Ridley Scott has finally decided to re-explore his original ground breaking “Alien” by directing a film that might be loosely described as a prequel, inhabiting a similar world to the one he created.
Following a portentous opening, with a possible donation of DNA to a world remarkably like earth, we then jump to a 2089 cave painting discovery on the Isle of Skye Scotland. This is turn links to a 2093 deep space sleeping spaceship crew, looked after by “David” (Fassbender), a fastidious Android with a “Lawrence of Arabia” obsession and prodigious basketball skills.
Two scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have been sponsored by the industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to find answers to the big questions. “Why are we here” and “where did we come from”.
To help in this quest to the planet LV-223, is a rag tag crew of potential Xenemorph snacks, together with the hard as nails mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the eminently practical ship’s Captain, Janek (Idris Elba).
Once the team are set up on the planet they start to explore, finding obvious signs of life left behind by the “Engineers”. As expected by any fan of the “Alien” series, the mission does not exactly go to plan, certainly it would be no spoiler to advise that not everyone makes it home, if indeed there is a home left to return to.
This is a film about big themes, generally integrated well within a deep space thriller horror movie construct. Whilst almost cliched now, at least this is based on the film that created the genre that this follows. Like Lord of the Rings, it is hard to criticize a film for being formulaic when it helped create the formula in the first place.
The production values are high, sets, spaceships and costumes are believable in a well used, grungy space setting. The acting is more than adequate although not always exceptional. The standout being Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of the Android “David”, channeling HAL and David Bowie into an amusing self conscious whole. Marshall Green appearing remarkably like Tom Hardy both physically and in mannerism in his earlier scenes. Rapace does not disappoint in another strong female role.
The motivations of the characters are of course mixed and the self sacrifice demanded of characters later in the film, appears to come from nowhere. But it is good to see a mainstream film attempting to pose, if not answer, the fundamental questions we all seek.
Quite why experienced world weary space crew members would still believe that a writhing snake like creature in an Alien environment is cute and should be talked to as a small child, remains unfathomable. Have they not seen any horror movies before?
Idris Elba is criminally underused, the casting of Guy Pearce is also rather odd, why bother when no-none can see who he is. Scott’s direction is workmanlike without including some of his usual flourishes, obviously enjoying skirting around the edges of the Universe he created without wishing to be too constrained by the gilded cage he created. Change too much and audiences will be turned off, repeat as before and be accused of being derivative, a no win situation.
Ultimately the film has more questions than answers, whether you can live with the open ended nature of the screenplay may temper your enjoyment but at least some depth is being attempted, rather than another “Doom” retread.
The film is not overly scary, dialing back on the corridor dread factor but does include some notable sequences. Top tip, sex in an alien environment absolutely demands that suitable protection is used. However, overall Scott is clearly not aiming to please gore-hounds with this outing. Is there room for further expansion, certainly the coda would suggest there are more gaps to be plugged and box office indicates audiences have enjoyed their time back in deep space.
An enjoyable expansion of the previous Alien universe. Perhaps not a classic but solid entertainment with enough depth to satisfy those looking for some meaning to their thrills.