Ridley Scott ‘Alien’ prequel offers astonishing visuals
Ridley Scott, welcome back to the genre you helped define and expand with Alien and Blade Runner. Prometheus, featuring sumptuous 3-D landscapes and a new Ripley-like protagonist embodied by Noomi Rapace, is an intelligent summer blockbuster that explores our place in the universe and the notion that spirituality and science can co-exist.
Mostly though, it creates a back story for Alien, suggesting that Ripley and the crew of the Nostromo were not the first human visitors to the planet that gave us the “face-hugger” and all those other acid-dripping monsters that so delighted and repelled us in 1979.
Being an Alien fan will enhance one’s Prometheus viewing experience, but the new story also stands firmly on its own. Rapace plays Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, who along with her partner and lover Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), have discovered archeological paintings on earth that suggest that alien visitors created the human race in their image.
These paintings are presumed to be road maps to a distant solar system and a few years later, Shaw and Holloway are leading an expedition to find these alien ancestors, along with a crew that includes the icy Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), whose company is paying for the trip, the staunch captain Janek (Idris Elba) and David (Michael Fassbender), the robot who takes his social and grooming cues from Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia.
The explorers find what they are looking for in an amazing pyramid complex on the planet that confirms their theories about the origin of humanity, but not necessarily with a happy ending. The earthlings have uncovered some ugly truths about their origin, as well as a cargo hold filled with nasty aliens that have been awakened and are ready to feed and breed.
Seeing what Ridley Scott can do with 3D technology opens your eyes to the possibilities of a format that has become dull and forgettable in lesser hands. His creation of the visual landscape is the most compelling aspect of Prometheus, in part because the character development is a bit on the light side.
However, screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof (Lost) have done a fine job with the two most compelling figures in Prometheus, Elizabeth Shaw and the artificial life form David.
Rapace doesn’t have the imposing physical presence of Sigourney Weaver’s seminal Ripley, but she makes up for it with determination and what the robot calls her, “impressive survival instincts.” These are the same qualities that made Rapace so unforgettable as the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Fassbender is a delightful blend of creepy and curious as David. The screenwriters are obvious fans of Star Trek’s popular android creation, since David has aspects of both Data and his evil “brother” Lore in his personality.
With its spectacular visuals and the twin anchors of Rapace and Fassbender, Prometheus is a dazzling example of the stylish, quality science fiction that we haven seen since Scott’s earlier examples of the genre.
Prometheus isn’t quite as good as Alien or Blade Runner, but in the current motion picture landscape, it rises well above the norm.
Prometheus *** ½
Directed by Ridley Scott; rated R
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