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Alien (1979)

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Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott‘s return to the series he originated back in 1979 possesses a title derived from Greek myth that hints at grand themes and weighty scientific speculation but in attempting to inject a more thoughtful, philosophical strain into the bloodstream of he Alien‘s franchise DNA, he somewhat neglects what made his own Alien so memorable: The Alien itself. That and the series evocation of existential terror that exists within the human mind; the fear of the dark, the unfathomable, the unknown.

In trying to breed life into an old product  –Prometheus is first and foremost a case of rebranding in order for 20th Century Fox to extract some more capital from a property that had run out of creative juice by the time 1997”s Alien Resurrection stumbled feebly out into the world – Scott. screenwriter Damon Lindelof and the entire creative team should be commended for attempting to fashion a big budget science fiction film that is both ambitious and imaginative with it’s echoes of Kubrick’s 2001 but for this viewer the high minded aspirations and ideas of the film did not sit easily with the more queasy, gruesome horror elements that are synonymous with these films.

At times, Prometheus feels quite schizophenic;  one moment it’s a slightly elevated version of Star Trek and then it shifts abruptly into Roger Corman style exploitation gore. Now, I’ve no problem with B movie style exploitation. It’s really at the core of this franchise. The stripped down premise of a biologically superior creature or life form hunting down human beings in a confined setting is a familiar scenario , dating back to  low-budget features of the 1950’s.

The original Alien took those B movie horror/sci fi components and embellished them with superior production values and no small amount of craft, skill and imagination from Ridley Scott and in particular HR Giger.  From that unique collaboration and mingling of design sensibilities an iconic pop culture nightmare was born.

Prometheus does retain some of the atmosphere, dread and horror of Scott’s progenitor whilst trying to forge its own distinct. inquisitive path and almost gets there. But all cynicism aside, the film does offer great visual pleasures and the film is certainly worth seeing to immerse oneself in a beautifully realized future universe. It’s aesthetic beauty is reason alone to go and see it whether you are a hardcore Alien cultist or not.

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