As people looked to the skies Tuesday hoping to catch a glimpse of Venus passing between the Earth and the sun, a comparable number of space fans were glued to their computer, looking for the latest scoop on Ridley Scott’s Prometheus.
Prometheus, out in theatres Friday, is the first sci-fi film from Scott in more than three decades. His last was the ground-breaking Blade Runner, in 1982.
Not that Scott hasn’t been busy. He’s scarcely taken a breath since starting out with The Duellists, in 1977, with directing highlights that include Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster and Thelma & Louise, not to mention a legion of executive producer credits in film (The Grey) and TV (The Good Wife). He has more than a dozen projects listed as “in production” or “completed” through 2014, according to IMDB.com.
But despite the varied resume, Scott will always be best known for one thing: the face-sucking, chest-bursting, egg-laying horror of 1979’s Alien. The film launched the career of Sigourney Weaver, as the unlikely heroine; it gave us a great tagline (“In space, no one can hear you scream”); and it provided inspiration for one of the best Halloween costumes ever: how often did you go to a costume party and not see a guy with an mini alien bursting out of his chest?
Thus the internet frenzy about whether or not Prometheus is, in fact, a prequel to Alien.
The film’s content has been closely guarded since the film was announced, and when questioned whether or not Prometheus is a prequel, actors and director have offered tortuous responses. But writer Damon Lindelof—accustomed to working on projects shrouded in secrecy (he worked for six years on the cult TV classic Lost)—has been candid in interviews that the original script featured much stronger Alien ties, and that they were toned down in favour of a more character-rich plot.
Leading the girl-power charge this time around is Noomi Rapace as Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, who discovers a clue to the origins of mankind on earth, and leads a team to investigate. Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) shares her passion but not her spiritual motivation, setting up the classic religion-versus-science conflict, which is at the heart of any sci-fi story. Charlize Theron plays a company overseer on the journey, Idris Elba plays the captain, and David 8 (Michael Fassbender) is a droid whose skill set is crucial to the trillion-dollar mission.
The 3-D space epic was shot at Pinewood Studios in London, with key exteriors shot in Iceland. Green screen (essential to CG work) is kept to a minimum in favour of the mammoth, detailed sets constructed at Pinewood. Filmmakers hope the approach will result in a richer 3-D experience for viewers. “After you’ve seen Prometheus,” Scott says in press notes for the film, “you will have experienced something completely unexpected.”
So back to the prequel question, or, as David 8 says, “How far would you go, to get your answers?” Yes, the film is set in a time that would’ve preceded Alien’s Nostromo crew and in the same world as they inhabited, according to Lindelof. And there is an alien-on-your-face moment, a nod to the iconic space-horror tale. But it’s not a linear story, and Prometheus is a stand-alone movie, so you don’t have to rustle up an old copy of Alien to connect the dots. Nothing horrific about that.
Prometheus opens Friday at the Ridge and Scotiabank.