The trajectory of the Alien series has followed an eerily parallel path to my own life.
Behold, both Alien and I were born into this world in 1979 with great fanfare…and we scared the bejesus out of all.
We then went through a zany action-packed early childhood, with me waging wars with my GI Joe figures on my parents’ living room floor and James Cameron waging war on-screen with Aliens in 1986.
Then there were the awkward and painful teenage years that both I and the Alien series would rather forget. Cough cough Alien Cubed. Egads! Alien: Resurrection.
Then there was the turn of the century where we both kinda sold-out and lost ourselves. Ugh…Alien vs. Predator! What were we thinking?
But now past the age of 30 we both have grown introspective and retrospective, once again returning to the great mysteries of life and the age-old questions of where did we come from and why does our creator hate us? And thus, Ridley Scott comes full circle in his career and has bequeathed to us this ponderous and wickedly entertaining Prometheus.
Roughly 70 years in the future, two noble archaeologist/scientists (the memorable Noomi Rapace and the forgettable, oh, I already forgot the actor’s name) piece together an Erich von Daniken-style theory on our alien origins based on some cave scribblings and convince a ridiculously wealthy head of a corporation that just so happens to be in the business of space exploitation (yes – it’s the infamous Weyland Corporation) played by Guy Pearce in silly aging-make-up and full-on scenery chewing mode to venture to a far-away world they believe to be the home of our creators. Along for the ride are a decidedly icy corporate crony played by Charlize Theron, a crafty robot played by Michael Fassbender, a practical ship captain played by Idris Elba, and a slew of other people destined for fun and brutal deaths once the extraterrestrial shit hits the fan.
Fans of the original two films should eat this up despite a lamer than I would’ve liked screenplay and a clunky build-up to the action and gore. Scott delights in offering us glimpses into “how it all began” while leaving enough open-ended questions that allow for the mythology and the film series to continue for better or for worse. He wastes no expense with the immaculate set-designs, crystal-clear special effects and a retro-sci-fi-epic score. He’s also a smart and slick enough director to overcome the sometimes mawkish and philosophical script and finds ways to gives us a little bit of much-needed dark humor. Complimenting his skills behind the camera, the cast delivers their lines both good and bad with admirable dedication to make it work. Rapace, Fassbender and Theron are especially good and make you interested, if not full on care, about the fate of their characters.
*POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD! READ WITH CAUTION!*
Scott deserves further accolades for trying to top himself with the gross-out shock scenes. The stomach-bursting scene from his original Alien is legendary, and he goes way over the top in Prometheus with a self-inflicted….ummmm….shall we say…removal…of a…ummmm…squidbilly? The creepy-crawly-jumpy-grossies also include a bevy of primordial creatures including a ummmm…cobra screecher…a tiny eye-worm….a giant face-hugger…and of course a proto-xenomorph.
No good Alien film would be complete without a robot decapitation, girl-power survival skills on display and stupid stock characters going places they shouldn’t and doing things no sane person would do. There’s also some grin-inducing foreshadowing when Theron gives a little speech about a king’s reign ending…presumably to make way for….a queen? And of course there’s a giant mural of…the queen uncovered in the alien tomb. My best guess is that our lovely creators have been engineering all kinds of monsters across the universe and that these particular parasitic bastards evolve every time they infect a new series of hosts.
At any rate – despite some obvious flaws, at the end of the film Mr. Scott seems to be asking us, much like Maximus in the arena in that classic scene from Gladiator, “Are you not entertained?”
Yes, sir, we are! Thank you!
Written by David H. Schleicher
POST SCRIPT – While typing this review my life once again mirrored the series as a harrowing “big alien-like spider crawling up the wall jumps onto bedroom carpet leading to epic hunt and kill before bedtime” episode unfolded.
Running score: Schleicher – Thirty Seven. Spiders – Zero.
Meanwhile, the aliens will always be close to my heart.