Today: May 23, 2024
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Prometheus

There are some directors, no matter what they go on to achieve in their careers, who will always be synonymous with a particular film, a particularly iconic moment in cinematic history.  Alfred Hitchcock and that shower scene, Steven Spielberg and that midnight swim.   The moment the Alien exploded from John Hurt‘s chest, Ridley Scott had arrived.  It wasn’t just the brutal impact and horror of the chestburster, it was the slow-burn build and terror that preceded and followed.  Alien became the benchmark for all sci-fi/horrors, launching a hugely successful franchise and giving our nightmares HR Giger’s beautiful monsters.

So when Scott announced he was returning to the world of Alien for a prequel, we got excited.  For months we’ve been drip-fed images, had teasers for trailers and virals that hinted at something clearly fresh but also achingly familiar to the voyage and demise of the space freighter Nostromo.  And now the wait is over.  After more than 30 years, Scott’s finally giving us answers to the questions that have bugged geeks and fan-boys the world over; where did that crashed space ship come from, why was its hold full of alien eggs and just who the hell was the Space Jockey?

On earth two scientists; religious Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Darwinian Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), discover cave paintings, thousands of years old, which have been found all over the globe and contain a star map to an undiscovered planet.  Two and a half years later, the starshipPrometheus lands on the desolate planet.  Led by captain Janek (Idris Elba), among the ship’s crew are Shaw and Holloway, company honcho Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and android David (Michael Fassbender).  What they discover is a terrifying truth about man’s existence and the lengths to which all animals, great and small, will go to survive.

From the first scene it is clear Prometheus is not going to be the intimate affair Alien was. This is bigger, epic, bordering on Brian Cox trying to explain the galaxy mind-boggling.  In fact this is the kind of ‘ideas’ driven sci-fi fare we have come to expect of Duncan Jones’ Moon or Christopher Nolan’s Inception.  But even they do not try andanswer man’s oldest question; Where Do We Come From?  But while it’s addressing that small matter it possesses perhaps a more interesting question; would you really want to meet your maker?  It is in these moments Prometheussucks you into the fascinating world led by the charming, yet suspect, android David.  He after all knows his makers, has learned from them and, in a way, become superior to them in his knowledge of the universe.

If it sounds heavy-handed, it is.  Prometheus asks a lot of questions and then stumbles to answer them all in the two-hour running time.  That the script is co-written by Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof may go some way to explaining the difficulty in addressing some of the BIG questions on offer, often the mystery can be more interesting without the solution.  However, this does not detract from the clearly impressive ambition on display.

Prometheus is a thrilling cinematic voyage.  Ridley Scott has been a creator of worlds.  Worlds which immerse you, tease you and baptise you in experiences that are simply not possible outside of your imagination.  Prometheus is groundbreaking in the world it creates.  From the opening shots to the closing credits it’s a jaw-dropping orgy for the eyes.  The production design of the alien planet and Prometheus itself right down to the stunning costumes and the cinematography are without doubt the most stunning feast this cinematic year.

And Scott has not lost any of that slow-burn tension from Alien.  Prometheus builds, and builds and then explodes with gory vengeance.  Where it differs from its origin material is the build does not come through the presence of a malevolent creature but through the motives of the characters on offer.  Each has their own agenda, be it for discovery, fame, fortune or something altogether more sinister.  Theron’s Vickers is a cold-calculating suit.  There is something wonderfully vindictive about her that would put the willies up the likes of Lord Sugar and Donald Trump.  Theron has never been afraid to play the darker characters and here is no exception.  Rapace, having done her fair share of dark with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, gives a solid performance offering us a range of emotions with which to invest in while all around feel more vindictive in their goals. What is more if you thought Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley went through the ringer in Alien you ain’t seen nothing yet. Once again though it is that man Fassbender who delights.  His David is a wonderfully cut servant.  A sort of Spock meets butler from Downtown Abbey.  It is he who holds much of the attention in his charming delivery of even the most devastating theories of doom.

Towards the climax Prometheus does begin to peter out.  Like last year’s The Thing prequel, Prometheus tries too hard to tie everything to Alien and insists on using broad-daylight CGI when strobe-lit practical effects would have been a welcome breath of fresh air.   That said much of the thrills are wonderfully icky with hints of a David Cronenberg body-horror firmly oozing their way in to unsettle even the most hardened of viewer.  Here Scott seems to be enjoying himself, allowing those who revel in John Hurt squirming on that table a taste of something altogether more tangible, sci-fi/horror in every sense that feels all too plausible given the science and genetics on offer.

While it buckles under the weight of its own ideas and desperate need to connect all the dots to Alien, Prometheus is nonetheless a hugely enjoyable cinematic outing.  It deserves plaudits for daring to tackle ideas way beyond most blockbusters but at the same time struggles to handle them to full satisfaction.  Fans of the Alien films will bask in its attention to detail and hints here and there at what is to come, newcomers will be quietly seduced before being savagely attacked.

 

 

 

 

 

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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