Directed by Ridley Scott
What’s surprising about Ridley Scott’s return to science fiction 30 years after Blade Runner is not that he can still mount the sort of fantastic and sometimes beautiful spectacle missing from the likes of The Avengers Take Several Meetings. The opening sequence—in which a statuesque grey humanoid (bearing an odd resemblance to Steven Soderbergh) eats something yucky and topples over a waterfall in some terraform-majestic landscape—quickly recalls the adman’s talent for immaculate design-as-filmmaking. What’s odd instead are all the unforced errors—slapdash screenplay, ignorable heroine, lack of suspense and logic—that proceed to hobble a film by so established a large-scale filmmaker.
On the off chance you have not endured the trailer at least 19 times: a corporate-funded team of (lazily written) Earthlings explore a planet possibly harboring beings with some connection to the human race; subsequently, shit goes down. Protracted Alien-brand infiltration scenarios vie with buried-civilization sci-fi sets, like fanfiction writ large, as cross-biological dangers arise on planet and ship alike with practically tragicomic predictability. Only the sudden gusto of the film's more involved action sequences (including a rightly lauded nonsensical surgery scene) yields giddy blockbuster oblivion, though the human-alien mythology plays out with a pleasingly heady circularity and hard edge.
As the religious scientist who triggered the mission (saddled by screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelhof with a superfluous husband), Noomi Rapace seems to fade in and out of view, but Charlize Theron is no better as a company hardass. Michael Fassbender’s robot factotum, in thrall to his corporate master and his own barely contained snippiness, provides needed periodic diversion and insinuating intrigue, not to mention a nod to camp. If the movie posits a cosmic Greek tragedy for the entire human race, then it also reminds that Scott is himself merely part of a grander blockbuster design, bound to produce even a shameless sequelicious epilogue.
Opens June 8