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.
Hollywood delivered a one-two box office punch this weekend with big openings targeted to adult and family audiences.
Minority Report reported the majority of moviegoer votes, claiming first place with $36.9 million. Lilo & Stitch, which out-grossed Minority on Friday, wound up second with livelier than expected ticket sales of $35.8 million.
Insiders had projected only an $18-20 million launch for Lilo. Minority fell into the $30-40 million range that Hollywood handicappers had anticipated, although some had gone out on a limb speculating about a $50 million kickoff.
With stiff competition on two key demographic fronts, all three Top Five holdovers suffered big drops. Scooby-Doo slid 55 percent to third place with $24.4 million. The Bourne Identity fell 46 percent to fourth place with $14.8 million. The Sum Of All Fears skidded 41 percent to fifth place with $7.9 million.
Driven mostly by Minority and Lilo, ticket sales were up nearly 16 percent from this weekend last year. Key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more -- took in $159.4 million versus last year's $137.7 million.
THE TOP TEN
20th Century Fox's opening of its and DreamWorks' PG-13 rated sci-fi fantasy thriller Minority Report took first place with a hot ESTIMATED $36.9 million at 3,001 theaters ($12,296 per theater).
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Tom Cruise.
Minority's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
"We had terrific results in big cities, urban and suburban (and in) sophisticated (markets)," Fox distribution president Bruce Snyder said Sunday morning. "The audience breakdown was 52 percent male, 64 percent 25 and over. (It had) great scores all around, especially from the younger folks even though they weren't there in the bigger numbers. But they actually had the better scores. So that bodes well for the future."
Focusing on the weekend day by day, Snyder noted, "We had a decent bump from Friday to Saturday. It seemed to be a little bit soft in the bump there for all movies. But we were up 13 percent. I've got $11.9 million for Friday and $13.4 million for Saturday -- 13 percent up. And 13 percent down (estimated) for Sunday to $11.6 million."
Minority's reviews, Snyder said, "were spectacular. There's always some negatives in there, but overall across the country it was a really wonderfully reviewed movie."
In Friday's grosses Lilo out performed Minority. "I've got them at $12.5 million on Friday and we were $11.9 million, so they were (ahead)," he said, pointing to the animated hit's strong matinee showings that day. "Lilo & Stitch's average was $4,000 for the matinees on Friday. Our average was $2,325. When they ended up having the same basic average when day was done, what it tells you is that they had the possibility to crank all day long with a much shorter movie. We have a two hour and 22 minute movie and ended up with one main show at night."
Is Minority's length a drag on its grossing potential? "It's a slight one," Snyder replied, "especially with a movie that kind of plays adult. Eventually we will get more and more teens, but (right now) we're not getting those 15 year olds that will be in there at 11 o'clock. So you really get that one main show. And it's a long show, so your eight o'clock show is your main show and that's what you've really got to work off of.
"Saturday you can get two shows, but Friday's a one show (day). I think that's how the grosses end up as they are. They cranked all day long, had a short movie and probably had five great matinees and we were working off really one main show at night."
Buena Vista/Disney's PG rated animated family appeal feature Lilo & Stitch arrived to much better numbers than expected, placing second with a colorful ESTIMATED $35.8 million at 3,191 theaters ($11,218 per theater).
Written and directed by Chris Sanders, it was produced by Clark Spencer. Its original score is by Alan Silvestri.
"We are thrilled," Buena Vista Distribution president Chuck Viane said Sunday morning. "We never anticipated coming in in first place (but) I truly believe that's where we're at. In our hearts, we truly believe we're number one. We will speak as though we're number one."
Whatever Lilo's ranking for the weekend, Viane said, "The amazement here is that this is the second best opening in June on an animated film we've ever had -- second only to The Lion King (which opened to $40.9 million the weekend of June 24-26, 1994)."
Focusing on Lilo's terrific numbers, Viane said Disney is, "a very happy place. It's great. It's amazing how this one apparently didn't show up on some people's radars. But obviously the public was out there in masses. I was over at the Promenade (multiplex in L.A.) yesterday and I cannot tell you how many kids walked into the theater with those little Stitch cuddly dolls. It'll be an eminently successful film. I think the directors and the animators and everybody (who worked on the picture) did a magnificent job."
Warner Bros.' PG rated family comedy Scooby-Doo stumbled two steps to third place in its second week with a still sizable ESTIMATED $24.36 million (-55%) at 3,447 theaters (theater count unchanged; $7,067 per theater). Its cume is approximately $101.2 million.
Directed by Raja Gosnell, it stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Matthew Lillard, Linda Cardellini and Rowan Atkinson.
"It's the first hundred million dollar movie of the year for us," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "$101.195 million in 10 days. We're very thrilled about it. We've announced a sequel (for 2004). We're going to build a franchise on Mr. Doo. Audiences still love this movie. I'm very pleased with that hold considering the $35.8 million that Disney (grossed with Lilo)."
