Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
What do the Golden Globes know anyway? Last week, voters nominated John Williams' underwhelming "Angela's Ashes" at the expense of his more stirring work for "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace." And what of Marc Shaiman's brilliant satire of the musical theater, in the form of "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut"? Snubbed.
Well, we're here to set things right.
Which soundtracks broke new ground, broke our hearts and broke down barriers with crossover potential? Read on for our list of the Top 20 soundtracks of 1999:
20. "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "More Music from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me," "Pokémon: The First Movie" -- No, we weren't very impressed with the contents of these best-selling albums, just the marketing savvy behind them.
19. "Guinevere" -- While most guys would buy this CD for Sarah Polley's cover photo alone, Christophe Beck's music combined with Thelonius Monk is a wonderfully eclectic combination.
18. "Outside Providence" -- Do you like '70s classic rock? Then you'll dig this soundtrack. A fantastic compilation of tunes by the likes of Yes, The Who and The Eagles.
17. "Dogma" -- Howard Shore's apocalyptic musical imagery conveys both the demonic and angelic moods of the hilarious and controversial film.
16. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" -- This HBO movie (starring Halle Berry) proves that the much-maligned tube can offer great music. One of the best big-band soundtracks available.
15. "The General's Daughter" -- Carter Burwell composes a moving score, including some reworkings of old Negro spirituals from the Library of Congress.
14. "Entrapment" -- Composer Chris Young takes you from Scottish castles to Malaysian street markets. A very enjoyable trip.
13. "The Mummy" / "The 13th Warrior" -- While these two movies were quite different, the scores weren't. Veteran (and prolific) tunesmith Jerry Goldsmith composed these scores within months of each other, and you can hear the similarities. Copycat syndrome or not, they're still excellent soundtracks.
12. "Sleepy Hollow" -- Danny Elfman ("Batman") strikes again! While we all knew this score would be brooding, dark and ominous, the pleasant surprise was how original the music was while maintaining Elfman's easily identifiable style.
11. "Toy Story 2" -- If you didn't cry during Sarah McLachlan's "When She Loved Me," you have no heart. The opening score track "Zurg's Planet" is pure science-fiction fun. It's just one of Randy Newman's enjoyable selections.
10. "The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc" -- This soundtrack is worth it for track 26 alone: "Angelus in Medio Ignis." Go choir, go!
9. "For Love of the Game" -- Basil Poledouris presents a wonderful palette of colors and emotions with this score. You can really feel the game's tense focus when the electric guitar starts to growl! Buy the Varèse Sarabande CD and skip MCA's generic song-filled soundtrack.
8. "The Cider House Rules" -- One of the most romantic, poignant scores of the decade. A perfect companion to a beautiful movie.
7. "Mickey Blue Eyes" -- While the movie may not have set any box-office records, the soundtrack is a real winner. The CD features an eclectic mix of music, from Basil Poledouris' Italian-influenced score to up-tempo oldies by Rosemary Clooney and Louis Prima.
6. "Deep Blue Sea" -- Trevor Rabin's main theme to this summer sleeper reminds us how well he can write. Don't confuse this score CD on Varèse Sarabande to the horrible Warner Bros. rap soundtrack.
5. "Tarzan" -- Phil Collins and Mark Mancina combine their talents to create an invigorating, uplifting score. The vocals are unforgettable, and the percussion will make you want to swing from the trees in your back yard.
4. "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" -- This introspective look into the subconscious desires of the youthful psyche provides a gloriously uplifting foundation on which to build our hopes for world peace. Marc Shaiman's exquisite contributions elevate the music to a level not heard since ... umm ... since Beavis & Butthead?
3. "Princess Mononoke" -- Encompassing a wide range of style and melody, Joe Hisaishi's score brings us the wonder and mystery of an animated world filled with demons, gods and magic. Enthralling.
2. "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" -- While John Williams' prequel score doesn't quite equal the timelessness of the original 1977 film or its 1980 follow-up, "The Empire Strikes Back," it succeeds admirably on its own terms.
1. "Anna and the King" -- Graham Ravell's score to this just-released film encompasses all the grandeur, optimism and melody that we come to expect of an ambitious movie such as this. A wonderful achievement.