Cert 15 | By Steve Dinneen
So Alien prequel Prometheus has finally landed, 30 years after Ridley Scott first directed the universe’s most terrifying life-form. That’s a lot of time to gestate, especially in a world where alien offspring take just a couple of hours to burst from your chest in a bloody explosion of entrails.
Scott promised something radically different from his groundbreaking sci-fi body horror classic and, it is safe to say, that’s what he delivers. Alien was a stripped-back, slow-paced master-class in tension. The eponymous Alien was rarely seen, and was all the more frightening for it. In contrast, Prometheus opens with a long, clear shot of a CGI humanoid creature dabbling with a dangerous looking artifact (don’t worry, I couldn’t give you any spoilers about this if I tried – I’m still not sure where it fits into the overall chronology). It’s an early indication that this isn’t a film about clueless space-miners being chased by the ultimate biological weapon.
I’ll be frank: Prometheus is not as good as Alien. Nowhere near as good. It’s not as good as Alien II either, although it’s better than the later installments. It certainly isn’t down to a lack of ambition: Prometheus takes a more overtly philosophical tack than we’ve seen in previous outings, asking where humans came from; what it means to have a soul; whether a creator would necessarily be benevolent; what it means to be a mother. Given the framework (archeologists jet into space in search of the origin of the species), it’s little surprise that these issues are sometimes rather clumsily addressed but it’s far braver and more thought provoking than your average popcorn blockbuster.
Its major downfall, though, is a sometimes-baffling lack of restraint. Guy Pearce’s casting as the octogenarian Peter Weyland is outrageously profligate, given how much more convincing it would have been to cast an actual 80-odd-year-old; a scene involving a self-performed cesarean section, while living up to Alien’s legacy of body horror, crosses the line into farce and some of the CGI is more than a little gratuitous.
Despite its flaws, though, Prometheus is a long way from being a flop. The all-star cast, including Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, add an air of plausibility to even the most far-fetched scenarios, although Noomi Rapace, as the closest thing the movie has to a lead, is no Sigourney Weaver (despite wearing her famous bandage outfit for half the movie). Michael Fassbender, though, is sublime as the inscrutable android, David.
In the tangled Alien universe, which has grown to include countless novels and comics, Prometheus makes a kind of sense. But, based on this, I worry for the legacy of Blade Runner when Scott inevitably gives it the same treatment.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
Cert 12A | By Steve Dinneen
Snow White and the Huntsman may be packed with sleeping beauties, a septet of dwarves and kisses from your one true love, but don’t be fooled: this is no Disneyfied fairytale – it’s a grim, violent affair straight from the pages of the Brothers’ Grimm.
Twilight’s Kristen Stewart plays the angsty princess who is having stepmother issues. Bad ones. The ones where she tries to tear your heart out to guarantee her immortality. You know the kind. The stepmother is played by a wickedly icy Charlize Theron, who manages to imbue her evil witch with a grain of sympathy – her desperate need to stay young and beautiful is a poignant reflection of a very 21st century problem.
The film looks sublime – from the gloomy, labyrinthine fairytale castle, with its spires and turrets clawing at the sky, to the luscious, living forest of the fairy-folk. The special effects are top drawer: the initial encounter with a certain mirror, mirror on the wall is particularly breathtaking.
Bringing fairytales to live action cinema is a tricky business and Snow White manages to stay true to the material without resorting to lazy voice-over. At its best, you can almost hear the pages turning: “And then the princess found a gleaming white steed and escaped from the wicked stepmother”.
It isn’t all good, though. Despite its visual achievements, it feels empty: a beautifully crafted jewelery box with nothing inside it. It seems unsure who its audience is: it’s too frightening for children but lacks the substance to really satisfy their parents.
Much of this can be forgiven, though, thanks to a show-stealing turn by the seven dwarves, led by a Hobbit-sized Bob Hoskins, an absurd-looking Ian McShane and Ray Winstone, whose haircut alone is worth the price of entry.
TOP CAT: THE MOVIE 3D
Cert U | By Natasha Culzac
TOP CAT has returned, throwing off his terrestrial shackles and gracing the big screen. The revamped alley cat and his lousy team of wise guys have remained somewhat faithful to their vintage predecessors from the 1960s television series. But while the characters may have had a successful lick of paint, the script most definitely has not. What could have been a skilful aggrandisement of an old classic is instead a limp misfire, falling woefully short on laughs. Kids will enjoy the slapstick comedy, brought to life in glorious 3D, but adults hoping for the kind of innuendo present in something like Shrek will be left disappointed.
There is a political message about the perils of dictatorship stowed away in there but, for the most part, it is just harmless family fun.
THE ANGEL’S SHARE
Cert 15 | By Natasha Culzac
FROM THE opening shot it’s obvious that The Angel’s Share is going to be a dark-humoured affair, with a judge haranguing a string of reprobates, whose unyielding remorselessness speaks volumes.
Ken Loach’s latest offering attempts to shine a light on the grim realities of a Glaswegian underclass but he garnishes his trademark social realism with a touch of light-heartedness. The result is a somewhat implausible plot served with a generous helping of optimism. With scriptwriter Paul Laverty on board, the pair brilliantly convey how a group of witless ex-offenders attempt to pull off a get-rich-quick-scheme. The quips and tough depictions of Glasgow’s mean streets are deftly presented, despite the very unlikely ending.