By: Arlene R. Weiss
Thirty three years after the first “Alien” burst out of actor John Hurt’s character and onto the silver screen, burrowing like the intergalactic monster into our collective consciousness, Director Ridley Scott reboots his science fiction thriller with this breathtaking, emotional roller-coaster ride prequel, set among the stars’ far reaches of deep space.
Like the Greek mythology that it takes its name from, Prometheus reinvigorates Scott’s interstellar horror show admirably, taking a somewhat more cerebral approach effusing lofty aspirations about creationism and humankind’s beginnings, pondering, who made us and why? What is our purpose and the meaning to life?
Scott wisely brought Lost writer Damon Lindelof on board to co-write the film’s story (along with Jon Spaihts), and Lindelof injects his signature open ended mythology and questions, steeping the storyline with abundant red herrings which confound and mystify.
Archeologist Elizabeth Shaw, (actress Noomi Rapace who just shines) is intent on finding the answers to exactly those very questions.
Prometheus sets things up with the theory that thousands of years ago alien life forms came here and created mankind with their own identical DNA. About a century from now, Shaw leads a space expedition to a distant planet financed by millionaire corporate industrialist, Peter Weyland, (Guy Pearce who conducts himself with understated aplomb), hoping to make first contact with these alien beings or “Engineers” as Shaw refers to them.
Only this earnest mission goes rapidly and horrifyingly south, evolving into a cautionary tale of be careful what you wish for and the seeker may not like what they find, (also posed in another science fiction film parable concerning man’s origins, Planet Of The Apes) as the tables are terrifyingly turned by the inhabitants of this planet onto the stalwart crew of the Starship Prometheus, with far reaching deadly consequences.
Michael Fassbender all but steals the show as the Weyland Corporation’s dapper, blond haired, meticulous android creation. “David” is one part HAL, the creepily reserved, intellectual computer from Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose soothing lexicon oozes skullduggery, one part actor Jude Law’s peroxide haired wry, canny Gigolo Joe automaton from Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: Artificial Intelligence.
Seemingly well-meaning in his service to the crew members of the Prometheus, yet ambiguity lies within the oily air of his somewhat duplicitous agenda and intentions.
As so is Charlize Theron’s ball busting ice queen Meredith Vickers, Weyland Corporation’s CEO of sorts who oversees things on the Prometheus with silken chicanery that she holds close to her vest.
The always incomparable Idris Elba as Captain Janek affects perhaps the film’s most bravura and inspiring moment, elevated by Marc Streitenfeld’s soaring centerpiece score.
Noomi Rapace, in her first starring role in an American film since first captivating the world with her fiery portrayal of heroine Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish language version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo film trilogy, is just remarkable and a force to be reckoned with.
Her fierce, unstoppable courage and indomitable spirit resonates throughout the deadly extraterrestrial rampage, and her quick thinking, brave resourcefulness when confronted with the ultimate alien close encounter evokes equal parts shocking revulsion and inspiring awe.
Ridley Scott’s atmospheric aura of isolation and impending doom on a faraway planet wouldn’t be complete without a matchless score. Esteemed film composer Marc Streitenfeld, who has enjoyed a particularly creative, ongoing professional collaborative relationship with the Director, composed the 23 of the film’s 25 tracks for the imposing score. Two additional score tracks for the motion picture were composed by the equally venerable British film composer, Harry Gregson-Williams.
The two composers’ scores create a tandem of duel creative sonic vocabularies, each with their own unique and compelling voice serving and elevating Scott’s astounding vision.
The German born Streitenfeld interned for Hans Zimmer after moving to Los Angeles at only 19 years old. Soon after, Ridley Scott noticed his considerable talents; Streitenfeld was working as a music supervisor and music editor for Scott. Not coincidentally, Gregson-Williams composed the score for Scott’s 2005 film, Kingdom Of Heaven which Streitenfeld served on as music supervisor.
