After this morning’s sneak peek of 12 minutes of footage from the movie with Alien DNA, that excitement hasn’t diminished any. In fact, it’s hyped up a notch or ten. The footage – largely from the film’s opening scenes, albeit with a montage at the end – was followed by a Q&A with Sir Ridley, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender, hosted by yours truly. Here’s what we gleaned from the morning’s events.
1. Prometheus is an Alien prequel. Make no bones about it – Scott has frequently said that there are direct connections in the last eight minutes of the film, but for Alien fans, Prometheus will have Easter eggs galore. For example, we learned that the planet on which much of the action takes place is designated LV-223. Just a stone’s throw, astronomically speaking, from LV-426, home of Alien and Aliens.
2. Another connection comes in the subtitles informing us about the Prometheus, as Scott did with the Nostromo. It has a crew of 17 (ten more than the Nostromo), it is very, very far from Earth (if we recall correctly, 32×1014 km from Earth, which is approximately 32 HUNDRED TRILLION kilometers from our home planet. Quite a way to go.). It is December 21, 2091. Its destination is unknown.
3. But we start in 2089, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, as Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and her scientific partner (in more ways than one, fnar fnar), Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) uncover evidence of an ancient civilization that worshipped giant beings. A cave painting shows one of the giant figures pointing to five balls hanging in the sky…
4. Which, as it turns out, represent the exact configuration of a solar system a long way from Earth (about 32 hundred trillion kilometers, as it turns out). Holloway and Shaw have been studying similar cave paintings from different civilisations, none of which could have known each other, and have discovered that they are, in fact, a map to the aforementioned solar system, which has a sun much like ours, and a moon orbiting a gas giant that is capable of sustaining life. So, with some heavy-hitting financial backing, away they go.
5. In 2089, camping equipment and clothing haven’t changed that much. Holloway and Shaw still look like they’ve just shopped at Millets.
6. On Prometheus, Holloway favors flip-flops.
7. Prometheus also feels like an Alien movie, down to the hustle bustle of activity on the Prometheus as the crew comes out of cryo-stasis. There’s even a brief moment where some people are eating dinner around a table – but there’s no fear of a chestburster here. At least, not yet.
8. Speaking of chestbursters, Scott and Rapace were asked if there was a moment on set that rivaled the chestburster scene – where Scott, famously, didn’t tell his actors the exact specifics of what was about to happen, hence their genuinely shocked expressions. They said no, but Scott confirmed that there is a scene, involving Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, that might rival it for visceral impact. Rapace added that it was hard to get the horrific images of that scene out of her head for a while after filming.
9. The film, thanks largely to Scott’s insistence on shooting much of it practically on giant sets, feels real and lived-in, although it doesn’t have the grimy, claustrophobic feel of Alien. Prometheus is a state-of-the-art flagship, unlike the Nostromo, and its bells and whistles reflect that. Prometheus, the film, feels more pristine and lush to look at than Alien. But we expect things are going to get dark and spooky very soon indeed.
10. The opening spacescape shot – a silent canvas of awe-inspiring stars across which the Prometheus moves at a fair old lick, creating a light-wake behind it – is stunning. In space, no-one can hear your jaw drop.
11. Guy Pearce was confirmed as Peter Weyland, head of the Weyland Corp and the man whose mega-millions fund the Prometheus expedition, in that TED viral that came out a couple of months ago. That, however, took place in 2023, a full sixty years before the events of this movie, and saw Pearce play Weyland in his forties, unencumbered by make-up.
Today, though, confirmed our theory that Pearce also plays Weyland in old age make-up. As Prometheus comes out of orbit, its assembled crew are treated to a holographic lecture from Pearce (accompanied by his playful dog, who rolls over at one point), who informs them that he is: a) their employer, b) dead now and c) the ‘father’ of Michael Fassbender’s David, the ship’s android. Unfortunately, David has no soul and so cannot appreciate the gifts that Weyland has bestowed upon him.
He once again invokes the Prometheus myth, in which the Titan Prometheus stole fire from the Gods to bestow to man, triggering our evolution. He was roundly punished for this, but Weyland appears to be ignoring that part and is placing great importance and significance on this mission, hoping that it will yield a giant step for mankind that can see them stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the mysterious race that ‘invited’ them.
