Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Film Review: 22 June

Life on board Ridley Scott’s new spaceship is a bumpy ride, but worth the price of a seat

Written by Barry Norman

PROMETHEUS

Just before Christmas 2093, the eponymous spaceship Prometheus, about the size of a small castle, lands on a far, far distant planet. Its mission: to discover the origin of human life, no less.

But don't get too excited; by the end, before which an awful lot of human life has been lost rather than originated, we still don't know the answer, though we do have a pretty shrewd idea that a sequel could be on the way.

And that's odd because a sequel already exists, for this – Ridley Scott's latest sumptuous sci-fi epic – is a sort of prequel to his earlier Alien.

Our heroine, Noomi Rapace, is clearly a forerunner of Sigourney Weaver's intrepid Ripley in Alien. She is brave, tough, resourceful, a scientist and a devout Christian who believes human life had divine origins. Her boyfriend, Logan Marshall-Green, a Darwinian, disagrees. The discovery of a series of prehistoric cave paintings had suggested that we were brought to Earth by visitors from this distant planet. It's a desolate, barren place, apparently uninhabited. But in a sort of enormous pyramid, in which unlike anywhere else the air is breathable, the group of intrepid investigators discover humanoid remains whose DNA exactly matches ours.

This they naturally find exciting. Just as exciting, and far more terrifying, is the discovery of alien parasites, which enter and take over human bodies with extremely hostile intent. At one point Rapace even finds herself pregnant by one of these horrifying things and rids herself of the foetus in a way, which, despite the aid of state-ofthe- art medical technology, is pretty gruesome.

So now there are more questions: how did the humanoids get there, did they create the aliens and, if so, why?

Among those also aboard the Prometheus are the captain, Idris Elba, whose main interest is in protecting the ship, the crew and the passengers; a glacial Charlize Theron, representing the company that fi nanced the trip, and an unrecognisable Guy Pearce, whose presence is only revealed towards the end.

And then there's Michael Fassbender, an affable, unflappable android, who acts as a kind of butler and appears to know everything, though he doesn't necessarily share his knowledge with the humans.

As is the way with epics, the film is a touch overlong, but it's still pacy, thought-provoking, action-packed and visually stunning, which is no more than you'd expect from a Ridley Scott movie. The performances are fine, especially by Fassbender and Rapace, though she doesn't quite match up to Sigourney Weaver's dominant Ripley.

All in all, Prometheus is likely to be the most intelligent of this summer's blockbusters; even the 3-D format, which I normally find distracting rather than enhancing, was more acceptable than usual.

But although bigger and more ambitious than Alien, it's not as good a film because somehow it's less involving. I watched the events unfold with much interest, but rarely felt drawn into the action along with the protagonists.

Well worth seeing, though, especially for sci-fi addicts.



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