Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: Prometheus

Prometheus has been one of this year's most anticipated films, partly due to its aggressive viral marketing campaign and I too have been looking forward to it for some time.  So it's with some reluctance that I admit it didn't live up to my expectations.  Perhaps I expected too much from Ridley Scott?  I wanted the visceral quality of Aliens mixed with the contemplative beauty that was Blade Runner.  But alas, t'was not to be.  And while I have no doubt that Noomi Rapace has it in her, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw is no Ellen Ripley.

Prometheus begins harmlessly enough, suggesting that the creation myth is actually the result of an alien breaking apart his genetic material and implanting it in Earth millions of millennia ago.  Some time later (in the year 2083 to be exact) two archeologists uncover what appears to be a sign from foreign lifeforms asking us to come and seek them.  Unfortunately, it all goes to pot (as is expected in these films).  That said, I think my main problem with the film (the twisting of the mother metaphors aside) was that there was more or less no substance to it.  We knew what was going to happen and while there were some interesting characters, more or less everything was easily predicted.  This is not what you want in this type of film.

Fassbender's android David was one of few brights spots for me since he reminded me eerily of Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey.  From our first meeting of David he is both engaging and entirely neutral to the events going on around him, to the point of being disturbing.  To the other characters he may seem to simply be doing his job or perhaps be giving in to some small curiosity on his own part, however he is most certainly motivated by outside forces and that subtlety is well played by Fassbender.  Some characters seem to be drawn towards that strange dichotomy that is David while others find it unnerving but I myself found it utterly fascinating.

So too was the landscape breathtaking and awe inspiring, certainly making it worth the price of admission.  In this at least I was not disappointed and found myself treated to vistas and seemless special effects which (even in 2D) were quite incredible.  Now that said, I also went back and re-watched Alien (the original film) later that week and was struck by, even with 80's computers and special effects, the film was absolutely terrifying.  One of the most unsettling films I have ever seen was the original Paranormal Activity and the reason is that they mostly used in-camera effects. Unfortunately what I've found with the honing of computer graphics is that filmmakers want to show you the nasty thing in the dark now, they want you to see it in all its glory.  I'm afraid even with all those effects and all that skill, it simply doesn't hold a candle to my imagination.  The "unseen thing" will always be scarier.

What's more, we seem to have come to a point in film history where we no longer worry about the larger implications of what we're looking at.  The original Alien films were rife with references to "the mother" and her influence on society.  The moral implications of a mother protecting her children and just what that meant, and when those actions became a threat, when that was a step too far.  Ripley herself (in the second installment) becomes a sort of surrogate mother to the young girl they discover on the ship and the final battle between Ripley and the Queen is the ultimate test of a mother's love for her children.  That, for me, is what makes those films so powerful, the humanity and ultimate struggle to survive.  Unfortunately I found that while Prometheus does try to address a larger question of humanity's place in the universe, it did so without much mind to actually building an argument and the metaphor completely fell apart.  There were several instances of characters discussing the, "what does it all mean," concern but they quickly passed on to another topic. A few throw away lines about parents seem to be all that is required to make the surface observer think there is larger significance here but upon closer examination I could find none.

Ultimately if you want a slick movie about people in space with some great actors then this is a decent film.  But if you're looking for a truly chilling and affecting movie you're out of luck.

My rating: 2.5 out of 4 (mostly for the cinematography)

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Prometheus was a lot of style and very little substance. It has been a while since I have seen Alien or Aliens, but they were both terrifying. There was nothing EXTREMELY terrifying about Prometheus. A lot of films are depending too heavily on effects and the story is suffering.