Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron
Plot: A team of explorers discover the clue to the origins of mankind, but find themselves fighting for their survival against a deadly force.
In 1979, Sir Ridley Scott made us scared of the final frontier. Two years after the birth of the Star Wars franchise, in which aliens were depicted as being either generally weird or even cuddly (save for one or two nasty characters), Scott’s Alien turned all this on its head and made our intergalactic neighbours thoroughly deadly. After three sequels and an obligatory ‘vs.’ match-up with Predator, he returns to the same universe, only this is not an official prequel even though many of the elements that made the original film such a success are present here.
Many years previously, the spacecraft of an advanced humanoid alien race arrive on Earth. One of them stands at the edge of a great waterfall before consuming a black liquid and disintegrating, falling into the crevice below but also creating the building blocks of life. In 2089, archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map hidden in a cave on the Isle of Skye. This is interpreted as being a connection to a series of other similar paintings across the world, alluding to evidence of the origins of humankind. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the aging founder of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of The Prometheus vessel to follow the maps to the distant moon called LV-223. The crew travel in hypersleep to be awoken over two years later by the ship’s android David (Fassbender) when they are approaching their destination.
Upon arrival, the crew members are informed of their task by Mission Director Meredith Vickers (Theron), to find the ancient aliens dubbed the “Engineers”, but also avoiding contact with them and immediately return to the ship if they are found. The Prometheus lands next to a huge alien temple where upon a team including Shaw, Holloway and David set out to explore the vast corridors. Whilst inside, they find a collection of ampoule artifacts, a giant monolithic statue of a humanoid head and the decapitated corpse of an alien, thought to be one of the Engineers. Having found other corpses, they assume that the species has become extinct and head back. However, a fierce storm drives across the planet, forcing the team to rush to the ship and thereby separating Milburn (Rafe Spall) and Fifield (Sean Harris) from the rest of the group. When the two are attacked by a snake-like creature, a terrifying chain of events unfold, which could have dire consequences for not only the crew, but also the inhabitants back on Earth.
As we once again travel with Ridley Scott to an unchartered celestial body accompanied by the usual politically correct crew of every creed and colour, the hope is that Prometheus will stand out from the crowd by delivering the thrills and spills of Alien. While we effortlessly immerse ourselves into Scott’s universe of strange worlds and even stranger occupants, there is a sense that the script has taken a back-seat to the special effects. Thirty-three years after the film that told us that ‘in space no-one can hear you scream’ was released, now it’s a case of ‘in space no-one can understand what you’re getting at’. Welcome to ‘Alien Lite‘, where the emphasis is more on the theological questions about where we come from instead of constructing a plot that has the unbearable suspense as well as the high jinx drama in equal amounts. The first 45 minutes of the film are a slow-burner, but unlike Scott’s last foray into space, there is little tension because we know what’s going to happen.
There are two stand-out performances – from Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender. Rapace’s Shaw is essentially our eyes and ears throughout the film and she is terrific in portraying the wonder and then the horror of her situation. Her most notable scene comes in the form of a forced self-surgery without anaesthesia (the details of which will remain unspoiled) – suffice to say this is a truly terrifying and thoroughly painful-to-watch moment. Fassbender plays the android David with the right amount of soulless emotion (Jude Law for the sequel, anyone?) that mirrors the same ambiguous feeling we got towards Lance Henriksen’s Bishop in Aliens. If there is ever a Prometheus drinking game, then Fassbender’s blink count will not be one of them. Aside from these two, the rest of the cast are pretty forgettable and sketchily drawn, easily dismissed as alien fodder. Guy Pearce takes the gong for the oddest-casting-in-a-film award, as the elderly Weyland. Instead of wasting time and money on make-up, why not cast an actual old man? Just a thought.
If Prometheus has one great plus point, it is in the stunning CGI, which is truly breathtaking at times. Ridley Scott’s direction is assured as ever, but the storyline is as stiff, starchy and soulless as Fassbender’s android. If we do ever get a sequel, it will need to improve drastically in this department, but as an unofficial link back to Alien, it’s not a bad start at all.