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Jun 12

“Prometheus”: “Alien” for a new age

Logan Marshall-Green, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender explore a remote alien outpost in "Prometheus."

Ridley Scott’s glossy, gory science-fiction epic is sure to influence future films

Where did we come from? Who created us? What would we do if we ever met our makers?

“Alien” prequel “Prometheus” isn’t afraid to ask the big questions.

After discovering a possible link between humanity and an alien race on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead an expedition aboard the starship Prometheus to a distant world in search of answers.

Not surprisingly, some of the members of the crew — including geologist Fifield (Sean Harris) and biologist Millburn (Rafe Spall) — are skeptical about their chances of finding the enigmatic Engineers alive.

Bitter bureaucrat Vickers (Charlize Theron), whose company is financing this trillion-dollar field trip, is openly hostile. Android David (Michale Fassbender) is calmly complacent. And ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) is merely bemused.

Those attitudes shift when the expedition uncovers what appears to be an ancient outpost strewn with calcified corpses. Something bad happened here, and it might have widespread implications for the future of the human race.

A glossy, gory parable about the immortal thirst for knowledge, “Prometheus” isn’t as interested in paying tribute to the “Alien” movies as it is in forging a bold new path for future science-fiction epics. This beautifully crafted film is built around a sharp script by “The Darkest Hour” scribe Jon Spaihts and “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof and gorgeous visuals courtesy of cinematographer Dariusz Wolski and visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers.

Every atmospheric inch of “Prometheus” is meticulously mapped out, from the mountainous landscapes that merge Iceland’s frozen wastelands and Jordan’s desert valleys, to the sinuous, streamlined alien ruins inspired by H.R. Giger’s original designs. If the Engineers — giant, heavily muscled humanoids with dark eyes and porcelain-pale skin — bear a striking resemblance to Killface from Comedy Central’s “Frisky Dingo,” well, that’s just an unfortunate coincidence.

Director Ridley Scott wrings surprisingly strong performances from the cast, especially “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star Noomi Rapace, who proves herself a worthy successor to original badass Sigourney Weaver. She brings an engaging combination of dreamy-eyed optimism and matter-of-fact survival instincts to her role as a true believer.

Michael Fassbender (“Shame,” “X-Men: First Class”) hits just the right eery note as David, whose appearance and mannerisms are almost, but not quite, human. (His obsession with “Lawrence of Arabia” is quite telling.) In contrast, Idris Elba (“Thor”) is refreshingly rumpled.

Although “Prometheus” excels at high-tech terror — the state-of-the-art special effects are used to spectacularly gruesome effect — the film is lacking in good, old-fashioned suspense. Things don’t so much go bump in the night as blast through your brain pan.

I don’t blame Scott for wanting to show off his shiny new toys. (After all, he and his fellow producers reportedly spent $125 million on this polished production.) But part of me misses the grimy, gritty look of 1979′s “Alien,” a horror movie that made me jump at every suspicious shadow.

Here, Scott is more focused on forcing a reaction rather than allowing one to happen naturally.

You’ll still gag at the gross creatures, shriek during the scary moments, and stare open-mouthed at the impressive set pieces. However, I wonder if any “Alien” fan who watches “Prometheus” will walk away with the same reaction of being truly, and honestly, terrified.

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“Prometheus” image courtesy of Movieweb.com and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

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1 comment

  1. Man from Moqui

    Terrified … ah … no. But it’s a movie that lingers. Go in with no expectations. And be surprised. Then watch Alien.

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