The first Alien movie was released 33 years ago, in the faraway year of 1979, and it became a landmark in cinema. It was science-fiction, and it was a thriller, and it was horror, and it had political and social insight. And, above all, it showed the world, beyond any doubt, a young guy’s talent for movie narrative. Since then, there were three sequels and two crossovers with the Predator universe, and for each new movie, fans would wish that it were possible to have something on the level of the first two installments of the series (the second, Aliens, having been directed by James Cameron). So, when news came that a new Alien movie would be directed by no less than Ridley Scott, the very own director of the first movie, film lovers were thrilled. Then, the sequel became a prequel. Then, it became something else, slightly related to the Alien universe. It was hard to know what to expect. When the trailers came out, hopes went sky-high. And finally, the movie hit theatres. And?
First of all, I must tell you that this was the first movie I watched in IMAX. And in the world’s biggest, in Darling Harbour, Sydney. As the opening scene unfolds, the camera flies over landscapes. It was beautiful, vivid. A real use of 3D, that sent me right into that world. And that was maintained throughout the movie, the care with cinematography, set decoration, lighting, among other technical aspects, helping to create immersion, rather than just sitting and beholding. There are parts which are dark, and the viewer doesn’t see that much, but it’s a trick well used, as opposed to what happened, for example, with Alien versus Predator 2, in which one could barely see anything, including things we should be able to see. In Prometheus, dark and shadows are tools to tell a story. There is also a bit of moving camera, and in the context that it is used, it also helps create atmosphere. One conclusion jumps up after watching Ridley Scott’s new movie: he still knows how to film.
One other thing to mention is the cast. There are two poles here. One is the strong, passionate and determined character impersonated by Noomi Rapace. From a love scene to one of the most brutal survival moves in recent cinema, she delivers. You can see it in her face, you can see it in her body, she’s all in. No comparisons here to be made between her and Sigourney Weaver’s best female character in the history of cinema (as elected by me in this link), but Rapace’s performance is worthy of being in the succession line. Then there’s Michael Fassbender, and it’s the opposite with him. It’s about what you don’t see in his face. He’s a robot, he has no emotion. His poker face shows that. But why, then, does one get such a strange feeling everytime he’s on screen? What is going on in his little chips and memory cards or whatever? We don’t know, but it’s creepy. And determined, and intelligent. And it’s all conveyed in Fassbender’s irreprehensible acting. And I must not forget that Charlize Theron offers yet another consistent piece of acting. Not brilliant, but solid.
The story is intricate. More than that, it’s profound. We are talking about religion, ethics, morals, judging and being judged. It’s hard to say more without giving out plot points. But I can say that what the movie proposes is not only a tie to a great monster movie of the past. This time, Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof have created a full universe, with deep implications. There has been criticism to the lack of answers to some of the questions raised in the story, but if you look at it from this perspective of characters discovering a new universe, the lack of answers is, in itself, a plot point. They may live all their lives without fully understanding everything that they now have in front of them. And that’s how we connect with them. They don’t know the answers, neither do we.
If you ask me, hard and cold, if Prometheus is as good as Alien and Aliens, I’ll probably say no (“probably” because I have had many opportunities to behold the greatness of the previous movies, while Prometheus only had one chance so far). But it’s definitely on their league. Take a moment; think about it. Two of the greatest movies in cinema. One that compares. Are you still sitting there, or are you on your way to the movie theatre?