For 30 years, sci-fi fans have been divided. There are those who think that Alien is the greatest movie ever made. And those who think it’s Blade Runner.
30 years, sci-fi fans have been divided. There are those who think that Alien
is the greatest movie ever made. And those who think it’s Blade Runner. There’s
one thing that we all agree on. Without Ridley
Scott’s unique and genre redefining vision, movies would be a lot less
interesting. So, when it was announced that Scott would be returning to sci-fi,
potentially with an Alien prequel called Prometheus, fans held their collective
Prometheus was the Greek who put the human race
onto the fast track to civilisation by stealing fire from Zeus, for which he
was eternally punished. Early reports suggested that Prometheus would focus on
the ‘space jockey’ whose fossilised remains were found by the crew of the Nostromo in the original Alien. What no
one knew, was if the space jockey would turn out to be mankind’s Prometheus, or
the wrathful hand of Zeus. Or what part the Alien would play in the unfolding
tale, if any. Since then, fan sites have batted story lines around the Internet
like a ball off Pong paddles. Grown men have put Prometheus countdowns on their
iPhones and we’ve all got very over excited.
Gradually details have begun to emerge from the
gloom but, like H.R. Giger’s
monstrous creation, much is still shrouded in smoke and shadows. Last Thursday,
Filmjuice was invited to an exclusive Prometheus ‘Reveal’ followed by a Q&A
with Director Ridley Scott, and actors Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender. Thankfully, the Reveal proved to be 13 very
carefully chosen minutes of teasers rather than spoilers … but stop here if
you’d rather not know any more.
The film opens as archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw, played by Noomi Rapace,
makes a startling discovery in a cave on the windswept Isle of Skye. There, she
and love-interest Holloway (Logan
Marshall-Green) find a series of cave paintings, depicting giant beings
seemingly pointing to a star constellation. The paintings are the same as
images found in other ancient civilisations, leading Shaw to believe that the
pictures are an invitation from the gods to come visit.
We’re then swept from the Scottish hillside into
the depths of space as the crew of the Prometheus slowly emerge from stasis.
For Shaw it’s a harsh awakening as she vomits and shivers herself into
conciseness. At the same time, Charlize
Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers,
is doing push-ups and cooly enquiring from her android factotum if anyone has
died during the journey.
A briefing follows in which a hologram of Peter
Weyland introduces Shaw and Holloway and the android David, played by Michael Fassbender.
The final, new, sequence showed us Prometheus
coming in to land, and this proved to be a showcase for the film’s cleverly
underplayed 3D. Scott is a master of
the visual arts and uses the effect with subtly and restraint. Prometheus may
indeed be the first film to use 3D film as a tool rather than a gimmick. The
effect was immersive without being distracting, breathtaking without being
A round up reel, upped the adrenaline level with
an explosive sequence that included some very gruesome goings on, a cacophony
of carnage and Shaw’s horrified assertion that “we were so wrong”. Did we
possibly, maybe, spot something alien amongst all that mayhem?
When Alien first came out one of the surprises
was that Scott’s shiny, futuristic world was anything but. The Nostromo was a
functional, no frills towing ship manned by a no frills crew. Prometheus too is
a working ship and, as the crew wake and breakfast, it’s hard not to see the
nods to Alien in every lovingly filmed and beautifully lit slow, camera crawl.
There are familiar characters here too. Meredith
Vickers is “a suit” from the Weyland Corporation who, in the tradition of the Alien
franchise, is there to represent the ‘needs’ of the Corporation (whatever they
may be). Idris Elba as the pilot, Janek, reminds us a little of Brett,
a little of Dallas. While comparisons have already been made between Elizabeth
Shaw and Ripley, although, in truth Shaw’s vulnerability makes her more akin to
We’re promised a scene involving Elizabeth Shaw
which will be the equivalent in shock value to the Alien chestbuster moment. And keen eyed fans will be treated to Easter Eggs littered through the film
that reference Alien.
Despite these echoes, in the Q&A that
followed, Ridley Scott was keen to emphasise that what had started out as an
Alien sequel had “adjusted itself” into something where Alien is “barely
in its DNA”.
It’s taken Scott 30 years to return to the genre
that made his name and he’s clearly not content to simply rehash or reboot. The
Alien sequels have been, Scott commented “all jolly good in some form or other”
but the franchise has been used up. What interests him are characters, stories
and ideas and, at it’s heart, Prometheus a tale of faith versus science.
Elizabeth Shaw starts out as a believer whose
faith is tested in the midst of hell. Meredith Vickers isn’t a believer or a
scientist but has personal reasons for joining the mission, which may prove
transformative. However, the briefing sequence where Weyland introduces David
as his “son”, before commenting that the android has no soul, seems
David is perhaps the most intriguing character
in the whole film. Fassbender quotes an array of inspirations for the character
including Lawrence of Arabia, the
malevolent Hugo Barrett in The Servant, and David Bowie’s otherworldly Man
Who Fell To Earth. There’s a hint of Ash and Bishop in his performance, but
also of Roy Batty. We get glimpses of the child’s mind within the body of the
superman. Is David, like Roy, looking for more than a limited, android
existence? What is his agenda? And just what is he capable of?
Like Alien, Prometheus looks every inch the big,
breathtaking blockbuster but, like Blade Runner its ideas are big too. Which should keep both halves of the
Scott fanbase very happy indeed.