I was in an audience that just about managed pick its collective jaws off the floor in time for director Ridley Scott with his actors, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron, who all popped into the Vue Leicester Square for a Q&A.
Colour me impressed
Whereas the mechanical hardware bits in Avatar were good before you were sent down uncanny valley by Smurfs, Prometheus smacks you in the gob, and you stay hit. We saw the set-up, starting in the Isle of Skye, where scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discovers carvings in an ancient cave that reveal (non-spoiler alert) an alien civilisation has visited Earth and left an ‘invitation’. The establishing wide shots of landscape and the photography in the cave are cinematically beautiful; this is non-gratuitous depth-giving 3D as seen in Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
In space, no one can hear you scream
Shading in some scenes that have been suggested in trailers so far, we next see Charlize Theron’s character, Meredith Vickers doing push-ups on board the Prometheus space-ship. She is a real 'Meredith', a company person, sinewy and tough looking; she’s on the mission to make sure everyone tows the corporate Weyland line. It’s a nice introduction, the crew are still in hypersleep yet she is ‘up’ early to do exercises and get her arse-kicking mojo on. She looks an interesting character.
The general look and feel of both the 'habitable moon' (geeks: it's LV 223) and the ship's architecture was best in show. Imagine the sleek stylings of a Ridley Scott picture, retooled with depth and scale enhanced. It's actually hard to convey how good it looks; there are a few shots with an on-board pool table in the foreground with Michael Fassbender's David moving through the room as the ship is docking (?) that just looks really cool - conveying movement and scale. I've made it sound dull but your eyes will be in little warm jacuzzi baths of joy.
But more promising that the visuals is something Ridley (don't call him Sir Ridley) said in response to a question about how you do anything new in a science fiction film:
"Every type of spacesuit is used up, every type of spacecraft is vaguely familiar, the corridors are similar and the planets are similar. So what you try to do is lean more heavily on the story and on the characters, to make that really, to give you lift-off".
A question explained and a spoiler
Look away now if you don't want to know anything about anything. I wanted to ask about the chest-burster scene that was in the original Alien, where the actors didn't know what was going to happen to poor John Hurt.
Fassbender and Theron didn't really get what I was saying, my fault obviously. Here is the little sequence which ends with pseudo SPOILER:
Dial M for Movies: Question for the actors. Given what Ridley did to his poor actors on the original ‘Alien’. I’m thinking of a particular scene that was 'in 3D' shall we say; were you constantly living in fear everyday on set? And did you make any special preparations to join Ridley’s crew?
Michael Fassbender: What was the fear?
Dial M: The scene in the original ‘Alien’ where the actors were surprised by something bursting out of the actor’s chest. Was there an extra level of anxiety that that brought to you?
Dial M: I never knew that! So, no I was living in bliss, ignorance and bliss.
Ridley Scott: There is a scene that could be called the equivalent of that in this film. But that was private, no one witnessed that. It’s your scene [points to Noomi]. But we can’t say what it is.
Dial M: Which one was that?
Noomi Rapace: But I did! I dreamt nightmares for two weeks. I had these weird fucked up images in my head, so yes it did affect us.
So just how dark will Prometheus be?
Ridley Scott means business. He isn’t concerned what certificate the movie gets as long as it finds its audience. In no uncertain terms:
“I want certification for this film that allows me to make as large a box office as possible! No, I’ll tell you what, the studios wrestle constantly with these ridiculous adjustments to whether it’s PG13, PG15, you know, R, double R and it does, to a certain extent, affect the box office, which is arithmetic, which is not a cash register, it’s how they get their money back. And if studios don’t get their money back we don’t have any movies.”
David, Michael Fassbender’s android is something of an enigma, there will be some comedic moments with him and the actor watched Dirk Bogarde in The Servant, Laurence of Arabia and The Man Who fell to Earth to tune up his performance.
Ridley is chuffed with his cameraman Dariusz Wolski and the RED cameras they have used. He doesn’t stand on ceremony when it comes to 3D:
“So anyone who says, ‘Oh, you’ve got to add sixteen weeks’ means they don’t know what the bloody hell they’re doing! ‘There’s a lot to it’. No, it’s dead simple, straight forward. That [holds up finger] could be hanging in the foreground, and you can have a forty five minute discussion about something hanging in the foreground. Say ‘I hate it; get rid of it’ or ‘I love it; fuck off!’ It’s that simple!”
Refreshingly blunt he may have been, but SRS knows what he is doing. He's given science fiction fans (and wider audiences too) enough of a glimpse now to keep this title at the top of the anticipation list. Especially with the 1979 classic in its DNA.
"I must have thought about it for three or four years and thought in all of the [Alien] films nobody had asked a very simple question which was - who is the big guy in the chair, who was fondly after ‘Alien’ called The Space Jockey. I don’t know how the hell he got that name; there was this big boned creature who seemed to be nine feet tall sitting in this chair and I went in to Fox with four questions. Who are they? Why are they there? Why that cargo and where were they going or had they in fact had a forced landing?"