Adventures In Celluloid

Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: Reintroducing enigma into the Alien series

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A scene from Prometheus.  Photo / Supplied
A scene from Prometheus. Photo / Supplied

With huge new films featuring Spider-Man, Batman and of course The Avengers, it's one of the biggest blockbuster seasons on record.

But the event film everyone is clearly most excited for is Ridley Scott's Prometheus, which is released in New Zealand cinemas next Thursday.

When the film was first announced, Scott downplayed the connection to the franchise he began so memorably with 1979's Alien. He said the new film "shared some DNA" with the Alien series, but existed as a story in its own right.

As the release date got closer and closer, images, trailers and viral videos trickled out, and it became clear to all that this was indeed a prequel to the franchise.

The advance material made specific references to elements from earlier entries - such as the mysterious space jockey from the first film - and played off audience awareness of the franchise.

What fascinates me is how well they've managed to re-spark massive public interest and investment in a film series that's gotten progressively worse with every entry since 1991's Alien 3. The Alien franchise couldn't possibly be in a crappier place, yet a lot of people are pinning their hopes and dreams on Prometheus, including myself.

Would we all be as excited if this film had simply been announced from the get-go as a re-boot? The ambiguities of its connection to the other films allowed for a world of possibilities to enter the conversation, and has benefitted the build-up to no end. I wonder if that was the plan.

"Re-boot" is a term thrown around a lot in cinema these days, and while Prometheus doesn't technically qualify as it's set in the same universe as the other films, the word feels appropriate. It's a reboot in terms of quality and value, not continuity.

I'm seeing Prometheus this weekend and I'm feeling really good about it. I think it's the first film of this magnitude for which I've actually managed to sustain some sort of media blackout - I haven't watched any trailers since the first obtuse teaser, I've stayed away from the viral videos, and I'm avoiding any reaction until after I write my review.

I always plan to do this with big films - it can be a real treat to behold a set piece or a unique design element for the first time on the big screen - but I usually relent. The potential awesomeness of Prometheus has apparently elevated my will-power to new levels.

The film could of course end up being pants. I'm ready for that. But the blue space suits alone have my excitement levels at eleven.

If nothing else, it should at least restore some dignity to the series which has done an amazing job of squandering its potential.

Time has been kind to Alien 3. Considered somewhat of a fiasco upon its release, it comes out smelling like roses compared to subsequent efforts. As a stylish standalone film, it works. As a continuation of the story of the previous two films, it's a travesty.

1997's Alien Resurrection further distanced itself from the emotional core of the first two films by jumping ahead another 200 years. It also introduced one of worst-designed creatures in modern cinema with the hybrid/newborn alien.

Having written the franchise into a corner, Fox teamed up the Alien with its other main contract player for 2004's Alien vs Predator, directed by fanboy pinata Paul WS Anderson (Resident Evil). The film isn't a total travesty, but it carries none of the gravitas or dread of the first two Alien films and again reeked of lost potential.

Aliens vs Predator: Requiem (2007) dug through the ground to establish a new low for both featured monsters. Perhaps we should celebrate the terribleness of this film as it no doubt led Fox executives to explore other ways to approach the property.

Which brings us to Prometheus. Whatever the film ends up being, I've enjoyed seeing just how excited my film-dedicated peers are for it, but also how it has reduced the general public to quivering fanboys.

It lends weight to the argument the film culture is more mainstream than ever. I like it.

* Are you mega-amped for Prometheus? Did you feel the trailers gave too much away? How cool do those blue spacesuits look? Comment below!

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