Thrilling, intriguing and visually addictive for its first hour or so, Prometheus borrows heavily from a number of sci-fi classics, most notably 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), from which is borrowed the fascinating character of David (Michael Fassbender), an android who is human in all but soul, and The Thing (1982), from which Scott borrows virtually everything else. Scott is inventive enough a director to make the first half of the film almost literally edge-of-the-seat stuff. The expedition, led by Vickers (Charlize Theron), touches down on an earth-like planet, discovers a pyramid-like structure, and tries to figure out what happened to the advanced race which long ago colonised Earth with its DNA. Unfortunately, it’s when the answers start to arrive that Scott’s story begins to fall apart, a development which coincides with some of the most disturbingly graphic cod-Freudian and violently misogynistic imagery ever to (dis)grace a mainstream cinema screen — although the most unsettling aspect is that the quasi-philosophical context suggests we’re supposed to take it all seriously. Fassbender and Theron turn in very strong supporting performances, but Rapace tends to flounder at critical moments, lacking the physical presence and charisma that allowed Sigourney Weaver to dominate as the iconic Ripley. True believers in Scott’s Alien movies will very probably come away very satisfied, but everyone else will find their suspension of disbelief very sorely tested.
Snow White and the Huntsman (12A) is the second movie this year to give the classic fairytale a new spin, but where Mirror Mirror was an irreverent, humorous affair, Rupert Sanders’ film offers a menacingly dark, gothic tone. Imprisoned as child princess after her stepmother Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murders her father, Snow White (Kristin Stewart) eventually escapes when her time comes to be sacrificed to Ravenna’s vampiric need to absorb youth and new life. Tracked down by The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) in the Dark Forest, Snow White is persuaded to accept that her destiny is to lead the people of her kingdom against Ravenna’s tyranny. Beautifully crafted, Snow White and the Huntsman combines the archly elevated tone and abbreviated narrative of the fairytale with more sinister themes of the original mediaeval folktales of Charles Perrault. It’s visually impressive, too, its starkly chiaroscuro landscapes and forbidding castles at odds with the story’s single glimpse of an earthly paradise, when the dwarves lead Snow White to the multi-coloured delights of the fairies’ sanctuary. Theron is excellent as the frigid Ravenna, whose traditional ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall …’ plea is less a neurotic desire to be considered beautiful and more a life-or-death need to survive despite the destructive appetites of male despoilers of female beauty, and Hemsworth is entirely presentable as the noble-but-dim Huntsman. Kristin Stewart, unfortunately, is something of a lacuna at the heart of the story, her thespian skills limited to two expressions, the soulfully puzzled and wanly pleased.
The winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share (15A) is an atypically gentle and humorous affair about a quartet of Glasgow delinquents who gatecrash the refined world of whiskey connoisseurs and effect the heist of a venerable old blend of Scotch. It’s Whisky Galore (1949) meets Trainspotting (1996), the charmingly whimsical tale a sharp contrast to the bleak mean streets of the more deprived areas of Glasgow. The film features a superb central performance from newcomer Paul Brannigan, and Loach showcases a deft comic touch in shaping Paul Laverty’s script, but it’s fair to say that it’s an unexceptional film by Loach’s own high standards.