Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie is a classic. It’s not perfect, but it has stood the test of sci-fi time because it achieved things that hadn’t been done prior. It’s blend of science fiction and horror is brilliant. Admittedly, I love the action-driven sequel – Aliens – but the franchise went down from there. Alien 3 and Resurrection are fairly forgettable, and don’t even get me started on the two atrocious Alien vs. Predator movies. Now, 32 years later, Ridley Scott is returning to the universe that earned him a directorial chair in the big leagues with Prometheus – a hybrid prequel/remake of Alien.
Prometheus functions as a prequel in the way that it takes place decades before Alien. All of the characters are new, but Prometheus is set in that same reality. It stars the original girl with a dragon tattoo Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, the lead scientist on an expedition team of 17 headed across the universe in search of the beings who first created life on Earth. After Shaw discovered a series of hieroglyphs revealing a map to the solar system of the “engineers.” She and her husband found a corporation willing to fund their three trillion dollar adventure. Once there, they quickly (and coincidentally, I might add) stumble across what appear to be ruinous structures. Aside from wild and unexplained images, nothing about the story has been revealed beyond this point in trailers and television spots – which I why I am going to stop here.
The less you know about Prometheus, the better. It features a few surprises, but more importantly makes you put your mind to work and piece together clues on your own. What else would you expect from Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof?
Rapace does another find job here, as do Charlize Theron (who has appeared in two new movies two weeks in a row – the other being Snow White and the Huntsman) and the rest of the main cast – but Michael Fassbender is the one who truly shines here. Fassbender flexed his acting muscles for mainstream audiences with a perfect performance in last year’s X-Men: First Class. He’s doing it once again with his role as David in Prometheus.
What we have here is Ridley Scott’s best work in over a decade. The way that it’s shot is breathtaking – unconventionally breathtaking for the genre. Set to a rousing score, the opening credits sequence establishes a tone for the film that resonates throughout and never leaves – no matte how crazy things get. Had any other director made Prometheus, it wouldn’t be as strong as what Scott accomplishes.
I’m not typically a fan of 3D, but this is a rare occasion in which I’m going to recommend that you see it on the biggest 3D screen possible, preferably IMAX. Scott never uses it in a gimmicky manner that forces unfocused objects into your face. Instead, he creates a reality that extends beyond the screen. The effect is used more like looking into a stage that having thing unnaturally appear in the air in front of it. Darkness is problematic with 3D because there’s no way to portray it in the third dimension. In essence, black settings remove the 3D look; however, Scott has perfectly lit his darkened underground sets (which is where most of the film takes place) in a way that keeps the darkness from killing the third dimension while still giving off the creepy dark vibe of the pitch black.
Controversy arose when it was leaked that Fox wanted Scott to shoot for a PG-13 rating, but Prometheus still earned an R rating – that’s not to say that he didn’t try though. If memory serves me, there’s only one swear word in the whole movie and in all situations that could warrant sex or nudity, it is intentionally avoided. The way in which Prometheus earns its R is in disturbing images. It’s never graphic and gross like a horror movie, it simply shows things that are too startling and shocking for PG-13 audiences. Having said that, Prometheus is still very tame compared to today’s R-rated standards.
If you like the Alien movies, enjoy a good science fiction or are a sucker for intense thrillers, then heed my advice to see Prometheus on the biggest 3D screen possible. One must not be able to wax poetic about everything Alien in order to enjoy or follow it, but watching the original beforehand will definitely educate you about the tone/pacing to come as well as help you notice a few similarities that the two share along the way.
Photo credit: 20th Century Fox