fri 21/06/2024

Prometheus | reviews, news & interviews



Alien prequel adds epic scope to space monster saga

Michael Fassbender as David, searching for the meaning of life, the universe and everything

The main problem with making a prequel to Alien is that the 1979 original was so shockingly successful. Even now, countless generations of CGI and special effects later, Ridley Scott's unstoppable monstrosity is surely the most hideous intergalactic threat ever burned onto celluloid.

So, all credit to Sir Ridley (who wisely steered clear of the three Alien sequels) for making Prometheus almost worthy of the pre-match hype. One advantage of revisiting his notorious interstellar Frankenstein is that the creature is now so much part of movie-going folklore that its horrific qualities can be accessed merely by dropping in a clue to its presence. A pile of corpses of ancient space travellers with holes in their chests, for instance, or canister-shaped objects littering the landscape, or the appearance of another "space jockey" resembling the one found in the derelict ship in the original movie.

Inevitably, Prometheus had to look beyond the rather cosy set-up of the first film, which was effectively a turbocharged update of the haunted-house theme in which the haunting was being done by something nobody had previously been able to imagine. This time, Scott has devised an epic framework for the rematch, stretching across large chunks of the universe and thousands of years of history. We first meet research scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, a worthy Ripley-in-waiting) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) on an archaeological expedition on the Isle of Skye, where they discover some ancient cave paintings indicating the presence of space visitors a couple of millennia earlier. Handily, there are also diagrams indicating where in the universe they originated from (Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, pictured above).

In a flash, our eager boffins become convinced that this is where the key to the whole of human existence is to be found (Scott hurries this bit along before we have time to ask too many awkward questions). In the twinkling of a digital edit, they're outbound on the Prometheus expedition, and we join them as they awake from a couple of years of hibernation - an echo of the 1979 film - as their ship nears its destination. The long, languid sequence where the craft comes in to land on the unknown planet (pictured below), drifting down through clouds across a rugged mountain range to settle on the plain below, is breathtaking to look at, and hugely suggestive of infinite perils and possibilities.

Once again Scott has peopled his ship peopled with a motley cast of characters, though they're not so easily likeable as first time around. Commanding the expedition is the impatient Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron at her blondest and iciest). Sean Harris gets the spivvy English geezer slot as Fifield, a distinctly non-idealistic space traveller. As the ship's captain Janek, Idris Elba adds a little wisecracking funkiness.

Acting as a kind of supercilious valet with an iceberg-sized hidden agenda is David, a cyborg played with impeccable poise and no little subtlety by Michael Fassbender, a man currently swallowing Hollywood whole. Fans of the first Alien will need no reminding that you can never trust a cyborg, of course. The scene where David carefully mimics Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia adds an entirely unexpected colour, as well as prompting a rethink about Fassbender's acting in general.

While running riffs and variations on familiar Alien themes, Scott (directing Noomi Rapace, pictured right) has added mind-bending scope to the formula. Damon Lindelof, co-creator of Lost and co-writer of the recent Star Trek prequel, shares screenwriting duties here, so perhaps it isn't to be wondered at that Prometheus asks big questions about destiny, time and fate. There's also a dose of healthy scepticism about greed and capitalism on a literally universal scale.

Appearances by the monster(s) are carefully rationed but brutally effective, though even on a project as superior as this one, characters still do ridiculous things like walking up to a three-foot-long reptile which has just emerged from a pool of viscous liquid and talking to it in goo-goo baby language. There's also what we might call a Rosemary's Baby scene where Rapace amps up the thespian voltage with stomach-turning force.

I've probably told you too much already, so I'll shut up. Worth a visit? Most definitely.

Watch trailer for Prometheus


The Alien is now so much part of movie-going folklore that its horrific qualities can be accessed merely by dropping in a clue to its presence


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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Nice to read a positive review. Lots of critics seem to be giving harsh reviews so I'm looking forward to seeing this later today!

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