In the summer of 1979, I stood in a long hot line to see what would become one of the most successful and influential science-fiction films of all time, the original "Alien," by director Ridley Scott and writer Dan O'Bannon. True to its title, this film was like nothing movie-goers had ever seen before and I still remember having the bejesus scared out of me by the original "Alien" face-hugger & chest-burster.
"Alien" was an intelligent and terrifying look at what our first contact with alien life might be like; and the art and art direction by Roger Christian, Les Dilley, Ron Cobb, Chris Foss and surrealist H. R. Giger showed audiences a truly unique and captivating world that left us scratching our heads and questioning what happened onboard that derelict alien spaceship before the ill-fated crew of the Nostromo arrived there.
Like "Star Wars", the original "Alien" film has spawned an entire industry and universe of books, comics and films, but without the controls that George Lucas had in being able to rein in anything that didn't fit his mold. With "Alien", other filmmakers, artists and writers simply had their way with Ridley Scott's vision, but now the master is back in control of the world he created and spinning a tale of that world's origin.
The new Ridley Scott film "Prometheus" is a near-perfect prequel to the original "Alien" film. Unlike any of the sequels to the original, which have been hit ("Aliens") and miss ("Alien 3"), "Prometheus" taps into the ‘up-against-the-unknown’ qualities of the first picture and although it answers many of our questions from the original sci-fi classic, it still leaves unexplained mysteries that fans will be debating for decades to come. Oh yes - there is plenty of space-screaming as well.
You won’t find any spoilers in this review, but I can tell you that "Prometheus" convincingly captures the look and feel of the first film, but is still a standalone masterpiece with very few faults. You’ve got the eclectic crew of mixed-ethnicity, you’ve got robots with hidden agendas, you’ve got corporate directives that threaten the lives of the explorers, you’ve got sultry space-babes gallivanting in their undergarments and you’ve got moments of unnerving horror like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
I can’t say much about the story (for your own good), but the "Prometheus" trailer makes it clear that it is about a team of scientists who are on a journey to discover nothing less than the origin of mankind. You don’t have to have a PhD in philosophy to know that this will be a foolish undertaking; and what follows is a train wreck of galactic proportions. But just like any good train wreck, you won’t be able to look away as you watch the future of mankind trip over its own folly.
The cast of "Prometheus" includes Noomi Rapace (the original "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"), Michael Fassbender (Magneto from "X-Men: First Class"), Charlize Theron ("Hancock") and Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland of the infamous Weyland Industries. Like in the original "Alien", the crew characters of "Prometheus" are believable in both their bickering and professional behavior. Fassbender is especially spellbinding in his portrayal of David, the creepy, almost human android that you would not want to be lost in space with.
Also like the original "Alien", the art design of "Prometheus" is incredibly unique and fascinating, but for this new film it is amped up exponentially by 30 years worth of special effects improvements. The world of "Prometheus" is as stunning and beautiful as it is horrifying and deadly. The prosthetic and special makeup effects are also top-notch and edge-of-your-seat believable.
This film is written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof and the only, very minor, complaints that I have with "Prometheus" are a few occurrences where the dialogue drifts into unnecessary exposition that the creators must have thought was needed for those who couldn’t keep up. To that point is another problem in that some of the editing seemed rushed and there were a couple of sequences where I would have preferred an extended visual as opposed to unneeded explanations. But overall, the "Prometheus" narrative is tight and leaves just the right amount of openings to keep you guessing and thinking about the film for long after you’ve left the theater.
"Prometheus" is rife with religious and philosophical imagery that I’m certain will be talked about by generations of film fans to come; and it was such a fantastic treat to see a movie that is truly epic science-fiction and not just an action or comedy film wearing sci-fi clothing. Sure, there are horrific elements in this picture, but it is unbridled science fiction at its core and Ridley Scott has succeeded in topping himself with this film that is on the scale of "2001: A Space Odyssey." With "Alien" and "Blade Runner "and now "Prometheus" on his resume, Scott is the undisputed master of the genre.