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Film review: Prometheus

2nd June 2012

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‘I think I’ve been quite successful in resurrecting a notion but going off at a new tangent’ said Sir Ridley Scott in a recent interview, and in a way, he has. Prometheus, the ‘indirect prequel’ to Scott’s low budget, space-horror Alien, may be set on the same planet a century before the events of the original, yet it still manages to be its own entity.

 promIt begins in the Isle of Sky when two scientists, Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, discover a cave painting dating back thousands of years that features a constellation, one that has been uncovered in various locations and from different time-zones throughout the world. It is a map to a solar system in which a single planet, LV-426, is able to sustain life. The pair believes this to be the key to discovering the origins of humankind and so accompanied by a crew of scientific experts they make their way to this planet on-board the ship Prometheus in the hope of answering life’s biggest question.

This film needed to be made. Not least to satisfy sci-fi fans hungry for more, but to answer the many questions posed by the hugely successful Alien quadrilogy (discounting the yawn-inducing Alien Vs Predator spin-offs) that were never expanded upon.

The 1979 original sees Ellen Ripley and co discover a huge metallic alien birthing ground and an unidentifiable body attached to a pilot seat (‘the Space Jockey’, as fans have dubbed it) yet there was no hint throughout the entire series as to where they came from or who they were made by.

Prometheus answers these questions to a satisfying extent without going into too much detail, at the same time exploring issues never covered before in the series (one of the more interesting elements is the characters’ attitudes to morality and religion in the face of extra-terrestrial life) and this is why the film works so well; Scott didn’t make this simply for the Alien enthusiasts – he reveals a lot of back story, he digs far deeper than any of the previous films so far and yet it doesn’t hinder the narrative in any way; it never becomes so complicated that it leaves its audience behind.

Shaking off her bad-girl attitude from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, leading actress Noomi Rapace may seem like just a Sigourney Weaver replacement to begin with, but she has such a compelling presence on screen that this preconception is dispelled immediately.

As the film progresses Rapace becomes much more than Weaver ever was; not just a standard female action hero, but an independent, strong minded and insecure character who makes the film’s climactic scenes all the more impressive. Michael Fassbender is equally brilliant as the android David, creating a character as unnervingly positive as he is synthetic. Other performances stand out, but Shaw and David are both incredibly well scripted and believable characters that give Prometheus that certain warmth which similar films seem to lack.

Prometheus is not just an exceptional addition to the Alien series; it’s a refreshing and intelligent contribution to the science fiction genre in its own right. Scott not only delivers the aliens, terrifying yet unique, but injects the story with its own vitality; something which may even lead the way into a new and uncharted vein of the Alien mythology.

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