Ridley Scott revisits one of his most famous creations.
This year seems to be the year of the eagerly anticipated movie. Avengers, Dark Knight Rises, Skyfall… But Prometheus has to top them all. In development for well over ten years officially, and even longer than that unofficially, it also marks the welcome return of Ridley Scott to the sci-fi arena after three decades away. So, was it worth the wait? That’s a tricky one. A film by Scott is always, always, well worth watching. The fact that this started out as an Alien prequel and then grew into something else is the real bugbear here…
When scientists Elizabeth Shaw (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (The O.C.’s Logan Marshall-Green, separated at birth from Tom Hardy) discover a map to the stars, an invitation by creatures they believe ‘engineered’ the human race, they ask ageing Peter Weyland (Lockout’s Guy Pearce, buried under lots of make-up) to fund the search mission. On arrival at the co-ordinates – having been looked after while in suspended animation by android David (X-Men: First Class’s Michael Fassbender giving a terrific performance) – they discover a structure on the planet below.
Taking in a team, they encounter what’s left of an alien race (nicknamed the ‘Space Jockeys’ back in Alien), but also what probably wiped them out. As various members of the crew become infected, and the planet grows more and more unstable, it’s soon a case not just of their own survival, but that of the entire human race.
Prometheus is an ambitious SF film, dealing with similar questions that some of the greatest movies of the genre have tackled – 2001: A Space Odyssey, for example, or Scott’s own masterful Blade Runner. The problem is it makes very little attempt to try to answer those questions, leaving the viewer scratching their heads by the finale. It’s almost as if Scott wanted to elevate the kind of film Alien exemplified to another level, when it really didn’t need to be – like the xenomorph itself, it’s pretty much the perfect beast already. And yet at the same time we’re treated to some out and out horror and suspense moments that remind us we’re in the hands of the man who orchestrated the original chest-burster scene (and didn’t tell the rest of the cast what was about to happen).
It goes without saying that the film looks sumptuous, and as it was actually shot in 3D rather than having it tacked on afterwards, this adds to instead of detracts from the whole experience of immersing yourself in this universe. Plus the acting’s top notch as well, but then what would you expect from the likes of Oscar-winner Charlize Theron and The Wire’s Idris Elba, here playing a laidback captain with a Southern drawl. Fassbender and Rapace in particular shine, proving they’re more than up to the task of slipping into Ian Holm and Sigourney Weaver’s massive shoes.
The thing that niggles is that the elements that are like Alien are so like Alien that it’s hard to swallow when the film deviates off course. Everything is set for a pretty nifty dovetailing of this movie into the start of that film in fact (as last year’s Thing did with Carpenter’s version), before it goes all over the place. I can only think that Scott has yet another film in mind to bridge the gap between them, though it’s quite a gamble to take. Or perhaps he just wanted to re-boot the franchise in a different way? Whatever the answer, his original movie remains the much better offering.
Equally intriguing and frustrating, this inevitably suffers from competing with Alien’s ghost 8/10