It’s not such a big secret anymore, but during production, Ridley Scott and the creative team behind Prometheus (out Friday, June 8th) were very coy about whether or not this was an Alien prequel. Well, it takes place before the events in Scott’s 1979 classic, shares certain elements, and has a thread that leads to Alien. So, yes, I’d say it’s a prequel.
Other than that, I’ll be vague about plot points so as not to spoil anything, because things do get pretty wild. In 2089, scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find evidence via cave drawings that extraterrestrials visited Earth a long time ago. They determine that these beings came from a planet in a far-away solar system, and manage to get wealthy Peter Weyland and his Weyland Industries to fund an expedition on a space ship called Prometheus to investigate the origins of man. The journey takes two years, during which the travelers are in hypersleep, and most of the movie’s action unfolds in 2093, upon their arrival on planet Zeta 2 Reticuli. Of course, the environment (impressively rendered in 3D) is not what they expected, and bad things start befalling them.
It’s exciting to see Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander, in her first lead Hollywood role, though for the first half of the movie, she doesn’t get to really bust out and show her acting or action chops. And then she gets this one scene that’s so horrific and unconventionally badass that I thought, “OK, that’s probably one of the reasons Scott hired her.” She does something I’d never seen done on screen, and it requires someone who can convince us she’s tough enough to handle it. I’m still cringing just thinking about it.
Fassbender is the other highlight, playing the ship’s robot, David, with a mechanical smile and friendly demeanor that perhaps masks something darker underneath (though I don’t understand the motivation behind some of his actions since robots aren’t supposed to want things or think for themselves). The actor continues to impress, with his wide array of roles that are vastly different from each other. Charlize Theron, as the onboard Weyland rep, uses her icy blondness effectively. And British actor Idris Elba, as the ship’s genial captain, surprises by speaking in a Southern drawl.
The movie is melancholy in some parts, and while Elizabeth’s belief in creationism is emphasized in the beginning, the theory of how we came about gets a little murky once hell breaks loose. It’s as if screenwriters Damon Lindelof and John Spaihts wanted to ask deep, philosophical questions, but they also wanted to make us jump with scary monster stuff. In the end there are some questions left dangling, including whether what we see here is consistent with what we already know about the aliens, but since there are almost thirty years between the end of this and the beginning of Alien, it’s possible this won’t be the only prequel.
Nerd verdict: Familiar Alien territory
Photos: Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox