'This is Ripley last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off'
Thus ended one of the greatest sci-fi horror films of all time; Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). It’s was only Scott’s second feature and yet it was a true master-class in both visual design and suspenseful story telling. Alien was also a hugely important moment for women in film and, even today, is one of the few popular mainstream pictures to represent it’s lead actress as a heroin in her own right. And not even in a knowing, 90’s ‘girl power’ way. Ripley stands up to societies prejudices (if they had listened to her in the first place it is possible that the Alien would never have made it on board) and by the end of the film, as the last human standing, we are merely expected to take her heroin status at face value without any of the ‘nod to what we are doing here’ one liners that have dogged Hollywood fare over the last couple of allegedly more enlightened decades.
But space is a big place. Not only is it a final frontier, but it also holds many secrets as to where we might have come from. So it is no surprise that Sir Ridley Scott was tempted to re-examine the possibilities presented by his original film and go back and make Prometheus. If you have read anything at all about Prometheus yet (or remember your classics lessons from school, which I do but for all the wrong reasons) you will be well aware that in Greek mythology Prometheus stole fire from the Gods and gave it to man. He was punished by being lashed to a rock and having an Eagle eat his intestines for all eternity. Which should give you a good idea of what this film is about, the beginning. In the beginning where did we come from? Did we evolve as the result of a natural progression of coinciding event, or were we created? If we were created was it intentional or by mistake? Were we a disappointment? Where are our creators now, and what would you do if you could meet your maker? Prometheus deals with the fundamental questions of human existence, it is also kind enough to enlighten us as to where those pesky Aliens came from along the way.
Prometheus begins in the future, but is a recognisable, not too distant future. We find ourselves on the Isle of Sky in Scotland, nature still exists, and the landscape is beautiful. We are introduced to scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway, (Logan Marshall-Green) a couple on a expedition to explore cave drawings. They discover one such drawing in a nearby cave and are able to pre-date it to a significantly earlier time-scale to any other before it. The pair have noticed a similarities in a number of cave drawings that seem to depict the same constellation of stars. Technology has recently developed allowing us to see deeper into space then ever before and the pair are able to match up the constellation in the picture to a real one in deep space. Shaw and Holloway believe that the star map has been left by an advanced Alien race who may have contributed to the creation of life on earth and that the map is ‘an invitation.’ Unable to raise the funds for the trip themselves Shaw and Holloway get on board with Weyland Corporation who go all out developing technology to allow for the deep space travel needed for this exploration. Peter Weyland has his own special interest in funding the trip because he too is deeply interested in the idea of being able to ‘meet a maker’ despite being to old to see any of the fruits of his labours. (Crew members sleep in a cryostasis that allows them to travel through space for many years, this also prolongs the life of the individual) The involvement of Weyland Industries however means that the agenda of the company takes precedence over Shaw and Holloway’s original intentions. And as we know the company likes to get what it wants by any means necessary. On-board to make sure Peter Weyland’s final wishes are met are Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) to over see the mission and 8th generation android David (Michael Fassbender).
Prometheus is a hugely enjoyable addition to the Alien catalogue, not only because of it’s fidelity to the origins of the Alien universe but because it does not feel the need to repeat all of the tropes of the previous Alien films. This is part of Ridley Scott’s genius and, no doubt, why early reviews were mixed. If you aren’t that into Alien,or weren’t paying attention, you might just be expecting a straight repeat! Prometheus deals with much wider and deeper issues than your average horror/sci-fi/action film, which in my view is great. If there were any criticism to find hidden with in the genes of Prometheus it would be that it contains at least as many questions as answers. This is fine with regards to the bigger questions posed by the film. Often films will try to wax philosophical and will tell you what the meaning of life, or the universe is (within that particular film) which is hugely unrealistic, tacky, and usually an insult to our intelligence. Scott leaves a lot of these type as questions not fully answered which is preferable. However there are still a few loose ends that seem unintentionally forgotten, and ideas that are cut off before they fully get going. For example one of the most interesting things is what might happen to Holloway (I’m trying not to be specific) we come tantalisingly close to something that seems important and rather dangerous but this idea is promptly extinguished again. Similarly towards the start we see that David has a fascination with Peter O’Toole and yet this again seems forgotten about down the line. That said I now can’t wait for the Blu-ray release so I can properly dissect each idea and event. A resounding two thumbs up!