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Origin of the (Alien) species

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PROMETHEUS

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

CAST: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace

CLASSIFICATION: 16V

RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes

RATING: ***

Sir Ridley Scott returns to the roots that made him famous with this Alien prequel.

Referencing the original HR Giger designs and using reverse-designed art and visual cues from the original films, Prometheus is a lush feast for the eyes and ears.

The look is much cleaner and sleeker than the other films, which went for a more darkly lit industrial look for the sets and nightmarish feel for the aliens.

Scott again uses classical music as a hypnotic aural cue to the frenetic scary action, this time frequently referencing Chopin’s Raindrops prelude to great effect.

The spaceship is an updated cross between Joss Whedon’s Serenity (from Firefly) and the Nostromo (from the original Alien) and the holographic mapping must look amazing in 3D (reviewers were shown the film in a defective 3D cinema, so we could only dream).

The audience is introduced to the spaceship through the eyes of David (Fassbender), a robot who initially has a Wall-E moment when he’s all alone, but once the humans start invading his space, his disdain for humanity shines through.

The robots in the Aliens movies have always been the focus of not only technophobia but a fraught relationship with their creator, which is mirrored in Prometheus when mankind goes in search of its creators. The robots provide the view of humanity from the outside, the view the aliens cannot articulate.

For those who have never watched the Aliens quadrilogy, this film acts as a stand-alone story. In our near future – 2093, to be exact – archaeologists travel to a distant planet, tracking the origin of mankind.

Thinking they are about to meet their maker, they touch down on a planet to explore a huge, seemingly deserted structure.

Since this is an Aliens prequel, be prepared to discover the origins of the scariest alien creatures ever to make contact with mankind. While they may be intelligent, the asexual aliens are only interested in destruction, adapt quickly to their surroundings and are well nigh indestructible.

Charlize Theron totally embraces her ice queen status as Miss Vickers, the obligatory representative of the Weyland Corporation, which has bankrolled the exploration project. She’s all cool greys, severe black and proprietorial strides around the ship, giving orders to the assorted riff-raff of scientists and hired muscle.

Playing the lead archaeologists Elizabeth and Charlie, Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green try their best to create a bit of a relationship between them, but there’s not much space for characterisation in this film because everything takes a back seat to the aliens origin story.

The rest of the crew are alien fodder in the same way the characters are a means to an end: tell a story about aliens in every sense of the world. They’re not from around here, they don’t think like we do and they don’t play nicely with others. The no under- 16s age restriction is not for nothing – the original idea of aliens raping humans being the scariest thing you’ve ever seen is continued here.

The question no one asked when Alien was released in 1979 was: what is with that dead space pilot the Nostromo’s crew find on the derelict alien ship?

So, here’s a possible answer, and Prometheus has enough visual clues paying homage to the rest of the iconography and created history to satisfy the geeks who read the comics and collect the figurines.

The film starts off asking some truly big questions, which is what sci-fi stories usually do. But the philosophical musings about the origin of mankind take a back seat to the action once the face-huggers make an appearance.

Scott holds off on the ick factor, building up the tension until Idris Elba hits the ground. In any sci-fi movie, once the captain gets all melancholy and becomes involved, bad things are about to happen. Then it’s running and screaming and people wielding flame-throwers and the audience is never the same again.

Unfortunately, the uneasy straddling of action and thinking doesn’t work with the philosophic musings ditched for a no-holds-barred big ticket ending.

The cgi seamlessly holds everything together, but once you start analysing everything that’s not visual – the lack of characterisation, the dead-end philosophic questions, the continuity problems (yes, they exist) and the whole running out of storyline halfway through – it starts falling apart on a second viewing.

Still, it all creates a talking point that will keep movie lovers musing for hours.

If you liked… Aliens 3 or Aliens Resurrection… you will like this.

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