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.
Suburban teens should help cut "Urban Legends: Final Cut" the biggest slice of box office pie this weekend.
"'Urban Legends' can actually do double digits," one insider observes. "It'll be nice to see that again, won't it?"
"Urban," an R-rated horror sequel opening from Columbia Pictures at 2,539 theaters, is heading for first place with $12-13 million.
"Teens, particularly, have to be hungry for something to go see," says a distribution executive. "I think it's got a shot at $12 million."
Directed by John Ottman, "Urban" stars Jennifer Morrison.
Second place should go to DreamWorks and Columbia's critically-acclaimed "Almost Famous," which will expand to about 1,200 theaters in its second week. The R-rated comedy drama should do $7-8 million.
"They're in theaters where it ought to do business," a source says of the film's strong launch at 131 theaters last weekend. "They're upscale, limited, big city (theaters) and, boy, if this movie doesn't do it there, where will it do it? This weekend will be the first indication of whether the movie plays in the heartland."
Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, "Famous" stars Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Frances McDormand.
Driven by "Urban" and "Famous," the weekend should be a big improvement over last weekend when key films only took in about $47.4 million.
"Well, that's like being the tallest building in Wichita, Kansas," laughs one insider. "It'll be better than the worst weekend in three years!"
Warner Bros.' reissue of its R-rated 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" should turn enough ticket buyers' heads to finish third. Arriving at 664 theaters, it should nail down $6-7 million.
Directed by William Friedkin, "Exorcist" stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair and Max von Sydow.
Universal and Beacon Pictures' PG-13-rated comedy "Bring It On" should drop one peg to fourth place in its fifth week. Last weekend "Bring" did $5.1 million and was only off 25 percent. If it takes another 25 percent drop, it will do about $4 million.
"Bring," which only cost Universal about $10 million, has grossed over $51 million and is heading for $60 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peyton Reed, "Bring" stars Kirsten Dunst, Eliza Dusku, Jesse Bradford and Gabrielle Union.
Universal's R-rated psychological thriller "The Watcher" should slip four slots to fifth place in its third week with $3-4 million.
"Watcher," which Universal reportedly picked up from Interlight for only $5 million, has grossed over $17 million and is heading for $25 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joe Charbanic, "Watcher" stars James Spader, Marisa Tomei and Keanu Reeves.
Warner Bros. and Castle Rock Entertainment's R-rated action comedy "Bait" should sink four pegs to sixth place in its second week with a gross that's also in the $3-4 million range.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, "Bait" stars Jamie Foxx.
USA Films' R-rated dark comedy "Nurse Betty" was fourth last weekend with $4.7 million, a drop of 35 percent. If it falls 35 percent this time around, it should place seventh with about $3 million.
Universal owns "Nurse Betty," having acquired it when the studio took over PolyGram. Universal turned the specialized picture over to USA Films to market and distribute.
Directed by Neil La Bute, "Nurse" stars Morgan Freeman, Renee Zellweger, Chris Rock and Greg Kinnear.
The weekend's other wide opening, Fox Searchlight Pictures' R-rated romantic comedy "Woman On Top," won't come in anywhere near the top of the chart.
"Woman," arriving at 1,000-plus theaters, appears headed for eighth place with a modest $2-3 million.
Directed by Fina Torres, "Woman" stars Penelope Cruz.
Filling out lower rungs: "Space Cowboys," "The Cell," and "What Lies Beneath."
This weekend will also see 20th Century Fox's limited release of its PG-13-rated drama "The Dancer" in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Fred Garson, "Dancer" stars Mia Frye and Josh Lucas.
Lions Gate Films' R-rated drama "Under Suspicion" opens exclusive engagements in New York and L.A.
Directed by Stephen Hopkins, "Suspicion" stars Morgan Freeman and Gene Hackman.
MGM's release of United Artists' PG-rated musical drama "The Fantasticks" opens exclusively in New York, L.A. and San Francisco.
Directed by Michael Ritchie, it stars Joel Grey and Barnard Hughes.