Not Ripley, believe it or not

Overbearing hype? Protracted fanfare? Viral marketing campaign? Self-defeating build-up? Adverts for adverts? What a waste of money. They had me at “Prometheus.” Prometheus! It’s only Ridley Scott’s bloody prequel to Alien! 20th Century Fox (a News Corporation company) could have saved millions of dollars and just chucked it out without even bothering to design a poster. Surely cinema traffic would have been identical.

I was almost literally first in the queue for the first showing at 12.40 yesterday. The 3D glasses seemed new, which is a bonus, as they’re so often smeared with popcorn grease which cannot be removed, even with the wiping skills of Lady Macbeth. I hate 3D. Have I mentioned this? Because Prometheus is an “event picture”, and I was genuinely excited about seeing it, I convinced myself that seeing it in 3D would add to the “event.”

It sort of did, at the very beginning. But as soon as we were looking at people talking to other people, which happens a lot in films, even blockbusters, the 3D became an irritant. I don’t wear glasses, so even having them on feels awkward. And the only 3D films I’ve seen that work are computer animations. Live action in 3D is pointless. My guess is that the amazing visuals in Prometheus – the planet scenes, the CGI alien spaceship, the Alien-echoing egg-type chambers etc. – would be amazing in 2D. I look forward to finding out on DVD.

If Prometheus had been as magnificent as I was willing it to be, I would have gone back to see it next week, in 2D somewhere. But I’m afraid it was a disappointment. I’d say three stars, which is not a disaster, but three stars is not enough for a film subject to that much hype and expectation. I won’t go into too much detail, as the less you know the better it will be (I turned over when the much-fanfared second, longer trailer was “premiered” in the middle of Homeland, for fear of finding out too much), but Michael Fassbender steals the show as android David. Imperious, subtle, clever, fluid, he’s by far the best character. The rest of the crew, cryogenically awoken at the beginning, Alien style, a bit crumpled and Anglo-American, Alien style, were really nicely cast – Rafe Spall, Benedict Wong, Sean Harris, Idris Elba (playing an American just about) – but as with any supporting character in this type of story, they are mere pawns in a game of “Who gets killed next?”

There are moments, and entire sequences, in Prometheus, that feel like they are in the prequel to Alien, which should be a lovely big gift to fans of the franchise. (One with Noomi Rapace that I will not even hint at, is a tour de force on every single level.) But, like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, which was Alien inspired, it starts much better than it ends. That’s why I can’t go into any more detail.

It’s a good sci-fi horror thriller. It rewards a working knowledge of Alien. It sticks to what Alien does best. And, of course, Ridley Scott can direct. He invented many of the moves in Alien, which have been copied and copied and copied ever since, so when he has another bash at them, he is Prometheus! It’s also possible that the bloody 3D spoiled my experience, but I’m confident enough in my critical juices to know that the promise at the outset is not paid off in the death. I wanted more. Not more action, not more gore, not more panoramic spectacle, but more … words. More story. More depth.

I’d be really interested to know what others think, so let me know. (I only switched over by accident but they seemed to be in the process of giving it a right kicking on Newsnight Review last night – I think Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian came closest, from the reviews I’ve read.)

On a lighter note, the man after me in the queue at the cinema asked to buy a ticket for Promiscuous. I wonder if that was in 3D?

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4 thoughts on “Not Ripley, believe it or not

  1. Saw it today after much anticipation. In 2D. I quite enjoyed it but it was basically Alien cut and pasted. Fassbender was great and the lead female was not. Made me want to watch Alien again. Think they might have employed a writer for that,

    • I saw last night in 3D which I didn’t think added a great deal and I like 3D. Thoroughly enjoyed but was essentially Alien revisited. Agree that Michael Fassbender ran away with the film and I thought it was a great performance. Unlike Sharon, I thought Noomi Rapace was also very good as the proto Ripley. Idris Elba was wasted as an American, his normal English accent would have been much better as the captain. I’d be happy to see it again but think it would be even better at the IMAX.

  2. I’ve not seen any of the Alien films so came to this with fresh eyes. Casting seemed spot on for all characters, acting great, particularly Theron and Fassbender, scenery/setting impressive, 3D sequences equally impressive but….
    I just felt it was plot was too obvious. This was not my first choice(went with son) but am sure others will enjoy.

  3. Psyched up to see this at the IMAX in Manchester this evening and you could cut and paste your first paragraph here. I loved Alien and was eager for more of the same or even a change. Then I sat down to watch with those goggles on on the massive screen…
    Beautiful shots of a landscape, some great visuals… Then the headache started. 3D still doesn’t work and causes fringing, shadowing and an overall dimming of the print. I was willing to accept this. Then the headache got worse. I closed my eyes, took the glasses off for a minute. It passed. Started watching again. Something about Engineers. HEadache came back. This was accompanied by nausea thanks to wobbly helmet cam. Went to the loo, came back. Guy Pearce in a lot of make up, body horror. Began to retch. Had to sprint for the door.
    The only time I have ever walked out of a film in my life. I am never watching a film in 3D ever again. I disliked it before, I hate it now. Waste of time and money.
    Couldn’t tell you what the film was like though. Any good?

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