Monday, June 11, 2012

Summer's Biggest Sci-Fi Film, Prometheus, Lands with Style and a Shoddy Script

     One could argue (correctly) that Ridley Scott hasn't directed a good film in nearly ten years: Kingdom of Heaven was sluggish, long and slow, the Russell Crowe-starring Robin Hood lacked excitement and inspiration, and A Good Year was a waste of time and a waste of talent. When news broke that Scott--seemingly, in his old age, trying to become inspired by some of his directing back catalogue--was creating a science fiction film that "takes place in the same universe" as his 1979 horror classic, Alien, plenty of people were carefully skeptical and some were downright perturbed. This quasi-prequel, Prometheus, would be Scott's first foray into sci-fi since his other seminal directorial effort, Blade Runner (in 1982). The hype reached a fever pitch once some incredible trailers were beamed onto television sets, the great cast was announced, and viral videos dealing with the Alien mythology caused nerdgasms across the World Wide Web. Could Scott finally produce a film that could compare to some of his early, more brilliant work? In short, the answer is "No". However, even though Prometheus deals with a simplified script (by Damon Lindelof, of ABC's Lost fame), an inkling to try and connect to the Alien films a little too hard, and some uneven pacing, it is still an absolute beauty to behold, a film that wonderfully uses setting, CGI, and 3-D to create a spectacle that your eyes have to see to believe.
     The plot of Prometheus is similar enough to Alien to be compared: the year is 2093, and a crew of workers is awaken from a two-year-long sleep to a distant planet. Some of these characters are important, and some are completely disposable--it doesn't take long to determine which is which. We first see David (Michael Fassbender), an android who acts as the butler of the spacecraft. From the start, Fassbender becomes one of the best parts of Prometheus: his perfectly accurate robot mannerisms and his fascination with humans and their approval provides an interesting perspective on the events of the film. He may or may not have ulterior motives, but one thing is clear: he eventually begins to develop human-like emotions and qualities that become extremely important. Others on the ship: Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, of the Swedish version of Dragon Tattoo fame) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), two fellow archaeologists and lovers who have discovered a star map in prehistoric paintings that may lead to the answer of the meaning of life. Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) is their boss, a representative of the company the financed the mission to find the meaning of the star maps. Like in last week's Snow White and the Huntsmen, Theron is icy and unforgiving, reminding everyone to do exactly what she says--or else. Idris Elba (of HBO's The Wire fame) rounds out the (important) cast as the ship's captain, a man with less pretensions and more common sense than most of the crew.
     The ship lands on a huge dome-ish structure on the distant planet. Inside, the crew finds information that could settle the debate of science vs. faith. Human-like aliens have been preserved in this structure, and their DNA matches our own. Bigger Questions arise as Alien-like horror enters the picture. Are these humanoids the creators of the universe? Shaw, with her cross necklace that too-obviously symbolizes her faith, believes that all of the answers of humankind lie in the plight of these found creatures. But before answers are revealed, there are other things that go bump in the night. Though Prometheus has about two scenes that are horrific and totally intense, this is more of a mainstream action movie than Scott's Alien. Guns, flamethrowers, hi-tech gadgets, vehicles, and CGI play a much greater role than the psychological horror that made that 1979 film awesome. There are some grotesque surprises that will turn the heads of more squeamish viewers.
     The faults of Prometheus, unfortunately, lie in the script. It's hard not to take a gander at the faults of the television phenomenon Lost in comparison. For numerous seasons, Damon Lindelof helped form a series that was exciting and unexpected, with every answer given to the viewer becoming a bigger question by the next season. He is obsessed with opposing forces: yin and yang, white and black, faith and reason. By the end of its 6th and final season, the show left this viewer with a bitterness and an eye roll--important questions, questions that I had invested hours watching and thinking about, were never resolved. The same can be said about Prometheus (which, as I stated before, was co-written by Lindelof): when a film that is basically a prequel to Alien leaves you with more questions than answers (and essentially leaves room for more sequels [or prequels, however you look at it]), it hasn't completely done its job. Did God create humans? Did these dead humanoid humans create humans? When alien creatures are bursting from bellies in blood-spurting glory, does it really make a difference? Apparently, it doesn't to the writers of this hugely anticipated film.
     If you go into Prometheus with huge expectations (which I did), you are bound to be a little disappointed. It doesn't change the fact that it's still high above most unoriginal diarrhea that gets shat into cinemas week after week. The visuals alone are worth the price of admission. But it never reaches the height of Scott's directorial efforts that have been immortalized in the history of cinema. Ultimately, that's alright: when Noomi Rapace suits up to kick some alien ass a la Ripley, Michael Fassbender becomes the Fassbot, and ancient creature arise to wreak some acid-spewing havoc, unanswered questions and an average script fade to the back of the mind.     (B)

1 comment:

  1. I still really want to see it. Good to know there are flaws, but it wasn't a disaster.

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