It is the year 2089 when Elizabeth Shaw,an archaeologist with a spiritual bent,chips through a wall in a cave in the bleak mountains of Scotland and finds out that the human race is not alone in the universe. Illuminated by her torchlight is a 35,000-year-old painting of people worshipping a giant,who is pointing to a small cluster of stars.
I think they want us to come and find them, she says,eyes alight. Feel free to start screaming anytime. The words were not alone can be a doorway to either salvation or terror. That is the knife edge on which the British director Ridley Scott has balanced Prometheus,his long-awaited return to the universe without mercy or comfort that he first created in the 1979 movie Alien. Prometheus,is the first science fiction directed by Scott since Blade Runner in 1982 and the first he has made in 3-D. The movie,with a screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof,follows the adventures of the archaeologist Shaw,played by Noomi Rapace,who gained fame as the girl with the dragon tattoo in the Swedish film trilogy. Aboard the hubristically named spaceship Prometheus she uses an ancient star map to guide her to an obscure moon of an obscure planet in the hope of meeting her maker. Joining her on this cosmic cruise are,among others,Charlize Theron as a chilly corporate executive,Meredith Vickers,with mysterious motives; Michael Fassbender as David,an android of equally ambiguous talents and agenda; and Logan Marshall-Green as Holloway,Shaws colleague and love interest. Guy Pearce also appears in various guises as Peter Weyland,the leader of an interplanetary conglomerate that owns the ship and much of the rest of the galaxy.
Exactly what happens out there,neither Scott nor anyone else will say. Websites have been devoted to frame-by-frame analyses of trailers,images and whatever clues Scott and cast members have let drop. On the phone from London,where the film was mostly shot,Scott described it as 2001 on steroids. He said he liked Stanley Kubricks notion of a police agency in the universe that will give a ball of dirt a kick. God doesnt hate us, Scott added ominously. But God could be disappointed in us like children.
The star map leads to the same planet that the ship in Alien will visit 30 years later,but Scott said Prometheus was not a prequel to that 1979 movie,which was a kind of haunted-house story featuring the crew of a space freighter being picked off by a monster that makes its debut by bursting out of someones belly. Moviegoers,he has said,will be able to discern the DNA of Alien in the new movie,but whether he means the gritty dystopian setting or the gooey stuff of life itselfor bothtime will tell. After five sequels and a series of comic books,Scott said he figured the franchise was finished,comparing the monster with a joke gone flat from too many tellings. Three years ago,eager to get back to science fiction,he thought there might be a way back into the Alien world,to rescue the franchise,as he put,it by picking up a loose thread from the original movie that had been neglected. In the first film the unlucky freighter crew finds a derelict spaceship,and in the pilots chair is a giant humanoid being with an exploded chest. In the very next scene a strange egg opens up and wraps itself around the face of a crew member,played by John Hurt. Once John Hurt looks into that egg,the film took off, Scott said.
But he was surprised nobody ever asked him about the space jockey, referring to the being in the pilots chair,which he called a very obvious and glaring question. Who was he? Why did he land there? Scott wondered. And why was he carrying a cargo of such wicked biotechnology? Scott acknowledged that he himself did not know the answers and thought that James Cameron,who directed the first sequel,Aliens,would address the question. Jim is more of a logician.