Sunday, 17 June 2012


2012, US, Directed by Ridley Scott
Colour, Running Time: 124 minutes
Review Source: Cinema screening; Image: 2.35:1, Redcode RAW 3D (Digital)

So, was this film supposed to be a sequel to the Alien series? A prequel? Something vaguely related? Or something with nothing at all to do with the acid-blood monsters from the outer regions of the cosmos? Amidst the pre-release hype I began to lose track, thus - interested in the latest Ridley Scott sci-fi project either way - I stopped watching the trailers (which tend to show too much in my opinion) and finally sat back to enjoy a film whose direction I wasn't entirely sure of. To keep the plot down to spoiler-free level I would relay to potential viewers the following details: Towards the end of the 21st century two anthropologists have found further evidence in cave paintings that suggests ancient knowledge of planetary coordinates in the galaxy that could link mankind to his creator. Several years on and an intergalactic science mission is funded to determine the validity of the evidence - a long distance trip to another world aboard 'Prometheus'; in simple terms, a quest to meet the maker. Coming out of a two year hyper sleep, an exploratory expedition across the world's landscape does indeed reveal remains of alien activity on the surface (and beneath), however, the findings prove to be increasingly threatening and not quite as expected.
The opening minutes actually take place on a windswept alien domain and mysteriously set up a taster for what's to come: a humanoid consumes a compound that breaks down and transforms his genetic structure as a spacecraft takes off for the stars. This sequence combined with what follows epitomises what science fiction is all about in my eyes: it reinstates a sense of wonder about the future, the undiscovered universe, and its multitude of theoretically inhabitable planets. It creates such a tangible environment (no doubt helped along by the 3D projection - more on that below) that your consciousness is drawn into the world devised by the artists; you want to be a part of it. Despite the fact that it's a decidedly hostile terrain that is. There are some mutterings about this being a limited story, and that may be the case, but what it might lack in narrative complexity (which, as far as I'm concerned, isn't a cinematic pre-requisite anyway) it makes up for in wonderment and the sheer scope of its core concept. And to not be interested in such a concept - the question of mankind's origins (evolution is still only theory after all) - would require a head made of wood. Aside from the vastness of the question it asks, and partly attempts to answer, there are many science fiction trappings present and accounted for here, including the Alien series favourite, the inclusion of a human-like robot as part of the crew. Ironically, Michael Fassbender's android character is possibly the most fascinating out of the otherwise human crew - while his 'peers' are in hyper sleep he spends his months educating himself on human history. Essentially he's trying to find out as much as possible about his creators, just as they are about theirs. There are many more imaginative ideas revolving around technology (for example, the brilliant levitating reconnaissance devices that progressively build a holographic three dimensional map of any structure they're released in), the abundance of which endangers the focus of the film itself admittedly. Unlike many of today's Hollywood products, the characters aren't excessively dislikable (even the hard-hearted ship's commander played by Charlize Theron doesn't irritate like it should) and Noomi Rapace, who plays what is arguably the film's anchoring character, is refreshingly imperfect. The question you may be asking is, how does this film tie in to the Alien franchise? It's one I won't answer as I think this journey is far more rewarding when embarked upon without prior notice of what's likely to happen. I will, however, state that the final moments sent a cold chill through my nervous system: this is one film where I actually want there to be a sequel. It's pleasing to see Ridley Scott once again reshaping the science fiction genre, as he has on a couple of prominent occasions before.

Viewing this film as a digital 3D projection in a suitably advanced cinema is an incredibly gratifying experience (for the record I saw this at Birmingham's amazing Giant Screen, formerly branded as Imax) - the visuals and special effects of Prometheus are second to none, the planet and surrounding space created with inspiring design and realisation. A convincing landscape is made all the more so with the stunning addition of a natively shot third dimension (notably superior to a recent screening at the same cinema of the post-processed Avengers Assemble - or just Avengers to those outside England). With a potent surround mix this is a satisfyingly enveloping experience, one that should leave you walking out of the cinema feeling thrilled and in awe of what has been achieved here. This is something that is all too uncommon these days. Highly recommended as a cinema viewing, though I'll be in the queue for the Blu-ray too without a doubt.

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