Fox this morning presented a package of scenes from Prometheus, followed by a Q&A with Ridley Scott, Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron.
Lots from the Q&A later, but for now, I want to tell you about the scenes they presented, all of which come from very early in the film and were cut together in such a way that I could quite easily be persuaded this was the first twelve or thirteen minutes of the final edit.
Whether or not that’s precisely the case wasn’t clear, but the sequence nonetheless did a good job of setting stall.
The footage was presented in 3D, but we’ll discuss the pros and cons of that later. For now, let’s talk about the content. There’s one spoiler in here, but it’s nothing you haven’t seen if you’ve been watching the trailers closely.
We open on the shot from the trailers that show Elizabeth Shaw, as played by Noomi Rapace, clearing dirt and small stones out of a crack in a cave wall someplace. She’s looking through the crack, right at us.
After we cut outside to a verdant mountainside, a title card announces that we’re in Skye, and that it’s the year 2079, maybe 2089.
The remainder of the scene features Shaw uncovering an ancient illustration on the cave wall and showing it to her fellow archaeologist and apparent romantic partner, Charlie Holloway, played by Logan Marshall Green. As well as the now well-known “star chart” element in the image, with a taller figure (representative of the Space Jockey) pointing to the heavens, one of the cave drawings shows a big, deadly looking… something, attacking a group of smaller human figures.
This thing is not humanoid, nor does it look like the standard Alien series xenomorph. It’s pale, too – not coloured in like the Jockey. For now, there’s no telling if this is just a red herring or a little bit of set-up.
A dissolve to a starfield, and a new title card introduces the spaceship Prometheus. It’s now 2083, maybe 2093, and we’re somewhere in deep space. The last line of the title card is a tease too – the spaceship’s mission is classified as “undisclosed.”
Note the name of the destination planet: it’s LV -226, possibly 223 (UPDATE: Several of you now telling me it was definitely 223). Not LV-426, as featured in Alien and Aliens.
And neither is it Zeus.
On board Prometheus, the ship’s computer (no reference to Mother, MuThUr, Father or any of the other Alienverse fan-bait computer names) is sounding an alert that they are reaching their destination. David the Android, as played by Michael Fassbender, makes his way to check in on Meredith Vickers, as played by Charlize Theron. She’s the only passenger on board to have woken from hypersleep yet.
And she’s doing her morning exercises, dripping phenomenal amounts of sweat as she does push ups. You’ve seen a close-up of her at work in the trailers. Charlize Theron appears even more statuesque than normal, if that’s possible.
Vickers asks, and with apparent dispassion, if any of the other passengers died during their two and a half year journey. When David confirms that everybody is still alive, he’s sent to wake them all, and so he does.
Freshly awoken and sitting on the side of her hypersleep bed, Elizabeth Shaw does not seem, just yet, to be made of the same tough stuff as Vickers. She’s retching and puking into a little bowl – and like everybody else, absolutely drenched in sweat.
Holloway seems to be rather more composed, drinking what appears to be milk.
Once everybody is up and dressed, they have a little breakfast. The echoes of Alien in this scene are plentiful. Shaw is wearing a grey uniform that positively screams its callback to the original designs, complete with sewn on patches. Even the table looks familiar.
Next up, a briefing. This scene takes place in a room seen in the trailers, with the crew sitting on basic little chairs. Vickers greats the crew, commenting on how she personally hired some herself. But there’s another message for everybody…
Vickers starts the play back of a holographic recording. Half of the room is taken over by the virtual representation of a well-appointed, luxurious appartment, somewhere back on Earth.
And into this room walks a holographic representation of Peter Weyland, as played by Guy Pearce. But it’s not the young Weyland we’ve seen in the TED talk, this is him many years later, near the end of his life. The message was apparently recorded shortly before the departure of the Prometheus.
Pearce’s makeup was not the most convincing I’ve ever seen, but he’s giving it his all under the rubber. Unfortunately, his costume, bald head and little dog on a leash conjured up images of Dr. Evil. It’s likely to be no more than an accidentally comic coincidence, but I did wonder for a second if Scott was trying to make Weyland look like a villain, perhaps to later confound this.
During his recorded presentation, Weyland refers to the fact that he’ll be dead by “now”, and even cracks a joke about it. At the end, when he cedes the floor to “the scientists”, Holloway makes his own quip about having to follow a ghost.
It’s misdirection: there are other shots of Weyland, at this age, corporeal and very much alive, in one of the earliest trailers.
Holloway calls up the holographic presentation we’ve seen in the trailer, showing the various cave paintings, carvings and ancient archaeological finds that show, again and again, the space jockey figure pointing to the stars. He projects it, somehow, out of a shiny, relatively featureless object that looks like a Rubiks Cube. I had difficulty understanding the functionality of this item – it seemed like it would be nearly impossible to use. Perhaps it’s supposed to be a secure way of storing data, and the complex series of actions that were needed to fire it up, through touches to a mostly unmarked interface, are some kind of security measure.
The climax of the scene has been seen in the trailers. It’s the moment where Shaw explains her interpretation of the recurring “star chart” images. These aren’t just maps, she believes – they’re invitations.
And then we were thrown to a minute or so of fast-cut, sizzle footage. Almost all of this seemed to be stuff from the trailers. One sudden image aside, there were no obvious surprises or revelations in this sequence – or, indeed, any new mysteries.
This single, sudden image is hard to explain, and it flashed by so quickly that I’m not sure how accurate my memory of it is, but I want to try and describe the thing I saw.
This thing was clearly some kind of life form, probably alien in origin, though it’s believed that mutated humans will feature in the story too. It looked a bit like a flower crossed with a sphincter and it had sharp claws or teeth or other protrusions of that kind. And it seemed to be reaching up and coming towards the screen. There was undoubtedly a touch of “Facehugger plus” about this thing.
It’s fair to say that the audience were impressed with this morning’s presentation. The appearance of a pale cave painting monster and “Dr. Evil” Weyland aside, there were no great plot revelations in what we saw, but the sequence certainly impressed as well as teased – with it’s pace, it’s mood, with great production design and Dariusz Wolski’s superb lighting.
But more about the look, style and craft of the thing when I come back with details of the Q&A later.
Stay tuned for more.