12. However, if Pearce’s Weyland is dead, then who’s that old man who can clearly be seen on board the Prometheus in the trailers? Is Weyland secretly stowing away aboard his own ship? If so, who knows about it: his direct employee, Vickers (Charlize Theron)? Fassbender’s David? And why is he there? Could he be looking for the secret of eternal life? Might this explain why Scott chose an actor in his 40s, rather than someone in his 90s? Will we see Weyland ‘de-age’ at some point?
13. Theron’s Vickers is – at least at first – cold as liquid nitrogen, and hard as nails. While all other crew members have to be forcibly awoken from cryo-stasis, and then spend most of their time heaving their guts into a space-bucket while their bodies adjust, Fassbender’s David – who, as an android, doesn’t go into cryo-stasis, bustling about the ship on his lonesome during the two-and-a-half year journey – finds that she has roused herself from cyber-slumber. Following a trail of wet footprints, David finds Vickers in her chambers. Rather than being violently sick, she’s already doing push-ups, while dripping with the viscous fluid (which explains the shot of a stressed-looking Theron lowering herself onto something from the trailer).
She then barks orders at David – “Robe!” – and demands a status update from him. “Were there any casualties?” “No, ma’am, everyone’s fine,” replies David. “Well, then, wake ‘em up,” she orders. It’s clear that, while they’re both technically Weyland employees, Vickers wears the trousers around here.
14. David, meanwhile, is a calm and fastidious presence. He is the first character we meet on board the Prometheus, wandering its corridors while waiting for the ship to reach its destination. At one point, the ship is jolted by something, and rocks slightly (in a nice touch, futuristic pool balls slide around a table as the ship tilts to the right), but David just waits, calmly, for the situation to be rectified before carrying on with what we reckon is his daily routine.
David’s interaction with the other characters is going to be fascinating. “How far will you go for your answers?” he asks an unseen character in the climactic montage. “What are you willing to do?” Will David be an Ash-like hindrance as his human masters, whom he so desperately wants to be like, face unending horrors, or a Bishop-like help? Either way, Fassbender, and Scott said that they would like the character to be somewhat comedic. Fassbender said that Scott’s best piece of direction was that David’s prissy manner should make other characters think one thing: “Is he taking the piss?”
15. Idris Elba’s Captain Janek has a Southern lilt, and a quirky character, unveiling a Christmas tree, much to Vickers’ disgust. His crew includes Benedict Wong and Game Of Thrones’ Emun Elliott.
16. The sequence finishes with Prometheus landing on LV-223, and then cut to a montage of terrors yet to come. This sequence was largely identical to the recent trailer, but with a few new shots, including:
– A shot of the besuited scientific crew in the docking bay of Prometheus, with the planet’s rocky, windswept landscape glimpsed behind them.
– A shot of a solemn Vickers, intoning, ‘if you go down there, you’ll die.’ She may not be wrong.
– An extended shot of something – a microscopic worm – wriggling into Holloway’s eye, back on board Prometheus. Does he become infected by something?
– And the piece de resistance, a brief shot of a living organism – a tiny thing which, true to form for this franchise, has a mouth that is redolent of female genitalia – rearing up, presumably while the Prometheus crew is completing their first sweep of the planet. What does this mean? It’s not a facehugger, or an Alien, but something else entirely. Is it about to attack someone? Will it end well? I think we all know the answer to that.
17. The issue of certification was brought up once again during the Q&A. Scott, who was on fine, funny form throughout, said that his preferred certificate is “Whatever guarantees me the biggest box office possible”, and demanded that the MPAA get their act together. Sounds like this one is going to be a PG-13 in the States, but could well be a 15 over here.
18. When asked about his first foray into 3D, Scott was also hilariously blunt. In short: he found it almost ridiculously easy. The 3D, by the way, looks excellent: the space sequences have a wonderful depth of field, and we can’t wait to see what happens later in the film, when all manner of nastiness is unleashed.
19. June 1 can’t get here soon enough.