This Season: Nicholas Barber selects "Prometheus", Ridley Scott's bid to save the "Alien" franchise from its sequels...
From INTELLIGENT LIFE magazine, May/June 2012
Ridley Scott isn’t known for his intimate chamber pieces. A director who lives for far-flung locations and screen-stretching vistas, he parachutes his characters into deserts (“Thelma and Louise”) and forests (“Gladiator”) and war-ravaged cities (“Black Hawk Down”)—anywhere that will push them to their physical and psychological limits, while giving us a spectacular panorama to gawp at. Paradoxically, though, his most enduring film is defined by its cramped rooms and narrow corridors: the reason “Alien” is so nerve-racking is that there’s nowhere for Sigourney and co to run. That is why Scott’s 20th film is both a thrilling and a worrying proposition. At 74, he has made a prequel to “Alien”, but while the space-suits have the same lived-in look as they did in the original film, “Prometheus” is in a different universe in terms of scale. It has a big, galaxy-spanning story, with a prodigious cast (Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace), cathedral-sized sets, and acres of the CGI that didn’t exist when “Alien” came out—or burst out—33 years ago. And it’s in 3D. Welcome as it is that Scott is back to rescue the “Alien” franchise from its increasingly ignominious sequels, the prospect does raise one question. Can he still make us feel trapped when there’s so much room for manoeuvre?
Prometheus opens in Britain on June 1st and in America on June 8th
FILMS AT A GLANCE
2 Days In New York (May 18th in Britain, August 10th in America). With “2 Days In Paris” (2007) Julie Delpy showed she wasn’t just an actress, but a sparky writer-director of neurotic comedy. The sequel (not that you need to have seen the first film) takes the Franco-American culture clash to New York, where her character is now married to Chris Rock.
The Dictator (May 18th/out now). The first and last Hollywood comedy to be inspired by a novel written by Saddam Hussein, this is also the first Sacha Baron Cohen film since “Ali G Indahouse” to have a conventional script, without the “Candid Camera” stunts of “Brüno” and “Borat”. It could go either way, then. Cohen plays a deposed Middle Eastern despot living the high life in the US.
A Fantastic Fear of Everything (June 8th/tbc in America). Simon Pegg stars as a paranoid author facing a nightmarish odyssey: a trip to the launderette. The script is based on a novella by Bruce Robinson, who made one of the best films about the 1960s, “Withnail & I”, in the 1980s, and it’s directed by Crispian Mills, who seemed obsessed by the 1960s when he fronted the 1980s band Kula Shaker.
The Five-Year Engagement (June 22nd/out now). A rom-com with a twist: the happy couple get together at the start. Emily Blunt and Jason Segel will have to be good.
Free Men (May 25th/out now). Tahar Rahim, the star of “A Prophet”, follows a similar zero-to-hero trajectory in this knotty WW2 thriller. It distils the true stories of the Algerian immigrants who joined the French Resistance.
The Turin Horse (June 1st/out now). Béla Tarr’s final film, he claims, is also his most severe—and that’s saying something. In just 30 long takes, “The Turin Horse” offers two-and-a-half magisterial hours of grinding black-and-white rural poverty. “War Horse” it ain’t.
Nicholas Barber is a film critic, and former rock critic, for the Independent on Sunday