Universal's PG-13 espionage thriller The Bourne Identity starring Matt Damon slid two pegs to fourth place in its second week -- holding respectably given Minority's strong opening -- with an ESTIMATED $14.76 million (-46%)) at 2,643 theaters (+5 theaters; $5,585 per theater). Its cume is approximately $54.1 million, heading for $85 million.
Paramount's PG-13 rated thriller The Sum Of All Fears dipped one notch to fifth place in its fourth week, holding its own in the face of strong competition from Minority with an ESTIMATED $7.9 million (-41%) at 3,039 theaters (-191 theaters; $2,601 per theater). Its cume is approximately $97.4 million, heading for $120 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson and produced by Mace Neufeld, it stars Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman.
"I think the biggest (film based on a Tom Clancy book) was $122 million. Whether or not it surpasses that is a question mark at this point," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning, noting that Fears was impacted by both Minority and Bourne. "We're very happy with the hold. Obviously, we would have liked to have held better than the 41 percent, but given the level of the competition it's a good hold."
MGM's R rated World War II drama Windtalkers retreated three trenches to sixth place in its second week with a wounded ESTIMATED $6.7 million (-54%) at 2,898 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,312 per theatre). Its cume is approximately $26.7 million.
Directed by John Woo, it stars Nicolas Cage.
Morgan Creek's MPG-13 rated urban appeal basketball theme comedy Juwanna Mann opened in seventh place via Warner Bros. to an unexciting ESTIMATED $6.0 million at 1,325 theaters ($4,528 per theater).
Directed by Jesse Vaughan, it stars Kevin Pollak, Tommy Davidson, Kim Wayans, Ginuwine and Lil' Kim.
"The picture played (best) predominantly in the urban ethnic markets and did little to cross over (into mainstream situations)," Warners' Dan Fellman said.
Warner Bros. and Gaylord Films' PG-13 rated drama Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood fell two slots in its third week to eighth place with a less divine ESTIMATED $5.69 million (-36%) at 2,310 theaters (-197 theaters; $2,461 per theater). Its cume is approximately $46.4 million.
Directed by Callie Khouri, it stars Sandra Bullock, Ellen Burstyn, Fionnula Flanagan, James Garner, Ashley Judd, Shirley Knight, Angus Macfadyen and Maggie Smith.
"It had the best hold of any of the wide releases, only down 36 percent," Warners' Dan Fellman said. "And with the strong mid-weeks that this picture's getting we'll be past $50 million by the end of the week (and) heading into the $60 millions."
20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm's PG rated franchise installment Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones dropped three rungs to ninth place in its sixth week with a slower ESTIMATED $5.1 million (-46%) at 2,107 theaters (-294 theaters; $2,421 per theater). Its cume is approximately $279.8 million, heading for $300 million in domestic theaters.
Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace took in $431.1 million in domestic theaters. Its worldwide total (domestic plus international) was $923 million.
Directed by George Lucas, it stars Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman and Hayden Christensen.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Columbia's PG-13 sci-fi fantasy blockbuster Spider-Man, down three pegs in its eighth week with a less energetic ESTIMATED $4.4 million (-41%) at 2,278 theaters (-424 theaters; $1,932 per theater). Its cume is approximately $390.2 million heading for $400 million-plus in domestic theaters.
Directed by Sam Raimi, it stars Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco, Cliff Robertson and Rosemary Harris.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Sony Pictures Classics' PG-13 drama Sunshine State to a sunny ESTIMATED $92,000 at 10 theaters ($9,202 per theater).
Written, directed and edited by John Sayles, it stars Jane Alexander, Angela Bassett, Gordon Clapp, Edie Falco, Miguel Ferrer, Timothy Hutton, James McDaniel and Mary Steenburgen.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend IFC Films' PG rated romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding added a few more theaters in its 10th week with a still impressive ESTIMATED $1.7 million (-1%) at 459 theaters (+4 theaters; $3,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $16.3 million.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Miramax's PG rated comedy The Importance Of Being Earnest expanded in its fifth week to an uninteresting ESTIMATED $0.5 million (-18%) at 201 theaters (+21 theaters; $2,487 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.2 million.
Directed by Oliver Parker, it stars Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Frances O'Connor, Reese Witherspoon, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson.
Think Film's R rated dark comedy The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys went wider in its second week with an uneventful ESTIMATED $0.2 million at 76 theaters (+67 theaters; $2,510 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.3 million.
Directed by Peter Care, it stars Kieran Culkin.
Miramax's R rated classic drama Cinema Paradiso: The New Version added theaters quietly in its second week with an ESTIMATED $28,000 at 7 theaters (+4 theaters; $4,000 per theater). Its cume is approximately $67,000.
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore, it stars Philippe Noiret.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $159.42 million, up 15.74 percent from last year when they totaled $137.74 million.
Key films were down about 1.00 percent from the previous weekend of this year when they grossed $161.01 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of The Fast and the Furious was first with $40.09 million at 2,628 theaters ($15,255 per theater); and 20th Century Fox's opening week of Dr. Dolittle 2 was second with $25.04 million at 3,049 theaters ($8,212 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $65.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $72.7 million.