Re:View – ‘Prometheus’

The Arts

+NO SPOILERS+

At the World Premiere last night Ridley Scott told us frankly ‘I’m an art director – I’m more interested in the sets than the actors.’ A brave thing to admit before the start of his new film, and yet it showed admirable confidence, because with this prequel to ‘Alien’ we’re in safe hands once more. Forget the late cash-in crossovers, we’re going back to the universe of the first film to answer some questions and pose a lot of ones.

The original was a tense, unstoppable spiral of fear, with its tragic trajectory already locked in place before the start of the movie. If you remember, the cast emerged from hypersleep to find that the Weyland Corporation had already derailed their mission to find and return the alien, in effect dooming the entire cast before the opening credits.

‘Prometheus’ is the link that precedes this, and therefore has the more complex job of adding building blocks to explain how and why Weyland knew in the first place. There are relatively few concessions to newbies – it helps to be fairly up to speed with the original at least, but who isn’t? The complexity largely removes suspense because concentration is required, and some of the expository dialogue is clunky, like an unforgivable ‘Oops’ to explain a major incident. But there’s much to enjoy and the story unfolds on such an epic scope that it’s a pleasure even when you have no idea why people are acting as they do. And visually it’s breathtaking, with HR Giger referenced throughout.

Thematically there are plenty of reprises from the first film, so we have Charlize Theron as the ship’s by-the-book boss warning not to bring an injured man back inside the ship for fear of contamination, Noomi Rapace as an archeologist with the film’s most gruesome John Hurt moment (although this time it’s self-induced), Fassbender handling the Ash duties (a nice touch having him model himself on ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, directed by David Lean, whose unrealised project was ‘Nostromo’) some expendable engineers and the alien egg room, albeit in a very different form.

Thanks to the elaborately detailed CGI work, there are moments of genuine wonder that you’ll benefit from simply sitting back and allowing yourself to enjoy without worrying about convolutions of plot, knowing that it will all somehow fit together. What’s missing this time around is much monster mayhem, although there are a couple of genuinely grisly moments involving new stages in the pre-birth cycle. The size of the story and the frequent cutaways to action outside or in other parts of the ship mitigates against the simple drenching terror of the original, but in its place a backstory is hung on an idea very familiar to SF fans that could provide an interesting start-point for future episodes.

It feels as if Scott has wrestled back the control of his franchise and is once more in charge, giving us a rich experience that will benefit from several viewings. By the end of the film the stage has been set for a sequel that will plug the remaining gap between the events of this and the start of ‘Alien’.

As is increasingly usual, the 3D is entirely superfluous and film will play fine in 2D (although the sound at the Empire rocks). If you’re seeing it with friends, go for something to eat after – you’ll be arguing about the sequence of events, at least until the DVD comes out.

10 comments on “Re:View – ‘Prometheus’”

  1. Patrick Marcel says:

    I’ve seen ALIEN four times, now: the original and the three repeats where the same plot beats were given different dressings. A fifth one doesn’t sound like something I’m in a hurry to see, even if the stage setting is pretty. Watching ALIEN itself one more time would do just as well.

  2. Amy says:

    Great. Glad you liked it.

  3. Dan Terrell says:

    I,for one, found the original Alien film exciting, claustrophobic, Gigerishly numbing and brain-twisting, and genuinely disorienting. It was certainly awesome in a cringe and yelp producing way. (A woman some rows ahead of us fainted, for real. Publicist’s dream stuff.)
    I’ve read the first film’s underlying theme was the spread of cancer, but I really don’t think so.
    Itseemed to me more of a surreal exercise in rampant paranoia, fright and dread, sort of an updated, and SF version, of the premature burial theme: you awake to find you’re alive, but sealed in a dark tube with no way out, helpless against the smothering ineviable, beyong the reach of the rest of humanity. Sort of like being locked in a packed boxcar rumbling through the freezing dark to cold mechanistic end.
    Well, aren’t I jolly this morning, but I do think I’ve find a mind/brain/ theme running through the three articles you’ve put up today.

  4. Vickie says:

    I went alone to Alien — not then or now my usual movie-going fare — and I ended up leaving about half-way through with a viciously splitting headache (I think the alien coming out of a human stomach did me in).

    However, I have seen previews for Prometheus, and have been seriously pondering giving it a go. Thanks to your above review, I will most definitely do so (taking along the requisite pals for “the after arguments”).

    Thank you for being ahead of the game!

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    The Washington Post just gave Snow youknowwhat one star. It asked the question is she – you quessed who – obligated contractually to have two lame guys always “fighting” over her in every movie? And the great number of rather good special effects overwhelms the entire story. Sounds about right; just reporting.

  6. Phil says:

    Having just got back from the cinema, I could not agree any more with Chris’s eloquent review, the film is stunning & ties in with the original beautifully. Reviews for this film have not been all that positive. All I would say to anyone, is go see for yourself…

  7. Gray says:

    Admin, the one thing you never said is if you liked it or not! I mean, it sounds as if you did, but it wouldn’t be a spoiler for you to actually give a yay or a nay…

  8. admin says:

    Okay, yes, I really did like it – it gives you something to think about, which is a lot more than the AVP mash-ups did!

  9. Alan Morgan says:

    I like all four, though it’s not a club with many members.

    The first was probably the first scary horror film I remember seeing. The second very wisely did something very different, and it was good fun – compare it to the similar Lost Patrol-styled Predator where body-builders pretended to be soldiers (ugh). The third changed the pace and I liked the whole prison idea (after all, given that villains are invariably British it makes perfect sense that everyone in space-gaol was a bald-Englishman). The fourth with its Joss Whedon Firefly-tryout did something different again with the depleting-crew there a bunch of bastards rather than the faceless-corporation (which was present, as ever).

    Sure they had similarities – that’s why they were all Alien films. They shared a mythos, they came at it in different enough ways. They were all fun. In order for me 1,3,2,4.

  10. Dan Terrell says:

    Number 5 ought to be about an Alien arriving at JFK, having to submit its passport, declare veggies, meat and dangerous products!, exact amount of excessive foreign currency, being fingerprinted, walked through the electronic chime thingy, being frisked (please specify sex so we can assign and appropriate frisker) and finally trying to get a cab into the Big Apple.

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