After one of the biggest marketing campaigns in history, the hugely anticipated prequel/definitely not prequel to Alien hit screens last week. I kindly got invited to the Leicester Square premiere, at which I immediately jizzed my pants.
As one of the biggest fanboys in the world of the original Alien and its mighty, guns-blazing sequel (the imaginatively named Aliens), I have been waiting impatiently for this cinematic moment for approximately 2 years. Now I’ll try to keep this relatively spoiler free, but unfortunately, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve kind of already seen the whole narrative structure. The film proper is basically a longer, badly scripted version of the trailer with a worse sound-track… but I still absolutely loved it. I think.
From the moment we’re introduced to wonderfully creepy android ‘David’ (Michael Fassbender) strolling the corridors of the exploration ship “Prometheus”, its evident that Ridley knew exactly what his fanboy audience wanted. White, clinical, oddly organic walls panel the blinking, beeping rooms, harking back to the opening scenes of Alien. For those who remember the “malfunctions” of the android in the original film, a sense of dread and foreboding immediately swells as we see what Fassbender is capable of on a day-to-day basis.
What is immediately lacking however, is the claustrophobia, the dripping, the tight squeezes and the menace of the original trilogy. It’s clear that this film is a new breed, one that has a ridiculously distracting orchestra following the characters around. One that has swooping CGI vistas and lens flares that even JJ Abrams would have cut. One that has a script written by a primary school. In fact, one particularly wooden Scottish character, who I don’t even think had a name, just seems to appear sporadically throughout the film with nuggets of totally useless information, delivered in a way that would suggest she’d suffered a minor stroke. I genuinely cannot imagine what was going through the casting department’s head, as she is laughable.
Saying that, there are some exceptional performances from the aforementioned and show stealing Fassbender, and Noomi Rapace as the leading lady. Fassbender in particular is so watchable you kind of end up wishing the film was just about him wanting to be “a real boy”, as any other emotional attachment to the remainder of the cast seems to evaporate. It is slightly jarring that he looks like a Space Nazi throughout though. Oh, and I’m not even going to mention Guy Pearce. Actually, I am, because it’s pissed me off for 24 hours; WHY CAST GUY PEARCE AS A 90+ YEAR OLD MAN, WHEN THE ONLY CHARACTER HE PLAYS IN THE FILM IS A 90+ YEAR OLD MAN?
The film takes a gooey, blood splattered leap around the halfway mark that caused ripples of whoops and applause from the audience, as we start to witness the glistening, primordial horror that awaits the exploration team. The 'Alien DNA' that Ridley Scott has so publicly admitted starts to rear its impregnating, undulating head as the team is systematically decimated, with one or two scenes that send chills down the spine in a very, very good way. This is where the film really excels, reminding you why you still have nightmares about the alien character and its biology, and why pretty much every science fiction film since 1989 has tried (and failed) to replicate these inherently disturbing traits.
The scares, although sparse, are relentless. The sound of rubbery tentacles hitting plastic, or bones crunching as they’re constricted will stay with you. The creature effects are disturbing and seat-clenchingly horrific, and lead up to a final scene that will leave you with goosebumps, aching to see another installment which this picture will inevitably lead to.
However, without saying too much, one life form looked so phallic, complete with a bulbous head, that members of the audience started to titter. Of course, there are undertones of fertility, science vs nature and sexual stigmas throughout, but a big white cock that swims around probably wasn’t needed.
You can’t help thinking however, that the film does lack depth. The heart and soul got lost somewhere between Alien 3 and Robin Hood, as Sir Ridley ultimately fails to really hit home with that unique quality that catapulted Blade Runner and Alien into the science fiction hall of fame. One can’t help but feel that there was so much more that could’ve been squeezed from the colossal labyrinth like set pieces, complete with the grossly sexual, gothic architecture made infamous by the series art director HR Geiger. The cast was gagging to be stalked down those dark, winding organic looking tunnels by teeth and claws, yet all we get is stormy weather and cock snakes. Its like all the elements are in place, but there’s no sucker punch that really slaps you in the face and demands your attention. No bleeping motion-trackers, no air vent chasing, no emerging from the darkness, claws and teeth at the ready. The story becomes muddled, to the extent that you find yourself asking too many questions about the narrative at the same time.
Visually, the film is breathtaking. One of the few films of the 3D “occupation” to actually look pretty good, was Avatar, which this surpasses (mainly because it was essentially “Dances With Smurfs” and everything was a disorientating dark hue of blue). Prometheus uses what seems like groundbreaking techniques that will leave you with your mouth hanging open on more than one occasion.
Its got everything an Alien fanboy needs. HR Geiger, Space Jockeys, guts bursting, robots behaving badly and a sort-of-fit leading lady… but it does lack the soul, teeth and grime that we’ve fallen in love with over the past 30 years.
The journey is beautiful to watch with scenes that will stay with you for a very long time, and it does offer some golden geeky nuggets that will satisfy the inner Alien nerd in 100% of sci-fi fans. Despite the negatives, this is a gripping, harrowing and dazzling spectacle with an intensity that builds to a nightmarish crescendo, leaving us wanting more… I just wish that “more” was delivered in the 2 hours that we’ve been waiting three decades for.
Also, what’s with that fucking flute?