Ridley Scott proves in Prometheus that 33 years after Alien, he still remembers how to rouse primal fears within a gorgeously rendered, profoundly pessimistic sci-fi setting. The stylistic flourishes introduced in Scott’s 1979 classic became near-clichés for dozens of lesser filmmakers in the ensuing decades. Skeptics have reason to wonder if it’s even possible to find a fresh take on the man-versus-alien smackdown in outer space.
The answer provided in Scott’s R-rated saga Prometheus, which opens Friday in the United States: hell yeah.
Scott opens with a majestic montage that primes us for an eons-spanning saga. Filmed on RED cameras in native 3-D, a grand succession of nature’s greatest landscape hits lead us to a majestic waterfall. The camera pulls back to reveal a close encounter of the chromosomal kind that unfolds as a handsomely imagined variation on 2001: A Space Odyssey’s primordial caveman sequence.
Flashing forward several millennia, spunky archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) discover caveman drawings in Scotland that bear thrilling resemblance to hieroglyphs found in other ancient ruins all over the world. “It’s not a map, it’s an invitation,” Shaw says.
The discovery leads to an expedition on the spacecraft Prometheus, essentially managed by a smooth robotic operator named David (Michael Fassbender). While crewmembers sleep, the android roams the ship shooting baskets and spying on Shaw’s dreams as if he were watching a movie.
When the ship approaches its destination, corporate hard-ass Vickers (Charlize Theron) rouses herself from 800 days of slumber by performing the trailer-famous near-naked push-ups, then suits up for a stern orientation session that establishes that No. 1) She’s the boss. No. 2) Any life forms encountered are to be observed but not engaged.
You know that’s not going to happen.