Sunday, July 29, 2012


Grade: B
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba
Director: Ridley Scott

Named for a deep-space vessel on a mission to discover the interplanetary creators of mankind, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is on another unenviable origin mission – the near-impossibility of recapturing the shock and dread of the original 1979Alien.

So much of the original is surprising and unexpected. Sequels, prequels and whateverquels (we’ll call this a companion film) are burdened by knowledge and expectation. Despite the best efforts of Noomi Rapace’s awesome shag haircut – floating in space since the Disco era – that 1979 magic is lost in the interstellar vastness. When an alien finally bursts from an unfortunate astronaut’s stomach, it’s not a scare or shock but the re-emergence of a brand. In space no one can hear you scream. That's OK when we’re meant to cheer.

That said, don’t take that to mean that Prometheus is some sort of doughy, follow-the formula failure. Actually it’s a sharp, follow-the formula success. Scott shakes the box of familiar elements (abandoned spaceships, flamethrowers, double-dealing androids, symbols of disturbed motherhood, fears of sex and being eaten) and out pops a summer freak-out that should leave audiences satisfied.

It’s appropriate that the android in Prometheus is obsessed with Lawrence of Arabia, as this is Scott’s leanest movie in years. Absent – or at least unnoticed – are the multiple cameras and restless editing that have marred the director’s recent films. Michael Fassbender is the android who not only wants to be human (a seeming AI reference) but wants to be Peter O’Toole. He is assigned by the Weyland Corporation to a deep space exploration aboard a ship seeking aliens who might be the creators of human life.

Two things emerged from John Hurt’s stomach in 1979. One was the phallic-headed alien. The other was the stardom of Sigourney Weaver. Prometheus affords Rapace (You’ll always be my Lisbeth Salander) a similar opportunity. Certainly she’s helped by Prometheus’ intense centerpiece – a self-performed C-section that nails the coded fears of sex and violence that the Alien series does best.

Prometheus ‘ main deficit is either some of the dialogue or some of the acting. It’s a little hard to identify alien and egg. Is Charlize Theron’s corporate master too cold, or is she just burdened with too much dialogue that consists of yelping? (Did they write down specific yelp noises, or did they leave the yelp content to the inspiration of the actress?) But the story is nimble and confident, and the visual effects are first-rate.

No comments: