Anyone remember the great poster ads for the original Alien–“In space, no one can hear you scream?” Ah - memories! Well, he’s baaaack (in this case, director Ridley Scott).
Well, something’s back called Prometheus and it’s packing them in all over the USA and beyond. It’s been almost 33 years (1979 to be precise) since the creature exploded from the stomach of John Hurt in one of the most memorable and terrifying scenes of any science-fiction film. I vividly remember thinking what a stroke of genius it was for Scott to have the horror coming from within a body outward rather than the other way around.
There’ve been a few more Aliens since then but nothing has compared with that first, vivid, stark, nightmarish film starring the memorable Sigourney Weaver as Ripley. Having an upset stomach has never been the same since.
Scott went on to direct Blade Runner and the iconic Thelma and Louise about two women who suffered another terror but this one squarely on planet Earth, pursued by the demons of sexism, violence, male-dominance and thwarted dreams. The final scene of their convertible sailing off into the Grand Canyon remains haunting and moving even today as an expression of man’s ultimate choice in obtaining freedom when all else seems to fail.
In 2012, we live in a different world. CGI, digital effects ad infinitum are now almost ho-hum, and we’ve run the gamut in every conceivable representation of monster, robotic humanoids and more. To say the movie audience of today is jaded and hard to terrorize is understatement to the nth degree.
In Prometheus we are back in the deep regions of outer space—so distant from Earth that the distance in light years is given in an Einstein equation, and Scott remains a master at taking us into the vast endless wonder of inter-galactic travel.
After a spectacular 2001, A Space Odyssey style opening eons before recorded time, we see a humanoid alien, saucer-craft hovering over a spectacular waterfall, destroyed after tasting some ooze from a dome-shaped vessel. A beautiful montage of DNA helices oozes into the waters and lo and behold, from this primordial goo, man is created, only to be destroyed until evolution intervenes in the distant future.
We then jump to 2089 and the spacecraft Prometheus carrying archaeologist Shaw (Noomi Rapace of the Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) on the way to a distant planet to ferret out the meaning of some ancient cave paintings. What ensues is best described as monumental visual effects hooey mixed with some truly hackneyed, hopelessly convoluted screenwriting, only partially salvaged by the at times mind-blowing holographic visuals and some lovely music, including Chopin, clearly an homage of sorts to Kubrick’s earlier and still far superior work in this genre.
There’s an impregnation of Rapace and a robotic surgical abortion, endless vistas in watery caves populated by slithering creatures and finally, at the end, we’re left with the appearance of the hideous monster that will figure prominently in the Alien films. So much for back-story.
There is much over-acting, not surprising given the over-the-top scenario on display.
Do yourself a favor—rent the original. This prequel is a high-class dud.
Jeff Klayman is an award-winning playwright whose works have been produced in New York, Los Angeles and London. He also wrote the screenplay for the independent film Adios, Ernesto, directed by Mervyn Willis.