Photo: 20th Century Fox
Ridley Scott is certainly a brave man in returning to the much loved Alien franchise which through its original incarnation is the definitive Sci-fi horror movie. Over thirty years later the much hyped prequel has landed with a huge budget, stellar cast and vying for the 'movie of the year' title. It's almost an ironic turn of events with Ridley Scott being handed a blank cheque by 20th Century Fox alongside total artistic freedom whereas the original suffered from a huge amount of studio inteference and monetary constraints. Yet that was part of its charm, the result was a claustrophonic corridor bound terror that through Scott's stubborn refusal to cave into studio pressure, thrived on an air of mystery. Prometheus has a perilous road of high expectation ahead of it from which it may be impossible to emerge unscathed.
Ambition is the name of the game as Prometheus asks elevated questions centering around the premise of meeting our race of makers referred to as the engineers. Opening with archaelogist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her lover Charlie Holloway discovering ancient murals that point to a constellation in the stars acting as an ominous invitation to meet our progenitors in the sky. Wasting no time at all the pair are swept into space on a scientific expedition funded by the ever dubious Weyland corporation (who strangely resemble Apple) in order to uncover the mysteries of the universe not to mention the very reason behind humankinds existence. As with any corporate giant of the future it quickly becomes apparent that their beneficiary's motivations are all but wistful; Weyland android David 8 played in a show stealing fashion by Michael Fassbender is watching their dreams and a cold-hearted Charlize Theron makes it abundantly clear who's boss. Couple this with the pipedream of a friendly omniscient alien shattered with brutal hostility, then you have a chain of events that spin out of control with a visceral destruction set to tear the universe apart.
To reveal anymore would only serve to ruin the ride that the movie takes you on, it would even be advisable to not read any reviews other than this one in order to avoid spoilers. The universe itself as with the films thrives on the mystery and that is what propels the kinetic progression of the film. Despite running at just over two hours, Prometheus inherits great pacing expertly dished out between acts that slowly lift the veil on much of the ambiguities that have fuelled interest in the mythology Scott has built. The result is a rollercoaster of body horror that see the crew coming to terms with a force that can only be described as a living breathing and malevolent virus evolving at a breakneck pace. Perhaps the biggest acheivement of the film is its ability to elaborate on its haunting roots without ever sacrificing the air of human vulnerability that perpetuates the series.
On the flipside however Prometheus is by no means perfect, it suffers from the horror cliche of having what is undeniably a disposable gallery of rogues. Whilst it features brilliant casting with Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Fassbender fitting their parts with the expected air of flair, it is the awareness of their impending doom that unfortunately prevents the audience from investing completely in their characters. From the get go it might even be true to say that Fassbender de-centralizes the whole film with the power of his performance, manifested in an early scene that sees him wondering the space ship Prometheus' decks with the wonder and mischief of a child in a sweet shop whilst the crew spend two years in stasis. Additionally to fall back on the comparisons that Scott was clearly trying to avoid in separating the film from its roots in the Alien franchise, leading lady Noomi Rapace is certainly no Sigourney Weaver. It's not that she does a bad job as a scientist stubbornly clinging onto christian faith as her world falls apart, it's the fact that she inherits the spirit of the adrogynous Ellen Ripley in tone that diminishes the performance. Elizabeth Shaw is humanised to an extent as the character is built on an unrequitted desire to give birth despite her bodies biological restraints. By comparison the Alien series hinted at the pregnancy motif but it never went so far as to callously outline it.
Yet it is the perverted humanist mythology, the huge sweeping vistas of cold organic wastelands and the alien archaelogy that truly shine. Competently shot in 3D it would be recomended to see it so, it more than puts the tepid Avatar to shame with its imaginative contribution to a palpably grand universe. Is it a return to form for Ridley Scott after a long streak of trite? Yes it is. Is it is as good as the Alien films? It is easily the third best in the series. Does the original Alien feature in the film? Yes and no, you can read into that what you will, just prepare for a stunning journey into the gritty introspective world of science fiction that only a reformed Ridley Scott could realise.