Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Prometheus

Before we get into this review should point out an important truth about myself: I’ve never seen Alien, Aliens (except for the last ten minutes for some reason), Alien 3, or Alien Resurrection (Nor have I seen the Alien vs. Predator series, but I suspect that doesn’t matter as much). Because of that I guess a lot of details from this movie that went over my head. For example I saw a video review of this film after I watched it that kept using the words “Space Jockey” like it was supposed to mean something. I had to look it up because I had no idea what the hell it was. So while you’re reading this review just take in mind that I can’t really compare this film to any of the Alien movies like so many people have been doing. My review will just be based on whether or not this movie was any good.

Anyway Prometheus is a film by Ridley Scott who for some time now had been making vague statements about whether or not this flick is a prequel to the original Alien, which he is of course famous for directing. This film, or at least some sort of Alien prequel, has been in development for years and has finally come to fruition in 2012. There was a huge amount of hype going into this film, probably too much for this film to live up too but on the other hand it has a really badass cast. It features Noomi Rapace from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (The version, not the American one), Michael Fassbender from X-Men: First Class, Idris Elba from Thor, and Charlize Theron, who between this movie and Snow White and the Huntsman, is probably feeling kind of smug right now.

Full review after the jump.

[WARNING: There are some spoilers in this review but it shouldn't be anything too bad. Just be aware.]

We're off to outer space! We're leaving Mother Earth!
To save the human race! OUR! STAR! BLAZERS!!
 In the year 2089 scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find wall paintings depicting star maps among several ancient civilizations on Earth, spread out so that there was no way its people could have been connected. They convince the mega company Weyland Corporation to fund an expedition to the planet the maps depict in the hopes they will find the aliens that they believe may have created the human race long ago. Their ship, The Prometheus, makes planet fall in 2092 but just as they begin their mission things start going horribly array.

The film looks really nice. Science Fiction films have really been looking super pretty lately. I dug the look of the ship as well as the effects of the various tools and technology. The stuff on the planet and the cave is a bit less impressive, not because it wasn’t well made but I guess the contrast between the two settings just left me feeling sort of “meh” towards the latter. I need to mention that there is some damn fine acting in this movie. Obviously the morally dubious android David, as played by Michael Fassbender is the stand-out followed by the ice queen/business asshole Meredith Vickers played by Charlize Theron. Most of the cast turn in more than solid jobs, the only real misfires were Idris Elba who had a pretty terrible accent throughout the film (though to be fair it’s half the director’s fault for not correcting him) and Guy Piearce, who doesn’t do a bad job exactly but his character had absolutely no business being played by a man of his age. It would have been better, and probably cheaper on the make-up budget, to simply hire an old actor rather than dress up a younger one.

Unlike Alien Prometheus isn’t a Science Fiction horror film and more of an adventure flick but while most reviewers counted this as a negative I was relived. First of all I don’t like horror films and I think I like Sci-Fi themed ones even less because it lulls me into a false sense of security (because I love Sci-Fi so much I forget that they’re about to try to scare me). Second of all I think it’s a good thing that it doesn’t try to replicate the tone of the movie it’s supposedly the prequel to. Aliens wasn’t a horror film either and it was highly regarded.

"Oooh, shiny!"
Though the characters are mostly well acted they aren’t really that well written. The vast majority of them are little more than background noise and we don’t get to know most of the ones around. The few we do meet are still underdeveloped and are more like typical film archetypes than real people. For example Vickers is probably the most sensible person in the cast but we don’t really get that invested in her, partly because of her icy exterior that never changes and partly because we simply aren’t given enough time to get to know her on more than the most basic level. So by the time the film reached the climax I really didn’t care if she lived or died. I pretty much felt similar to almost every other character in the cast and since all but two of them are much less developed than Vickers you can kind of see why that would be a problem. Elizabeth Shaw really didn’t grab my attention until the last act as before that she seemed to have this bizarrely detached response to all the terrifying things happening to her (at least until that one horrific thing that I won’t say what here but you’ll f**king know it when you see it). It’s very odd to feel neutral towards the protagonist until after an hour through the film. David has a lot of interesting quirks and dealings throughout the film and would have been the best example of developed character but sadly his actions throughout the film, which can be bets described as complete and utter disregard for human life, is pretty disturbing (even if some assholes have it coming). Mostly because I don’t understand his motivation for anything he does. The only possible explanation is him being “under orders” but even then that just means that someone is utterly insane for giving those types of orders. It’s too distracting. But worse than that is how ridiculously stupid most of the characters are portrayed. They constantly do unbelievably reckless and generally incompetent crap, despite the fact that they’re supposed to be scientists. It’s the out space equivalent of sticking a pencil into a power outlet to see what would happen, except way too many characters seemed to be confused of the dangers of doing such crap. Hell, a good chunk of the deaths in this film come from human beings basically answering incorrectly to questions like “Should I touch this black stuff?” or “Should I go into that corpse filled hallway?” It’s really frustrating to watch.

In a better movie these two in one shot would have meant more
I’ve also heard that many people believed that many scenes, beats, and settings were ripped directly from Alien to the point that it came off like a brighter yet less well done remake of the original film. As I hadn’t seen that flick I can’t really comment one way or the other but if that is the case that sucks for fans of the franchise. Speaking of Alien for those of you wondering there is a connection between this movie and its predecessor (successor?) but the strength of that connection has been debated. My opinion: sure, I'll go with that. Still it’s probably best to think of Prometheus as the first of a new film franchise that shares the same setting as the Alien flicks.

The question is did this movie live up to the incredible hype leading to its release and the answer is, unfortunately, “no.” It’s a pretty good Sci-Fi film though the characters are far from the sharpest knives in the drawer. On its own it’s a fine film that should entertain more than it annoys, but if you compare it to the other Alien films (the good ones, I mean) you might have a harder time getting through it. The script is not that great, or at least it could have been a lot better, but it’s far from the worst script I’ve had to deal with this summer. Bottom line is that it’s not the best science fiction entry this year nor was it the worst. Check it out if you like the genre, special effects, or any of the actors in the cast; it will probably be worth a matinee showing or a rental at least.

To be fair Rapace's fake English accent wasn't great either
Prometheus gets 3 Adorable Pandas out of 5.


-Very well acted

-Lots of cool special effect


-The characters are mostly underdeveloped and/or incompetent

-The script itself isn’t great

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