Stateside sci-fi fans will have to wait till June 8 to see "Prometheus," Ridley's Scott's long-awaited oblique prequel to the "Alien" franchise, but some early and international reviews are already in. The story, which involves a space mission investigating the origins of human life going predictably awry, has met with mixed reviews, but critics agree that Scott's film is visually stunning and that Michael Fassbender delivers a scene-stealing performance.
In the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy writes that "Prometheus" "won't become a genre benchmark" like classics "Alien" and "Blade Runner" "despite its equivalent seriousness and ambition, but it does supply enough visual spectacle, tense action and sticky, slithery monster attacks to hit the spot with thrill-seeking audiences worldwide." Stars Noomi Rapace (of the Swedish version of "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Charlize Theron perform admirably, and Fassbender, playing a genteel android, "excels as he's allowed to begin injecting droll comedy into his performance."
Variety's Justin Chang says the film "remains earthbound in narrative terms, forever hinting at the existence of a higher intelligence without evincing much of its own." Chang also takes exception to the "stock wise-guy types who spout tired one-liners" and the "orchestral surge of a score," which undermines the film's tension. On the other hand, "Scott and his production crew compensate to some degree with an intricate, immersive visual design that doesn't skimp on futuristic eye-candy or prosthetic splatter."
Like McCarthy, the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw also invokes "Alien" and calls "Prometheus" "something more grandiose, more elaborate — but less interesting." It's also, he suggests, less frightening. On the bright side, it does have Fassbender, who turns in a "terrifically creepy performance" and "steals the film." Ultimately, Bradshaw says, "Prometheus" is "a muddled, intricate, spectacular film, but more or less in control of all its craziness and is very watchable."
The Telegraph's Tim Robey writes that "thanks to richly-designed planetary environments with plenty of H.R. Giger's original art in their DNA, the build-up to inevitable horrors is the most smoothly compelling part of Scott's movie." The movie isn't free of cliches, but Fassbender is "amusingly creepy and constantly interesting," and Rapace "gets better as she goes along."
Total Film's Jonathan Crocker also praises Fassbender's character as "brilliantly constructed" (pun presumably intended). Scott once again proves to have an impeccable eye for sci-fi surfaces ("the movie is "flawlessly designed"), although he's more adept "with Big Spectacle than Big Ideas." All told, "Prometheus" is "exciting, tense and fully impregnated for sequels."
As a touchstone for the "Alien" mythos and a potential new film franchise all its own, it looks as though "Prometheus" could be just the beginning.
— Oliver Gettell
Photo: Noomi Rapace in "Prometheus." Credit: Kerry Brown / 20th Century Fox