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Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
2.5 / 5
Trying to critique Ridley Scott's new picture without mentioning 1979's 'Alien' is near impossible, and in fact, 'Prometheus' seems to be nothing more than a marketing tool to revive some serious nostalgia.
There are three preconceptions that absolutely have to be taken in to this film: 1) the ghost of 'Alien' that haunts its corridors and caverns, 2) Anton Chekhov's instruction that if a gun is placed on the mantelpiece in the First Act, it must be fired in the Third, and 3) Ridley Scott's track record with epic stories that lack any soul.
A battle between blind faith and dangerous reason takes center stage as devout believer Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and militant non-believer Charles Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) uncover intergalactic map directions from celestial visitors hidden amongst cave paintings. A privately-funded exploration to a distant planet ensues, agendas and weak personalities tagging along for the ride.
Merdith Vickers (Charlize Theron) - a quaint nod to the first machine gun used in combat - casts almost as dark a shadow as Michael Fassbender's bleached-blonde android David. Alongside striding about the dormant ship as its crew lie in cryo-stasis (another nod to the original franchise), he takes to emulating Peter O'Toole in 'Lawrence of Arabia', clipped tones and all.
Cue shadowy halls, space suits, a nasty collection of slimy things, and some glaring examples of human stupidity - when exploring an enormous complex on an alien planet, is it so wise to approach the strangely phallic creature that emerges from some black ooze, beckon it, and then call it "baby"?
The term 'plot hole' is usually ascribed to a subtle oversight made by the writers, yet it could be applied literally to 'Prometheus'. John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof's script seems to build improbable bridges over gaping voids, filling those voids in with doses of for-the-sake-of-it gore.
Why 44-year-old hunk Guy Pearce was cast as ailing tyrant Peter Weyland, replete with sketchy wrinkle prosthetics, is beyond reason (some critics have pointed out his resemblance to Biff in 'Back To The Future II'). Why not cast octogenarian Ian Holm (Alien's original android Ash) as Weyland as a cute nod to the film's DNA?
Scott seems confined to rehashing old ideas half-heartedly, even those of Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' - glacial outer-space shots soundtracked by orchestral music, David the android like 'HAL' made incarnate, the desolate and panoramic opening sequence.
There are obvious echoes to his own progeny too: Yoghurt-blood-spilling decapitation, some conveniently-placed escape pods, and yet tattooed, mohawked, ragtag geologist Fifefield (played viciously by Sean Harris) is the only acknowledgment of a rougher history. The Weyland Corporation, which finances the spaceship Prometheus, is a pre-merger version of the Weylan-Yutani Corp that funded the mining ship Nostromo in the original 'Alien', and were employers of the gung-ho troops in James Cameron's sequel.
Scott glazes over the satirical elements and inspirations from the original films, missing an opportunity to make a serious jibe at the influence of modern corporations and their reputation for recklessness. The corporate-control element is there, just smothered underneath Shaw's constant and inevitably boring proselytizing. No surprises, really, coming from a company owned by Rupert Murdoch.
An argument could be made that 'Prometheus' can be seen without any foreknowledge of 'Alien', or even a willful blindness to the obvious rehashing of ideas that were better left unmolested, and even liked because of it. But without Ridley Scott's original terrifying framework, and left on its own, 'Prometheus' narrowly avoids crashing in to something else alien: a coherent story.
'Prometheus' is in NZ cinemas from June 7.