Wednesday 20 September 2017

Great Scott's space mission flounders

Paul Whitington

prometheus

(15A, general release, 124 minutes)

Director: Ridley Scott Stars: Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba

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Science-fiction nuts have been chattering about this project for the bones of a decade, ever since Ridley Scott mentioned in passing that he might be interested in doing an Alien prequel.

Scott hasn't made a science-fiction film since 1982, and returning to the genre that made his name is a high-risk strategy.

Both Alien and Blade Runner would figure in many people's top 10 best sci-fi films, which arguably makes Prometheus a no-win proposition for the director.

At least he's done his level best to ensure this is not a comparative stinker: Lost writer David Lindelof was brought in to smarten up Jon Spaihts' original script, and as ever Scott lavished great care and attention on Prometheus' look and design.

It's 2083, and a group of archaeologists are researching the remnants of early cultures when they come across what seems to be a star map. The powerful Weyland Corporation then decides to mount a space expedition to follow the map to its source and discover a potential clue to the origins of humankind.

On board the hulking space vessel Prometheus are archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), the ship's captain Janek (Idris Elba) and the mission director, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron).

She takes her orders from the corporation's billionaire founder Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), and neither of them have the kind of faces you'd instantly trust.

After an efficient but rather supercilious android called David (Michael Fassbender) has guided the ship to a moon orbiting a gas giant in deep space, the crew set out in high spirits to investigate the home planet of the species that may have created us.

But we know that nothing good happens to inquisitive astronauts in Ridley Scott films.

Prometheus opens with a magnificent, sweeping sequence that explains our relationship to a race of alien beings.

The ship's design is cleverly done, and some of the film's most interesting sequences involve the lonely deep space vigil of David, who sneaks peeks at the sleeping crew's dreams and watches Lawrence of Arabia so many times he constantly quotes it.

But the film hits problems as soon as it attempts to bind the threads of its convoluted story.

All the characters with the exception of David remain strangely flat, and none of them ever become rounded enough to care about. Which is just as well, because Prometheus descends to a bloodbath that leaves few unscathed and no one any the wiser as to what all of this was about in the first place.

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