Prometheus Preview Screening // When Jay met Ridley...
I’m very excited. On the 1st of June a film will be released which sees the reuniting of one of cinema’s most enduring franchises with the director that started it all. The movie world is abuzz with anticipation. Expectation is very high, and the details of the film are a closely guarded secret. You can keep your Marvel toy advert and Christopher Nolan’s final Batman grunt-off. Prometheus, for those in the know, is the most eagerly awaited film of the year.
Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien burst onto an unsuspecting public in 1978 and defined a genre. So much more than just a sci-fi/horror movie, it gave cinema its first real kick-ass heroine in Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, introduced us to the most terrifying baddie ever (go on, name a more terrifying one. The shark in Jaws? Did it have acid for blood? No, it didn’t. Freddie Kruger? Do me a favour) and gave birth to three hugely successful sequels and the Alien vs. Predator series. Scott went on to direct, among other things, Bladerunner, Gladiator, Thelma and Louise and Black Hawk Down – bona fide classics one and all – but resisted the temptation to helm another Alien film.
Until now, that is.
Picture, then, my gleaming little face when I was told that I was to attend an exclusive, industry-only, preview screening of footage from the film followed by - get this – a live question and answer session with the film’s director and its three main cast members. I would be in the same room as Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and, ahem, Charlize Theron. No, I’m not sure how I managed it either, but suffice to say my inner film-geek nearly soiled itself. As did my outer one.
And so it was that the great and the good of film journalism - and me - assembled in the Leicester Square Odeon on a dreary Tuesday morning in April. We were systematically stripped of anything which could possibly record film or sound by some very severe looking gentlemen and ushered into Screen 1. We took our seats. Some folks chatted to old acquaintances, others waved excitedly to colleagues across the auditorium. I sat quietly and tried to look as if I was supposed to be there. The lights went down…
What happened next was pretty extraordinary. We saw a teasing 7ish minute montage of some of the richest, most absorbing sci-fi I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen 2001 – A Space Odyssey. It left me with honest-to-God butterflies in my stomach, grinning like a teenager at a strip club, and feeling like a very lucky boy indeed. I won’t even try and describe it, but suffice to say that it looks as ground-breaking as the original, and that’s going some.
After the lights went up the panel took to the stage one-by-one to well-deserved applause. Scott was all avuncular charm, but gave the overwhelming impression that he was not a man to be fucked with. Noomi Rapace bristled with nervous energy, Fassbender was achingly cool, and Charlize Theron… well… she was Charlize Theron. They stayed for about 40 minutes, graciously fielding some pretty banal questions, giving detailed answers to some not-so-banal questions, joshing about with each other and very nearly giving away things they shouldn’t’ve. It was all good fun, and very informative. This is what I learned:
The film is, in fact, a prequel to Alien and it is not until “about the last 7 minutes” that we learn the full extent of the overlap between the stories. The sequels were “all jolly good – in some form or other” quoth Sir Ridley - with barely concealed facetiousness – but none, he said, addressed the most interesting question about the first film, i.e. “who was the big guy in the chair?” He is referring to the giant pilot of the downed alien craft briefly seen in Alien for whom - it must be said - things didn’t end well.
This instalment sees the crew of the Prometheus inadvertently finding out exactly that as they embark on a cross-galactic archeological mission. Rapace’s wide-eyed scientist is a conflicted character, raised “close to God” but on a journey that will brutally question her beliefs, both rational and spiritual, and see her become “a fighter, a warrior.” Theron’s enigmatic and detached “suit” – think Paul Reiser’s character in Aliens – is there to see that everything “goes to plan.” However, as Charlize herself said, “She’s actually there for a very personal reason, about which I cannot speak.” Dammit.
The most intriguing crew member, though, is Fassbender’s android David. Like Ash and Bishop before him he is part Pinocchio, part Superman and, ironically perhaps, provides the soul and humour of the film. He is so puzzling, in fact, that even Fassbender himself “doesn’t really know what’s going on with him.” Don’t be surprised if he steals the show.
And then they were gone. We got our phones back and filed out of the side door. I wandered around London for a while in something of a daze, trying desperately to keep what I had just seen and heard in my head while wondering how a proper film journo would write “Oh my God, It’s going to be fucking brilliant.” I still haven’t worked that one out. What I have worked out, however, is exactly where I’m going to be come June 1st.