Prometheus review: Close encounters of the nasty kind
Ever since Ridley Scott announced he was making a prequel (of sorts) to his seminal sci-fi horror Alien, the hype and expectation has been building around Prometheus.
Now the wait is over and Prometheus lands in cinemas today but if you're looking for the same claustrophobic terror as Alien, think again.
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Prometheus is a more expansive, ambitious work that attempts to tackle big questions whilst still delivering its fair share of visceral thrills.
So while Alien was a brilliantly contained 'haunted house in space' movie, Prometheus is a 2001: A Space Odyssey style philosophical piece, a cosmic quest with a vicious sting in its tail (or should I say tentacles)
Set around 30 years before the doomed crew of the Nostromo get chewed up in Alien, Prometheus hinges around the character of Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), a scientist and Christian, driven to find mankind's origins. With her archaeologist boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), she discovers a a recurring pattern of star maps in the artifacts of different, separate ancient civilisations on Earth.
Convincing ageing techno-industrialist Peter Weyland to fund an exploratory mission to the planetary system in the star map, Shaw and Holloway lead the crew of the spaceship Prometheus onto deep space.
With a ragtag mix of scientists, experts and crew members, there's a nice blend of characters aboard, and there's the familiar bout of banter and bickering that echoes the opening scenes in both Alien and Aliens.
With almost religious zeal, Shaw and Holloway lead the investigation of the huge mound-like constructions on the planet they land on, discovering a labyrinth of corridors and chambers one of which contains a huge sculptured humanoid head and dozens of ampules.
At first, it seems like there are few signs of life left here but before long, things start stirring and the mayhem begins.
This may not be an Alien film as such, but it shares quite a lot in common with Scott's 1979 film. You won't see facehuggers and chestbursters, but it's fair to say there are equivalents and plenty of squeamish moments and towards the end of Prometheus, you begin to see the joins between the two films more clearly.
Prometheus is beautifully designed, taking the creepy, biomechanoid look that Swiss designer HR Giger gave Alien and expanding it into a fully realised world. And while it doesn't share the same dark, oppressive terror of Alien, Prometheus has a building sense of dread.
The stand out performance is from Michael Fassbender as the android David, a smiling, charming yet sinister presence whose very human curiosity has dangerous consequences. Elsewhere, Charlize Theron is convincingly icy as the corporate representative, Rapace and Marshall-Green are suitably wide-eyed as the true believers in the project while Idris Ebla brings some welcome down-to-earth gruffness to his role as Janek, captain of the Prometheus.
Ridley Scott has said that the Alien franchise has been done to death and he's right to try something new. This is sci-fi on a grand scale and for those looking for the nerve-shredding tension of Alien or Aliens, well, you've come to the wrong film. This is something different again.
Prometheus doesn't have the (double jawed) bite of Alien, but instead exerts a stranglehold that gets tighter and tighter. If you can let go of the tyranny of raised expectations after all the hype, it's an enjoyable, intriguing and at times horrifying film.
Whether it becomes a landmark film like Scott's other forays into sci-fi (Alien and Blade Runner) remains to be seen, but it certainly leaves a lasting and uncomfortable impression.