Written by Jamie Riordan, Production Department, DFI
Director: Ridley Scott
Genre: Science Fiction
Invading Doha’s cinemas this week is Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’ – the long awaited prequel to the 1979 science fiction classic, ‘Alien. For those of you who have been in cryosleep for the past few months, you may have missed the online marketing campaign that preceded the film. For the rest of us, we have been subjected to mock websites, a brilliant TED viral with Guy Pierce and numerous trailers and clips that have gone beyond teasing and instead given a blatant jab in the eye with a digital finger.
In the 33 years since ‘Alien’ hit screens, we have seen three sequels and two Alien Vs Predator spin-offs, all of which have moved forward in the timeline of the film’s universe. For fans, the questions which have perplexed us for decades are: Where did the Aliens come from? And what is the humanoid like creature lying dead in the chair we see in the first act of Alien? Fortunately Prometheus doesn’t rely on prior knowledge and the movie works perfectly well on its own.
The film begins with archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) unravelling clues left behind by many ancient earth civilizations. With no knowledge of each other, each civilization made the same crude illustrations of men paying homage to a series of stars in the sky. Many millenniums later, it is realised that the stars are a series of planets in a far of part of the galaxy that just so happen to orbit a sun like ours.
The film’s pace here is pleasing. Minutes later, we are on the spaceship with the crew who are in a state of deep cryosleep on their long journey to LV-223, the soon to be action-packed planet. In this journey, we meet the only crew member awake during the flight – an android called David (Michael Fassbender). He spends his journey time learning ancient languages, watching classic movies and worryingly spying on Elizabeth Shaw’s dreams. All signs of things to come.
When the crew arrives, they find an intelligently-designed structure. Ignoring the warning signs of captain Janek (Idris Elba), a sort of space cowboy, the apparent best of the best scientific team run head on into the structure like a tour bus of holiday makers who have just pulled up at the beach. As they blindly go poking their noses into every orifice they discover, of course it’s not long until they start getting stung.
Essentially this is a film about a mission gone wrong but also, as the title suggests, an opportunity to explore the question that has challenged humanity from our beginnings. Who made us? According to Scott’s latest interpretation, it’s the humanoid alien beings found on LV-223. Unfortunately for the crew, our ‘creators’ are not the only species around. A variety of other nasties are also eager to introduce themselves. Scott has adopted an entirely new form and embraces every technology at his disposal. Although most tools weren’t available when he first stepped in science fiction territory, we have seen his mastering of CGI most notable in ‘Gladiator’. In ‘Prometheus’ he has created another truly impressive world. The ships, the planet, the space all feel authentic and viewers seamlessly slip into this universe.
The performances are mostly rewarding. Noomi Rapace demonstrates a variety of difficult and emotional scenes, but it is Fassbender who steals the show as the cold, emotionless android – David.
Equally icy and impressive is Charlize Theron who plays the company suit, Meredith Vickers. During filming, Scott filmed her lurking in the corner of the set adding to the enigma of her character. Prometheus probably had two or three characters too many, though. Had he fused them into one solid character, the moment of inevitable demise might have had more impact.
Scott’s 1979 ‘Alien’ is a relentless killer that plots, waits and kills without prejudice, slowly picking off its prey until none are left. In ‘Prometheus’ the killer threats are, like the number of crew members, perhaps too many. There are tiny worms, powerful snakes and face-hugging aliens to watch out for, to name a few.
Don’t expect the same claustrophobic space thriller that captivated audiences over three decades ago. Prometheus is more spectacular; big sets, big scenes, lots of gore and serious show-stopping moments. It’s not as intelligent as the marketing campaign would have liked us to believe; there are no new ideas here. It’s a ride that lasts just long enough and throws enough questions along the way. Once you disembark you will be intrigued to know more. Not all questions are answered so we all know what that means. More sequels to follow.