SPOILER WARNING. Ridley Scott made two science fiction films that changed the look of movie SF forever: Alien in 1979, and Blade Runner in 1982. I suspect the problem here is that his new film, which is set in the same universe, is going to be compared to Alien, which is a horror masterpiece. This is just a good film. It explores large themes, such as did we evolve on Earth or were we planted here by ancient astronauts? The answer seems to be the latter, but many questions about that are left unresolved. So blatantly unresolved, in fact, that at the end, when Elizabeth Shaw takes off in the alien ship, they might as well have flashed SEQUEL TO COME, IF THIS MAKES ANY MONEY on the screen. Since it’s doing well, I think we can count on one.
The thing looks great. It’s dark but not indecipherable. The design borrows from the original, and adds a lot of new stuff. But there’s really not a lot here that’s new. It’s a fun rollercoaster ride without overdoing it, but it doesn’t achieve everything it aspires to. Once again we have a woman as the protagonist, and though I am madly in love with Noomi Rapace, she can’t really measure up to Sigourney Weaver as Ripley in the original. Not her fault, really. She isn’t given enough to do, in my opinion, except get knocked around a lot, and suffer. Oh, my, does she suffer. Remember the scene of the baby alien bursting from John Hurt’s belly in Alien? (Well, if you saw the movie it’s unlikely you’ve forgotten it.) There’s something equally as gruesome here, and it involves Noomi undergoing a Caesarian without anesthetic. And then she has to carry on fighting with a stomach full of surgical staples.
There is a good illustration of how far SFX have come since 1979. When the robot (Ian Holm) has his head ripped off in the first one, it’s easy to see that he’s actually under the floor, with a lot of gory makeup attached to his neck. In this one, when the robot (Michael Fassbender, who is actually the most interesting character) gets his head ripped off, it’s lying on its side, impossible to connect to his real body. The magic of CGI facial replacement.
There are two scenes that qualify as too dumb. The first involves a crew member playing with an alien snake just before it smashes his fool head in. Fine with me, he was clearly too stupid to live, but his buddy has to pay the price, too. The second is when Noomi and Charlize Theron are both running from a gigantic falling alien spaceship, shaped like a wheel. The wheel is rolling. In a straight line. So what do they both do? Why, they keep running in that straight line, until at the last moment Noomi tries rolling to the side. But not Charlize. She just keeps running. This offended me, because neither of them were written as being that stupid. This is a case of a lazy director lengthening the tension when the solution to the peril in question is obvious—run to the side, you stupid twits!—and shame on you, Ridley.