Prometheus – review

n 1977 Ridley Scott was one of the directors of TV commercials whom David Puttnam plucked from the small screen to make their feature debuts in the cinema. Based on a novella by Joseph Conrad, Scott’s first film was The Duellists, a costume drama about the obsessive rivalry between two cavalry officers in the Napoleonic wars. It was elegantly staged and respectfully received. It was, however, his second film, Alien, two years later that made him a director of the world stature. This seminal science-fiction movie was in effect a transposition to outer space of a Conrad novel about a run-down tramp steamer picking up a lethally dangerous passenger from a remote island. Out there among the stars, where no one can hear you scream, as the advertising tagline put it, it becomes a horrific tale of a dilapidated inter-stellar cargo vessel, the Nostromo, answering an SOS and taking on board an androgynous monster of total malevolence. The Duellists was a virtually all-male affair. But third officer Ripley, one of only two female crew members on the Nostromo, was played by the formidable Sigourney Weaver, first in the succession of strong women in Scott’s movies.

Scott played no part in the decreasingly impressive Alien franchise that continued over the next 30 years. But he did make another seminal SF movie, Blade Runner, and has apparently long been toying with the idea of a sort of prequel to Alien. This we now have in the form of Prometheus, an ingenious, well-worked-out exploration of the source and nature of the creature that caused havoc on the Nostromo, with a script by two young Americans, Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. There are many direct and indirect references to Alien in the new film (as well as to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey), which is more cerebral and mystical than Scott’s 1979 picture.

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