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Entry updated 8 July 2017. Tagged: Film.

Film (2012). Twentieth Century Fox in association with Dune Entertainment presents a Scott Free/Brandywine production. Directed by Ridley Scott. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Cast includes Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace, Ralph Spall and Charlize Theron. 124 minutes. Colour.

In 2093, the ship Prometheus includes archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) on a mission of First Contact financed by Peter Weyland (Pearce) to a planetary system identified in the records of unconnected ancient cultures as the source of humanity's creators, a Forerunner race dubbed Engineers; exploration of the cyclopean structures found there reveal it to be not a homeworld but a military installation where the Engineers planned a mission of extermination against their human creation, only for their own Genetically Engineered bioweapons to destroy them. Under secret orders from Weyland, who has travelled secretly in search of life-extension technology, Android David (Fassbender) infects Holloway with an Engineer parasite (see Parasitism and Symbiosis); he in turn inseminates Shaw, who uses an automated medical pod to extract the resulting Monster. A surviving Engineer is resuscitated, kills Weyland, decapitates David – who survives as a Brain in a Box in readiness for re-embodiment in the sequel, Alien: Covenant (2017), also directed by Ridley Scott – and re-embarks on the genocidal Earth mission, but is thwarted by the Prometheus's captain (Elba), who rams the Engineer ship, and by Shaw, who lures its crashed pilot into the clutches of her now full-grown foetal parasite. With the help of David's still-functioning head, Shaw sets a course for the Engineer homeworld, as the first ancestral xenomorph bursts from the Engineer's body.

Scott had been trying to develop an Alien prequel for years before Spaihts extemporised a pitch at a meeting with Scott Free executives, using some elements from his unmade scripts Shadow 19 and Passengers; he wrote his contractual limit of five drafts under the title Alien: Engineers, before Lindelof was engaged to retool the script for Scott to direct himself as a common ancestor to the established franchise and a new branchline series centred on the Engineers. Aside from the final twist making the xenomorphs a genetic cross-product of human, Engineer, and bioweapon DNA, Lindelof's contributions were dramatic rather than conceptual, and the Engineers' comparatively banal original motivations for humanity's creation and extermination were left newly dangling, along with much else, as questions for the planned sequel to address (though nothing in the film indicates that more interesting answers will eventually be substituted). The shadow of Erich von Däniken hangs heavy over the premise, which is transparently vulnerable to much of the same derision, and the portentous ruminations on Religion fail to disguise the deeply old-fashioned narrative armature; Guillermo Del Toro glumly noted likenesses to H P Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness (already homaged by Paul W S Anderson in AVP Alien vs Predator), effectively scuppering his own planned adaptation. A busy plot, strong production design, and sequences of conscious grandeur fail to distract sufficiently from the obviously incoherent reasoning and Rapace's wandering English accent, though Fassbender's gently sinister performance is a highlight, if little like the androids of later generations in the franchise. [NL]


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