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Prometheus Review (no spoilers)

Sir Ridley Scott, the man who gave us the film Alien in 1979 has returned to the franchise 32 years, five directors and two movie monster mash-ups later. What is the result?  I think the way to explore that is to ask what was the intent.

The “Alien” (more appropriately called the “Xenomorph”), has been woefully abused as a film property since James Cameron filmed his classic sequel to Alien, “Aliens” in 1986.  Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens stand as seminal pieces of science fiction to this day.

However, since then, the property has been thoroughly demeaned in the saddening but predictable search for Studio Profits.  Indeed, the Alien  property’s most recent outings were in throw-away “Frankenstein vs. Wolfman”  B-Movie fare aimed at titillating the PG-13 crowd.    Such debasement is not easily turned around.

Ridley Scott himself would seem to agree.  When asked about the Xenomorph being in Prometheus he is reported to have said

“No. Absolutely not,” states Scott, “They squeezed it dry. He (the Xenomorph) did very well. (He laughs) He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!”

“They” (the studio execs) squeezed it dry, says Sir Ridley Scott.   With that glimpse into the directors mind, it would seem clear that he would not be filming another derivative Xenomorph creature feature.

But, as it turns out, there was a lot of fruit left on the table from 1979′s Alien and 1986′s Aliens that nobody had thought to explore or even ask about in any subsequent film.  The big question being what was that derelict spacecraft doing on LV-486 and what was the “Space Jockey”.  Those questions make for some rich pulpy juice which yet remained in the franchise fruit.

That made the director’s intent to return to the same universe as Alien but without the Xenomorphs not a hard jump at all.  The result is a stunning, enigmatic, intriguing and, yes, occasionally horrifying piece of excellent science fiction.

The sets, special effects and costuming are all amazing.  This film should be seen on the biggest screen possible if it is to be seen at all to fully take in the details of the set pieces.  This film is not done on a green screen – the sets are real and it shows.  It seems so rare, now, to see hard science-fiction which isn’t filmed on a green screen sound stage. In this case, the real set design by H.R. Geiger is a wonder and provides the actors a real atmosphere to get spooked in.

The cast is, for the most part, very good with some exceptions.  The performances by Noomi Rapace as the lead scientist and Michael Fassbender as a plotting Android are particularly noteworthy.

The story I’m not going to discuss except to say there are some plot holes during the film  and a lot of unanswered questions are left behind when the credits roll.  However, I do think that is part of the point – explorers go looking for answers there is no easy and neat answer for.

The production weighs in at $130 million dollars and carries an R rating.  This seems like a miracle considering how hard studios push for a watered-down PG-13 rating.  To put it in perspective, Alien vs. Predator (PG-13) had a $60 Million budget and AVP2 had a $40 Million budget.  A studio takes a chance when it releases an R rated film with a big budget like this because the age restriction means less ticket sales.  This film is $130 Million and it is all up there on the screen to be seen and marveled at.  The technicals and visuals are stunning and the 3-D is very unobtrusive if you see Prometheus in that format, which I do recommend.  However, for its chancy R rating it still comes across more tame than it needs to be.  It could have gone much further in gore than it did.

I would give it 3.5 of 5 stars.

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