I wrote recently about my travails in trying to pre-book a 2D screening of Prometheus. Come the release, there have been more 2D screenings made available than were listed for pre-booking.
So I ended up heading over to the Hackney Picturehouse – a journey made considerably more complicated by Greater Anglia using the Jubilee Weekend to shut down most of the stations between Seven Sisters and Liverpool Street. So a slow bus later, I arrived at the very excellent Picturehouse. It really has an excellent screen and a superb rake. It’s also very reasonably priced.
The building has been turned over to the Radio 1 Hackney Academy, but I made it into the screening with at least five minutes to spare.
A note of caution: while I’m not going to deliberately fill this piece with spoilers, you may wish to see the film first before going much further.
I’ve not watched Alien for a while – something I’ll put right shortly, since the Alien “quadrilogy” (why make up a word when the perfectly good “tetralogy” already exists?) has been released at a fairly decent budget price on BluRay – but from the opening minimal credits, you immediately recall Alien.
An opening sequence takes place on the Isle of Skye with some geologists finding some ancient hieroglyphs in a cave somewhere amid The Cuillin. We flash forward a few years, and a spaceship is approaching a planet with its crew coming out of a deep sleep.
Michael Fassbender plays David the android who seems to be in charge. But that role might also fall on Charlize Theron’s Vickers who seems to be running the whole thing, while Idris Elba’s Janek is merely the Prometheus’ captain.
And beyond all of them is the holographic image of Guy Pearce’s “old man” Weyland. I must admit that I’m not at all sure why they’ve used Pearce for this since the makeup he’s wearing is about as convincing as that used by Matt Lucas and David Walliams on Little Britain. Which is to say, completely unconvincing. Surely an elderly actor would have made more sense?
It must be said, that Pearce’s make-up aside, everything else looks stunning as you’d always expect from a Ridley Scott film. And there’s little to no doubt that this is set in the “Alien” universe. It’s perhaps sometimes easy to forget that Alien was pretty instrumental in making spaceships so industrial. The Prometheus does have its clean areas. Vickers lives on some kind of lifeboat that is certainly a class apart from the rest of the ship. But light is still clearly a premium in the late 21st century, and there are few 100W bulbs to be found.
The film does move along at a fair pace, which is all to the good. And although at times the story is clunky, with the themes of faith and mankind’s origins being far too overtly handled, it never fails to hold your interest. We’re never in any doubt about where we are and what’s happening. In that respect it’s an efficiently told story, with a running time of just over two hours that feels right (After seeing the film, I listened to the Kermode and Mayo podcast which included an interview with Ridley Scott. It’s worth noting that he’s not saying that there won’t be a longer cut at some point in the future).
It’s certainly not as horrific as Alien was. There are scary moments, but this is not a horror film. It may be a 15 certificate, but as much as anything, that’s down to a couple of moments.
Aside from the stunning vistas – for which Iceland was used to a great extent – the main thing the film has going for it are the lead performances. Michael Fassbender is icy cool as the android. Duplicitous – with elements of HAL about him – he’s certain in his behaviours. Meanwhile Noomi Rapace is excellent as Dr Elizabeth Shaw, who’s theories have led the ship to explore this distant planet. There is no doubt that she’s a new Sigourney Weaver.
I’d like to have seen a bit more of both Charlize Theron’s character who’s similarly duplicitous and about whom you feel there was more story to be told. And perhaps the most rounded character was that of Idris Elba. He’s always so watchable, you want to see more of him. Yes – I am a fan of Luther, however absurd it is. Let’s just hope that series three somehow manages to get the wonderful Ruth Wilson back.
Others provide decent support, although given the lack of dialogue the characters had, I’m not sure it was good enough to provide enough characterisation. But there was nothing wrong the casting itself.
There are some plot holes in the piece. When certain people go missing, it seems strange that the computer systems would record their otherwise unheard final radio messages. And when a certain character is “revealed” it seems like the whole crew with the exception of two people already knew they were there. So why was it a secret in the first place.
In some ways the film’s location is a little constrained – it’s constant journeying between the ship and the planet cave system, then back again.
But these are small flaws. No, the film is not up there with either Alien or Blade Runner, but it’s a decent, thoughtful, beautifully made science fiction film. And for that, it’s worth seeing.
And having seen it in 2D, I’m not at all persuaded that I should see it again in 3D. I’m just not at all sure what it’d add to it.
Note that the cinema photographed above is the Screen on the Green in Islington, which is part of the Everyman group. As noted above, I saw Prometheus at the Hackney Picturehouse, but I’m sure it’d be every bit as excellent at the Screen on the Green!