Scott was so impressed with Streitenfeld that he invited the young composer to score his 2006 film, A Good Year. Scott enjoyed the creative process with Streitenfeld so much that Streitenfeld has now scored every subsequent film directed by Scott, totaling five so far. Streitenfeld also recently scored Director Joe Carnahan’s The Grey which stars Liam Neesom, another harrowing adventure, much like Prometheus, only set among the vast isolation of the arctic.
Streitenfeld told Static Mass Emporium Magazine that he recorded the score for Prometheus with a 90 piece orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios, and wanting to “try out some different sounds and techniques. I tried to do a few unusual approaches with this. I recorded some of the score backwards – but not in the sense that I just reversed the recording. I actually wrote out the sheet music backwards so the orchestra played it backwards and then I digitally flipped it. So you’re hearing the score as it’s written, the same melody, but with a backwards sounding orchestra which gives it a kind of unusual, unsettling sound.”
Streitenfeld’s epic, urgent, classically influenced score, along with its adaptation of the legendary Jerry Goldsmith’s classic theme from 1979’s original Alien on the track “Friend From The Past,” is bold and intriguing but lacks a signature thematic element.
For that, Harry Gregson-Williams’ admirably rises to the occasion, making deft use of vibrant, sweeping and majestic brass fanfares and emotionally expressive strings, on the inspiring track, “Life,” the most memorable piece and one true standout theme in the film’s score.
Like Shaw’s wistful leap of faith in her quest for answers among the stars, at the behest of what she believes to be an invitation from our alien ancestors, Gregson-Williams’ uplifting introduction invites us to a brave new world with ornate, baroque horns and choir heralding us, to at last meet our benevolent makers.
The stately grandeur of his orchestration is rife with possibilities. Soaring, transcendent and just beautiful, this regal prelude assures us that our quest for knowledge and the truth can only render infinite hope and possibilities.
Or does it? Streitenfeld then invades and takes over, much as the aliens do with cacophonous sonic cues and motifs that rattle our bones and disturb our senses, battering our emotions with pure adrenaline and fearful malevolence.
Streitenfeld crafts multi-dimensional soundscapes that invade with a Grand Guignol aural collage of unnerving textures and nuances that relentlessly drive the suspense, taut action, and emotional dysphonia of looming foreboding and danger. Streitenfeld announces that maybe what we received from our ancestral makers was certainly not an invitation, by way of his implementation of striking, sharp, and forceful strings, loud and bold orchestral swells, and great, grand symphonic flourishes.
His dissonant time signatures and harsh accents penetrate and bore straight into the deepest synapses of our cerebellum with as much relentless nihilism as the tentacled alien creatures.
The amazing Dariusz Wolski’s breathtaking cinematography captures the ethereal, otherworldly beauty of earth’s own Iceland and Scotland that open the film. His camera then haunts us with the bleak, damp, dark claustrophobic landscapes of a faraway planet, something Wolski has done so well before in his spellbinding visionary work for both of Director Alex Proyas’s enigmatic dystopian films, 1994’s The Crow and 1998’s Dark City and evoking Ridley Scott’s own dark, dystopian vision, that of 1982’s Blade Runner.
Bravo to Director Scott for crafting once again, just as he did with actress Sigourney Weaver’s character of Ripley in Alien, yet another strong, intelligent, courageous female role model and heroine in the character of Elizabeth Shaw, who is shored up with a backbone of indomitable moral fiber and character, unbreakable will, compassion, and resilience deep within her emotional core. Shaw continues to stay the course no matter what, to save humankind and earth.
Prometheus is imbued with dazzling eye popping visual and special effects that literally leap off of the screen at you (with or without the IMAX or 3D effects), with captivating beauty that is just mesmerizing.
Its chock full of inspiring awe, repulsion, and ultimately, triumphant character development portrayals, notably by both the sparkling Fassbender and Rapace who acquit themselves just superbly.
Prometheus is a thrilling, riveting, spectacular escapade of wonder that like the character of Shaw in her quest makes us yearn to know and see, so much more, no matter what we may find in the great beyond.
© Copyright June 12, 2012 By Arlene R. Weiss-All Rights Reserved