Newest Review: ... by the half way point I was regretting watching it and had a sinking feeling that this was not going to get any better. The film suf... more
In space, no one can hear you...wait, hold on...
Member Name: pmcds
Advantages: Acting, special effects, concept and visualisation, some answers provided
Disadvantages: Unsure whether it wants to be true prequel or unique, subsequently takes too long at times
It's a philosophical debate really, and has at its heart both hope and unfinished business. You see, many have pegged this as a complete prequel to Ridley Scott's genius masterpiece Alien, and its subsequent and lesser quality collection of sequels. However, to look at it solely as this would be wrong. It seems as if Scott is going back further than this focus would need to, setting the scene for an eventual sequel once it comes along - there are some things that don't need to be explained, and perhaps pressure to give us something in this way combined with his own will to leave a piece of cinematic genius as it is resulted in this offering.
The film is set 75 years or so in the future, and things have progressed significantly. Space travel and the cryogenic stasis seen in the original Alien are now commonplace as long as you have money, and the Weyland Corporation certainly has that. Special effects dominate the early part of the film as scientists and lovers Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a pattern in various historical races across the ages that leads to the existence of a praiseworthy planet somewhere deep beyond our imagination in space. The Weyland Corp fund the expedition, with an experienced yet motley crew of space explorers, scientists and corporation staff. There's also the obligatory android created by the corp and designed to aid the humans on the trip.
Naturally, and thankfully for all our boredom's sake, things don't go as smoothly as they had hoped, and the concept of meeting your maker becomes more like a case of running for your future and not digging into your past. Revelations about humanoid beings and holographic messages, with sophisticated structures and equipment billions of light years away, are matched by the equally galling dangerous substances which seem to dominate Scott's 'Alien' imagination. Sinister music and the audience seeing things that the character aren't able to is one of the more powerful combinations in cinema, and we're not let down here in the slightest. There is little or no predictability for large parts of the film, and I was certainly surprised by an abundance of moments. Somehow, I thought everyone would be alright. More fool me. It doesn't take long before some evil entity is all over our crew, and that's when people's true colours come out.
It's hard to set the scene without explaining things in too much detail and giving it away. Picture maybe a desolate cross between the end of Star Wars III - Revenge of the Sith and any scene of Lord of the Rings - a dark and desolate place full of doom, gloom, rocks and inevitable danger. There's one interior - a huge rock like structure that houses some sort of signal and readings they follow. They cross between this and the ship in various states of calm, panic, large groups, solo and with a few surprises along the way. A lot of the suspense is helped by the cast, who are on form. Noomie Rapace tops the billing I suppose, as the Ripley character that Sigourney Weaver played inAlien. She obviously not Ripley, but her ability in action scenes later in the film bears an almost identical character and is surely no accident from Scott. She plays Dr Shaw, one of the two behind the whole mission. Logan Marshall-Green takes more of a back seat as her fellow discoverer, his male dominance shattered by some other stellar performances from the likes of Idris Elba as the fearless Janek, captain of the spacecraft Prometheus (hence the title) and Fifield, eccentric and aggressive scientist most recently seen as assassin Micheletto in The Borgias - a fine pair of British actors. But even they are overshadowed by the cold and calculating pairing of Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender as the expedition's leader Meredith Vickers of the Weyland Corp and android David respectively. Theron's screen dominance is that of a head turner. She enters the room and everyone wants to watch her - it's the same on screen here. But Fassbender is by far and away the best thing about the film. To play an android with no emotion and still be captivating is a skill, and he mastered it. One of the best performances I have seen in a film for a while.
And it's just as well that the cast and special effects perform, because I felt that the plot was a lot weaker than I had expected or hoped. For Alien fans, you'll be left wanting more in terms of clarification and answers, and for no Alien fans or those who haven't even seen it, a lot of the references will be lost on you and the overall effects of the plot may have more grounding in Danny Boyle's visually stunning but ultimately dull Sunshine, which was also a philosophical pile of guesswork based in space. At least Scott seems to give more of a clue as to why he's doing this, but it's a very long film for such little content. Effect and substance and atmosphere are delivered better in cinemas, and this is certainly one of those films which benefit from this setting. On TV or elsewhere may be less effective and provide lower ratings.
Yet I'm not dissing it, not in the slightest. I WAS hoping for more, and I had HOPED for eternal clarification of all things Alien, and perhaps this is the film's own downfall - viewer expectation. After a while in the wilderness with some disappointing Alien sequels and some even more disappointing collaborations with Predator (an excuse to have two aliens beat the proverbial out of each other on screen) people will be expecting something damn near perfect, and 2 hours just isn't long enough to bridge the gap he needs to answer all the questions - indeed he may not even have the answers yet. There will be some closure for fans, but not nearly enough. Alien blood's toxic nature, the Space Jockey's existence and the whole concept of 'in space no one can hear you scream' are all treated in here, as well as some more subtle references, but this is a unique film with its own identity. My suggestion is to go into it with your eyes open and to not go into it with Alien on your mind. You'll enjoy it far more - I did. Recommended.
Summary: Alien origins film, effectively delivered by Ridley Scott