R16, 2hr 20min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
Sci-fi fans might recall the large, dead extraterrestial that was discovered by the crew of the Nostromo in the first Alien film.
The strange creature, memorable for having had its ribcage destroyed from within, has long been a favourite of internet fanboys, who dubbed it the Space Jockey.
Director Ridley Scott's Alien series prequel Prometheus tells the story of these seemingly benevolent creatures.
Backed by a corporation owned by trillionaire Peter Weyland (an unrecognisable Guy Pearce), a crew of scientists and astronauts travel to a planet believed to be home to the Space Jockeys, now known as The Engineers.
Upon arriving at the planet, the crew realise the relationship with these aliens, who made contact with ancient human civilisations, may not be as rosy as they thought.
Its visual scope goes far beyond that of its predecessors as the grand, sweeping look of the alien planet, aided by a larger budget, is a huge step forward from the misty darkness of the Alien series.
But while Alien stood apart from its successors with its atmosphere, striking designs and suspense, Prometheus is a more abrupt beast. It barely introduces characters before cutting them down, and forgoes suspense for quick and easy thrills.
The storyline and script (penned by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof) regularly lag, as there is no central strand to pull the film together. Many of the loose ends are tied up in a rather sloppy, thrown-together fashion during the third act.
Scott's eye for detail does provide some perfectly horrific scenes – including a gruesome piece of self surgery and some good old fashioned alien face sucking.
Sigourney Weaver's strong female lead Ellen Ripley is replaced here by archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), who finds herself thrust into the role of heroine, often more irritating than inspiring.
There are echoes of Ian Holm's duplicitous android Ash in the smug robot David (Michael Fassbender from X-Men: First Class), who literally channels Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia in his role as the ship's maintenance man/butler. David is the film's shining light – an android who has developed some less than desirable human traits – and trying to decipher the nature of his intentions is as pleasing as it is puzzling.
The rest of the cast are generic character cutouts, including the Charlize Theron's bitchy company woman and Idris Elba's grizzled ship captain.
The film is a must-see for those interested in the Alien series.
But lacking the menace of Scott's Alien or the cerebral assault of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Prometheus will add little to the pantheon of great sci-fi films.
- © Fairfax NZ News