My verdict? It was okay. There's always plenty on the screen to watch. The spaceships look like they're actually present, not just CGI creations and I can honestly say I wasn't bored for an instant - but then neither was I enthralled! I felt a degree of deja-vu: lots of gooey slimey stuff and phallic-like appendages that are intent on violently impregnating the human crew of the spaceship with nasty squiggly things that burst out of them with lots of blood and gore. At the very start of the film we're introduced to a race of ultra-smart beings who lent us their DNA and brought life to our little blue planet; which naturally blows apart the theory of evolution and makes Darwin look like the class dunce. Even our primitive ancestors it seems knew far more about our origins than he did, they even left us clues on cave walls all over the world, including (clever old troglodytes!) a star map to a far-away constellation in another galaxy. However, this premise is really just the outer wrapping - once we get inside, the main story we soon discover is something far more familiar.
Yep, I'd seen it all before and I came away from the cinema wondering whether the girl behind me was talking about the same film when she told her boyfriend, "I enjoyed it ... but it was just so scary!" Perhaps she hasn't seen Alien I surmised?
I have absolutely no objection to remakes, some have been very worthy creations in their own right, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, The Thing all found new ways of chilling us. However this film just seemed keen to re-package a tried and tested hugely successful franchise by pretending we were watching something else. We were tossed a few intriguing new morsels of background information whilst the movie appeared to raise the endlessly fascinating issue (at least Hollywood appears to think so!)of, what is our place in the universe and what relationship do we have to whatever Deity may be out there?
What is most interesting I think is the question of scariness. For my money the original Alien was a far far more frightening film than Prometheus, and it achieves this by being considerably less graphic than its prequel/offspring. The story in Alien builds quite slowly and Ripley, who becomes the film's heroine, is a bit of a scaredy-cat initially as I recall. It is the strangeness of their barren environment and their isolation on a planet million of miles from home that makes it so squirmingly appealing. Perhaps it's just me, but I find the way the water changes colour in the shower scene in Psycho (made in black and white), the nerve-jangling music like finger-nails clawing on glass, the indistinguishable figure behind the curtain and the sight of that blade thrusting again and again, together with the shots of Janet Leigh's surprised, then shocked, then blank and staring eyes, does it for me far better than the gallons of corn syrup and intestinal anatomy you're likely to see in a modern horror flick.
To my way of thinking, the horror in a situation is the idea that the writer/director wishes to communicate with the audience. The Japanese film Ringu (Ring - US version and not so good IMHO) understood the concept fully; after building nothing but tension for 120 minutes, when the final moment of appalling realisation arrived I was almost climbing up the back of the sofa. People who have read Niedermayer & Hart tell me that they found a few moments in the book very scary indeed (my wife, poor thing, who edited it, says she still has flashbacks to a scene in the story whenever she enters certain public buildings!) - I am of course delighted to hear this! However, despite N & H having an enormous body count the violence is almost invariably reported and therefore left to the reader's imagination to put flesh onto the bones as it were.
Horror stories are dark fairy-tales for grown-ups basically. Someone once told me that cat digestion is improved if they are a little nervous whilst eating because certain enzymes which aid their digestive processes are released through tension. Thank God we're not cats is all I can say, imagine going to a nice restaurant and having to ask the waiter to stand by brandishing an axe while you eat. However, like the cat, something in our nature requires us to be frightened from time to time. I fully expect that our ancestors sat around camp fires telling each other scary stories. Perhaps one day Hollywood will find a cave painting in the remotest part of the Himalayas that shows our ancestors doing just this! Wow!