Event movies seem ten-a-penny nowadays - every other week there's an "epic conclusion to the saga" or the "further adventures of..." demanding your attention and your cash. However, there's one filmatic event that has quietly been building up by word-of-mouth and loyal fan-base hysteria as bit-by-bit, clues about it have leaked out into our world.
Not labelled as a prequel to Scott's original game-changer Alien back in 1979, instead, his return to the sci-fi universe has been referred to as having the same DNA as his franchise-spawning horror where "In space no one can hear you scream." It turns out that this isn't just pompous marketing propaganda, but quite accurate - DNA is key to Prometheus. Alongside with the question of faith and how far would you go and what you would experience before you lose yours. Yep, Scott is back walking around on deep territory.
For those of you who have invested in the franchise that Scott unwittingly started some 33 years ago, you may find yourself in Marmite land - you'll either love it or hate it. This ultimately will give hints and suggestions to the questions you never knew you had in you regarding the Alien mythology rather than answer them directly. Prometheus straddles the divide between "stand alone film," "existing franchise builder" and by the end credits, a possible "new franchise starter." For people willing to open up to the possibilities that there can be more questions to Alien related films other than "where did they come from?" and "who's the new Ripley?" they will be rewarded with a plethora of, admittedly more left-of-field conundrums such as "what the hell?" and "where's the Space Jockey with the burst-through ribcage?" This is definitely not a direct prequel. Nor is it a horror set in space.
Dark, abandoned and unloved corridors are not present to have you gripping your armrest - here the varying degrees of terror comes from not being chased by the unknown but by one of the greatest fears around - man's own stupidity, ignorance and desires. Like Burke "fucking people over for a goddamn percentage" in Aliens, it's what the crews intentions and reactions are that drive the moments of nail-biting. Now, with an extended crew count here - listed as 17 on the ships log - Prometheus does suffer somewhat from in-depth characterisation that the smaller body counts of Alien and Aliens had. There's not enough time for all of the crew to step into the spotlight to have you care enough about them when the shit hits the fan. So when two characters make the ultimate sacrifice, their act does not have the impact it should have had due to them being left on the side-lines once the landing on the planet and the discoveries start to unfold. The emphasis is on the few rather than the many.
The few central characters however are given more than ample time to win you over or to be despised for either their lack of humanity or intelligence. Rapace, the nearest thing to Weaver's female-empowering Ripley, is the films more-theological anchor to the "why are we here?" plot as opposed to Weaver's more survival-instincted "how do I get away from here?" female heroine. The more self-preservation aspect is secured to Theron's seemingly ice-cold corporate executive who represents Weyland Corporation aboard the ship. Her stand-offishness allows for uncertainty about her intentions and origins and one of the films many surprisingly funny moments - her one being with Elba's no-nonsense Captain and the most unusual way of asking for sex committed to recent celluloid memory. The biggest surprise is Fassbender's artificial David - a perfect mix of Holm and Henriksen's "artificial person" that wiles away the years of hyper sleep by basketball-cycling and developing his A.I. to levels that could prove disastrous to everyone onboard. An enquiring mind, regardless of whether its composed by wires or synapses and not bound by a fear of consequences is a dangerous mix, especially on an unknown planet with a collection of vases that hold either death or re-birth, depending on your point of view.
The characterisation maybe uneven where all the cast is concerned but where there is no inconsistency is the visuals and the tech throughout the film. The rundown, low paygrade levels of Alien and Aliens have been replaced by Weyland Corporations trillions of dollars investment to explore new worlds and new possibilities at the behest of its creator - Pearce's ages-old Peter Weyland. Everything is sumptuous and eye-dazzling to the point where the less-tense, more talky sequences can still hold the viewers attention with the ingenious tech in the background or scenery throughout. Although the glorious tech actually helps rather than distracts in one of the more nerve-shredding sequences where an emergency operation is required that is frankly, outstanding in the field of horror/thriller.
So, just like The Phantom Menace seemed to have nothing to do with the events of A New Hope, Prometheus seemingly is light years from its DNA sibling Alien. However, with its open-ending and some small but significant irregularities - the planet is LV223 and not LV426; the Space Jockey is absent from his chair - there is still a bridge to build from this foundation that should span from here to there. As David says before he wittingly unleashes hell -"big things have small beginnings." And those words not only ring true but have an even greater emphasis once we hopefully see what happens after the events of LV223 are brought back to the big screen.
UK release date: 01.06.12