Published: Wednesday, 6th June, 2012 4:56pm
Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' will draw inevitable comparisons with 'Alien'. While it's not a true classic in that league, it is nevertheless a real spectacle with decent performances.
It's still early days in the summer race for your hard-earned cash, but already a few frontrunners are showing.
With 'Avengers' and 'Men In Black 3' already notching up decent figures at the box office, 'Prometheus' promises to dwarf even their sizable takings.
Director Ridley Scott, the man many credit with reinventing the science fiction genre with 'Alien' and 'Blade Runner' - both ground-breaking in their day - again offers his distinct brand of action and thrills in a project he's nursed for decades.
The core idea for 'Prometheu's dates back to the first 'Alien' film in 1979 with a figure glimpsed only briefly toward the beginning of the story: a giant fossilised creature with a burst-open chest, which came to be known as the Space Jockey.
"Something had stayed with me ever since 'Alien'," Scott said. "Who was he? What was his mission? What kind of technology would his kind possess?" Intent on making a film that addresses some of mankind's bigger questions - where do we come from, for instance - the crew of the spaceship Prometheus and the Weyland corporation funding its trillion-dollar mission, find themselves challenging the gods.
But, like the Greek figure after which the ship is named, they discover that taking on the gods is a bad idea. A very bad idea.
Two scientists, Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), lead the two-year expedition: one an idealist, the other a cynic out to disprove accepted thinking. With the mission having begun as a result of cave paintings found in widely different parts of the world, yet all pointing to the same area of space, the crew head off in search of answers to the beginnings of the human race - only to discover a dark and deadly world, more like a vision of Hell.
Set in 2092, the film, right from the opening credits as the camera sweeps across barren Icelandic landscapes, carries Scott's unique imprint where sight and sound blend in dazzling but ominous unison of imminent dread.
As in the original 'Alien', the crew are introduced as they emerge from hyper-sleep: Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a Weyland Industries executive; servile robot David (Michael Fassbender), the ship's housekeeper, but also with a secret mission of his own, and Janek (Idris Elba), the ship's world-weary and down-to-earth captain.
Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Kate Dickie and Benedict Wong also have smaller but significant roles. On the planet, they discover a pyramid offering clues to humanity's origins - but also containing a malevolent force lurking deep within its cavernous innards that will - you've guessed it - consume them one by one.
While this is clearly no 'Alien' - there are obvious parallels. Manic monsters, dark corners, spaceship terrors and enormous fireballs are there aplenty, even slight variations on the infamous 'chest-buster' scene from the '79 movie with the unfortunate John Hurt the victim.
These nasty acid-breathing creatures do still inhabit human bodies in squirm-inducing ways, and exit in similar fashion. One scene in particular where Shaw is trapped in a medical pod is definitely in the edge-of-seat category.
As would be expected of the technically brilliant Scott, the effects are centre stage, even outshining the acting talent most of the time. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolksi produces some arresting moments, and the production design from Arthur Max, combined with the costumes by Janty Yates, make for a sumptuous spectacle.
Comparisons with Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from the original are inevitable - a contest Rapace doesn't win. She does, however, bring enough gutsy grit first seen in 'Dragon Tattoo' to ably acquit herself.
Theron as the ice queen is excellent in a role where less is more, and her chemistry with Elba provides much-needed soft relief at times. Of all the cast, it's Michael Fassbender who steals most of the scenes in 'Prometheus'.
First seen as an android intergalactic butler who tends to domestic duties while the crew sleep on their two-year journey - he passes his days playing basketball and watching 'Lawrence Of Arabia' repeatedly - so much that he adopts a Peter O'Toole accent and dyes his hair a vivid blond.
Unbeknowest to the crew, however, it is his pre-programmed secret mission by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) that will bring Prometheus and its crew into mortal danger.
The film's ending does carry a few similarities to 'Alien' - with Rapace reliving much of Ripley's terror, chased by a truly gigantic and monstrous creation, and as the final cataclysmic scenes unfold, the prospect of a sequel is easily apparent.
Overall, 'Prometheus' will probably suffer from over-expectation given how keenly anticipated it's arrival has been. While the acting is weaker than might be wished, and the plot at times very flat and confusing, there's no denying the sheer spectacle of it all makes for admission money well spent.
It will undoubtedly provoke argument and discussion - just like any good film should.