In space no one can hear you pretending to be Steps
Nearly three years ago, when this blog was still crawling around the floor shitting in its nappy and vomiting on the carpet, I wrote a thing about Ridley Scott's announcement to make a prequel to Alien. Have a read if you like, but basically it's an embarrassing cowpat of idiocy in which I claimed the film "would require the complete absence of humans to remain plausible" (because if there's one thing sci-fi should be, it's plausible).
I'm not sure, but I think my point was that the relationship between the aliens and the "space jockey", which Prometheus would hopefully involve, was surely one which had absolutely nowt to do with homo sapiens. It would just be too unlikely and coincidental that we got ourselves into all that business as well as having John Hurt stumble upon them however many years down the line. Well, it's a good job I'm not a sci-fi writer, because I clearly wasn't thinking big enough. Not even nearly big enough. Because Scott, along with writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, has traced the roots of his tiny haunted-house-in-space horror back to just about the biggest ideas science fiction could muster, and human beings are absolutely central to it. For that, all three of them are to be saluted.
Like much of Lindelof's CV, though, the execution of these ideas leaves a little to be desired. Ridley Scott has shot Prometheus beautifully, with some achingly gorgeous compositions for fans of alien landscapes, HR Giger's iconic designs and Charlize Theron's face, but it occasionally feels like a distraction for some of the nonsense within. There are at least a couple of characters and plot threads too many, some excruciating dialogue from Kate Dickie's Basil Exposition and, considering it proposes to answer some big questions about life, the universe and everything, it still doesn't answer some of the most burning questions posed by Alien - or, indeed, by itself. Whether or not any sequels are planned, internet forums are going to go into overdrive attempting to fill in some of the gaps.
It's to Scott's credit that Prometheus is consistently entertaining, because there's actually very little in the way of the kind of threat, conflict or focus that drove its predecessors. A great deal of what holds the attention is waiting to see how it will tie in to Alien, but it also has to stand alone as a self-contained adventure. By and large it does, but whether or not it stands up to repeated viewings once you know how it ends remains to be seen.
For now, it's one of the most ambitious science fiction films of recent years, and while serious flaws might show up after a lengthy post-screening discussion, it's still the best Alien film we've seen since 1986. And as a bonus it features the most hilarious running-away-from-an-object-that-can-only-travel-in-a-straight-line-while-in-the-middle-of-a-wide-open-space scene for a long, long time.