Everyone can agree that Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is a science fiction classic, which combined a visionary future with genuine thrills. “Aliens” was one of the rare sequels that was just as good as the first. The film was so well received that it even made leading lady Sigourney Weaver an Oscar nominee. The series took a wrong step in “Alien 3” though, despite being directed by the then unknown David Fincher. Once “Alien: Resurrection” came along, it became clear that this franchise had gone completely off the tracks. It was game over, man, game over. Those two “Alien vs. Predator” movies didn’t help either.
More than 30 years after the first “Alien,” Scott steps back into the director’s chair to give the franchise he started an overdue makeover. Rather than continuing the saga of Ellen Ripley, Scott goes back to the beginning to tell an alien origin story. Scott’s prequel isn’t as scary, exciting, or fun as the first two “Alien” movies. It is, however, a well-acted, solid summer blockbuster with intelligent themes regarding faith and creation.
Our heroine this time around is Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who discovers an intergalactic map leading to a distant moon that may hold the secrets to man’s creation. Shaw and her boyfriend, played by Logan Marshall-Green, receive funding from the Weyland Corporation to travel to the moon and search for answers. When they arrive on the moon, Shaw and her team come across alien creatures that are more hostile than friendly. No big surprise there.
The strongest attribute of “Prometheus” is its characters and their interactions with one another. Elizabeth Shaw may not be as good as Ellen Ripley. Yet, she’s still a very engaging lead mainly thanks to Noomi Rapace, who breathed life into Lisbeth Salander in the original “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” It’s easy to root for Shaw, who is driven by her faith in God to answer timeless questions regarding how man came to be and whether we are alone in the universe. Idris Elba is also a lot of fun as the ship’s captain who gets some of the more humorous lines in the film. Then there’s Charlize Theron as a Weyland employee who’s every bit as heartless as the evil queen she recently played in “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
The MVP by far is Michael Fassbender as an android named David who may be harboring more human emotions than he lets on. With a child-like outlook and haunting tone of voice, Fassbender fashions one of the most interesting robot characters since Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” The only downside to the character is his embarrassing comb over haircut, making him look an awful lot like Donald Trump.
Scott directs the film with impressive effects and elegant set pieces. What “Prometheus” lacks is the terror that fuelled the earlier “Alien” pictures. While there are many stimulating moments, the film never leaves your heart pounding in suspense. Plus, if you’ve seen any of the other “Alien” movies, it’s going to be pretty obvious who survives the ordeal and who dies the most grotesque of deaths.
“Prometheus” isn’t the exceptional “Alien” revamp some fans might have been hoping for. The film is certainly entertaining though with more inspired ideas and characters than something like “Battleship.” If future “Alien” movies can maintain this level of quality, this franchise just might be on the fast track to a new life. Now if only somebody could redeem the “Terminator” series after its last two sequels.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.