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Science-fiction fans have been looking forward to “Prometheus,” Ridley Scott’s return to the genre, for over a year. The film has already opened in Europe after its London premiere last Thursday and comes to U.S. theatres this weekend. Scott has long been renowned for his contributions in the field -- “Blade Runner” and “Alien" -- as both films have shaped the genre's visual and thematic aesthetic in a broad context.
The grittier feel of the futuristic depictions became the norm rather than the exception in the wake of “Alien”’s immediate success and “Blade Runner”’s long-term impact, as did the genre blending Scott employed in each (sci-fi/horror in “Alien” and sci-fi/noir in “Blade Runner”). Scott gave himself a mandate to discover a new way to approach and refresh the genre with “Prometheus.” One of the ways he’s done so is to evolve and expand upon artist H.G. Giger’s original imagery, depicting the primordial integrated with the technological.
The director is, of course, known for his visual palette and dynamic use of the camera and that tradition continues with his employment of 3D technology in “Prometheus.” But he is also a director who respects actors, one who frequently generates an atmosphere wherein they are able to shine. Scott utilizes multiple cameras to provide the talent with the freedom to let a scene play out and, like a good leader, has both the clarity of his vision as well as the flexibility to allow them to discover for themselves.
Scott has directed five actors to Oscar nominations: Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon (“Thelma & Louise”), Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix (“Gladiator”) and Ruby Dee (“American Gangster”). It’s exceedingly difficult to narrow the performances in Scott’s films down to a top 10, even when we limit it to his science fiction fare, but that's what we've done for this week's installment of the lists. It seemed a good way to go because each of these films is built on the power of ensembles, with interesting singular notes within each.
There are indelible moments to be found in even the most minimal of roles. Joe Turkel’s turn as Dr. Eldon Tyrell in “Blade Runner” stands out as one such example, as does Guy Pearce’s Peter Weyland in “Prometheus ” and the viral campaign that supported the film’s marketing (perhaps it’s something to do with the portrayal of ruthless captains of industry). Though I would count William Sanderson’s J.F. Sebastian, the prematurely aging toy creator in “Blade Runner,” as a part of that cadre as well.
Tom Skerrit’s Dallas, Harry Dean Stanton's Brett and Yaphet Kotto’s Parker from the crew of the Nostromo in “Alien” each served to ground the film and are worthy of noting as well.
The list has shifted and restructured several times over as I’ve been writing it and I feel certain that there are those who may disagree with some of the selections, as well as the order, and there may well have been an alternate list on another day. There are elements to Charlize Theron’s turn as Meredith Vickers, the “company woman” of “Prometheus,” that count as some of my favorite from her body of work, but, ultimately there were other performances that I felt compelled to highlight. The first three of my final selections, numbers 10 through eight, will likely be particularly controversial.
Take a look at the list in the gallery below and feel free to rate the selections as you go. Be sure to share your own thoughts, or even your own list, in the comments section!