggs, you will be sorely let down. It felt unnecessary and pointless and a mistake that Ridley Scott needs to take on board if such a sequel were to burst out of 20th Century Fox’s chest.
It may not reach such dizzying heights of the first two movies in terms of menace or terror. It does however blow the other two out of the water with ease. “How far would you go, to get your answers?” poses Fassbender’s enigmatic android, David. Watch this space if such a follow-up is to be impregnated.