Film Review: Searching for origins
'Prometheus' is intelligent, but not as great as its creators promised, writes Tymon Smith
Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
In 1979 Ridley Scott changed the face of the sci-fi horror film genre with his second film, Alien, which promised audiences that "in space no one can hear you scream".
It made a star out of Sigourney Weaver, introduced the world to the biomechanical surrealism of Swiss artist HR Giger and began a four film franchise of fair to foul quality.
Now, in Prometheus - a film that Scott claims is not a prequel, but everyone else seems to think is - the 74-year-old director returns to the world of his original creation.
Much hyped, confused, sometimes visually spectacular and generally pretentious, Prometheus is more intelligent and better crafted than most of the latest blockbusters, but ultimately not nearly as great as its creators promised.
In 2089 a group of scientists discover a cave painting depicting visitors from another planet on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.
Four years later, the scientists and a group of engineers and corporate backers from Weyland Industries are in the good ship Prometheus, headed in search of the visitors and the answer to the origins of mankind.
Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) are convinced all their questions will be answered when they land on a planet far away.
Cigar-chewing captain Janek (Elba), android David (Fassbender) and big boss Meredith Vickers (Theron), aren't so convinced and have their own agendas, which may throw a spanner in the works.
This is the simple version of the setup for what quickly becomes a far too complicated, overly ambitious, too removed from its source material and not nearly that horrifying sci-fi film.
It doesn't so much take the genre forward as it replicates many of its weaknesses. There are loose threads and blatant rip-offs.
That said, there are a number of impressive uses of 3D technology that are a credit to Scott's visual artistry.
It's good to see Giger's set design back in play and it is easily Scott's most engaging and well-handled film in a while.
There's also a set piece involving Rapace and a medical pod that will set hearts racing - and the chilling detachment of Fassbender's robot provides an unsettling presence.
Damon Lindelof, one of the young writers responsible for Prometheus, writes for the television series Lost and wrote Cowboys and Aliens, so it's perhaps not surprising that the film doesn't end when it should.
Contrary to the hype, the search for our beginning will probably not be the end of many underwhelming additions to an already over-harvested franchise.
All you really need are Scott's original and James Cameron's Aliens (1986). The rest are just noise.
Based on this return to old material you'd also have to hope that Scott's planned Blade Runner sequel doesn't materialise - some films are too good for company.