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comic-con 2011

What is Prometheus? Ridley Scott Unveils Footage at Comic-Con

The first image from 'Prometheus.'

Until today, little was known about Ridley Scott's next film Prometheus, and even the main detail was one that Scott has intentionally muddled: It's a prequel to Alien ... but not really. Today at Comic-Con, though, Scott, screenwriter Damon Lindelof, and stars Charlize Theron and Noomi Rapace lifted the lid on Scott's sci-fi thriller and showed off the first footage ever.

Less a teaser trailer than a behind-the-scenes look with stray shots from the movie, the Prometheus clip showed actors like Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba navigating huge alien caves in their retro-cool spacesuits topped off with giant bubble heads. With little plot to be sussed out from the footage -- the crew finds some elongated vase-eggs that look less like the ones from Alien and more like something that just came off a potter's wheel -- the look of the film was what impressed us most. Black and white with pops of clean, bold color, Scott breaks up the white of Fassbender's spacesuit by placing an orange basketball in his hands, and cuts through the dark interior of the spaceship with the fluorescence of a yellow-visored helmet or a blue flashlight beam.

And though word on the street is that Fassbender plays an android in Prometheus, the footage showed him crying one single, clear tear, not the milky-white substance you'd normally find secreted by the androids of the Alien world. When pressed by Lindelof to reveal whether there was indeed a robot in the movie, Scott (who appeared via satellite as he finishes up the movie in Iceland) said coyly, "There may be two."

And those departures from the Alien canon are what most intrigued Scott. "There is the DNA of the original Alien. That's as far as it goes," the director said. "Everything else is completely different." Well, not everything. Scott says that there's a big question from the first two Alien films that finally gets answered in this one, teasing, "In the last few minutes of the movie, you'll understand what I'm talking about."

"I certainly hope so," added Lindelof.

"So do I. So does Fox," Scott said.

And there's another tradition kept: As in the first Alien, the female empowerment is leavened by a little interstellar cheesecake. Referring to a brief bit from the clip where Theron's character, Meredith Vickers, is glimpsed doing push-ups while wearing virtually nothing, Lindelof joked, "I just want to say that I find it disgusting and exploitative, and it's pandering to this crowd."

Theron leaned in with relish: "I know how to sell a movie."

Photo: Fox