If you’ve been out of the world for the last 33 years, a film called Alien was released in 1979 and is hailed as one of cinema’s greatest science fiction/horror movies ever made. Claustrophobic and terrifying, Alien scorched the box office, captured the attention of audiences worldwide, and made an action hero out of Sigourney Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley. It has permeated popular culture, with all manner of art paying homage to or spoofing Alien or its characters; it has since spawned three direct sequels and a spinoff involving Predator, another 20th Century Fox property. When I went to the San Diego Comic-Con International last year, I was lucky to catch the Prometheus panel hosted by co-writer Damon Lindelof and co-star Charlize Theron. As a surprise for the audience, director Ridley Scott and star Noomi Rapace joined them via satellite uplink to talk about what they were doing during the final days of shooting in Iceland. During this discussion, Scott said one thing: “This film will definitely have Alien DNA.” A curious choice of words, thinking back on it while looking ahead to Prometheus. And with Prometheus’ release today, we finally get to see just how much DNA is in the finished product, which will probably be considered a hallmark of the post-2000-era of modern science fiction.
Considering the Alien franchise to have been “squeezed dry” during an MTV interview, Scott decided to make a prequel to Alien by focusing on events and persons existing within the Alien world, but not directly associated with them. This includes one nonspeaking, nonmoving character called “The Pilot” (commonly referred to by Alien fans as “The Space Jockey”), whose remains are found by Dallas, Lambert and Kane in the original movie. Where did he come from? Where was he going? And what the hell exploded out of his chest? Prometheus may answer some of these questions, only to have new ones pop up in their place. The film takes place some thirty years before Alien in 2093, where Doctors Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover cave paintings from all over the world with one similar motif: a man worshipping a cluster of planets. The incongruence of the locations of the cave paintings pushes Shaw and Holloway to find the cluster in the universe somewhere, and they are soon funded by the elderly Charles Weyland (Guy Pearce) and given command of a ship, the titular Prometheus, on which they take a 2-year journey to LV-223. Under Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and Weyland Corporation employee Meredith Vickers (Theron), the Prometheus’ crew assists the two doctors in finding what they called the Engineers, a race of beings supposedly responsible for the creation of man.
And that’s where I’ll leave the recap, because the rest of Prometheus is better left to be discovered. What you will see is an immersive, massive 3D experience helmed by master director Ridley Scott. The 3D in this film at first seemed unnecessary; however, it’s not one of those films that uses 3D as a gimmick, where things are whipped towards you for excitement’s sake. Instead, as Scott has filmed Prometheus in 3D (instead of having it converted), you’ll almost feel like you’re watching a stage play with the actors, sets, and special effects taking place in the same room with you. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski’s gorgeous photography enhances the proceedings and takes us back to a time when movies could be filmed without overly handheld, shaky camerawork and slam-bang editing. Scott takes a languid, relaxed, and sure hand behind the camera, without letting his actors fall into modern-day hysterics or overacting. The set construction and decoration deserve mention, as they are absolutely stunning, intricate, and worthy of being in a Ridley Scott movie. This is a big film on a scale that very few directors are capable of achieving so mightily; this is Scott at his epic finest, capturing every last detail he could possibly wring out of his Red Epic digital cameras.
Noomi Rapace, famous for her role as Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and its sequels), is simply outstanding as Dr. Shaw, the embattled protagonist who is forced to wrestle with balancing her faith with scientific fact. Comparisons are already being made between her and Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ellen Ripley, which I’ll kindly ask you to disregard. Shaw is a completely different character than Ripley, in both nature and design; as a scientist, Shaw is less a warrior than a Warrant Officer. She and Ripley both share adverse circumstances that force them to change their character’s tone; with Shaw, you get more of a definition and rationale for her actions. The rest of the cast more than ably supports her, with Michael Fassbender heading up the charge as David, a mission support android created by Charles Weyland. If you’re familiar with the androids in the Alien films, all you have to know is that David is a precursor to Ash, the company robot that accompanied Dallas and the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo, which should automatically raise some questions in your mind as to his character.
This is the one, kids. This is the film for which we’ve been waiting with bated breath and high anticipation. Does it meet expectations? I’m very happy to say Prometheus meets and exceeds every last bit of them, and it also gives you lots to chew on after the movie’s final credit has rolled up the screen. This review is being written four days after having seen it, and I’m still discussing it with my friend Sam Wolk (whom I brought to the screening), as it definitely raises more questions than it answers; however, the kinds of questions Prometheus raises will fuel both the imagination and many good debates. Make every effort to see it in 3D and enjoy Prometheus not for what you think it’s going to be, but rather what it really is: a meditation upon our humanity and its origin.
FINAL GRADE: A+
Reel Film News Movie Review by Eddie Pasa