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Saturday, June 9, 2012

Movie Review: PROMETHEUS


"Big things have small beginnings."
-- David

Prometheus is a 2012 sci-fi horror film directed by Ridley Scott that serves as a quasi-prequel to Scott's 1979 film, Alien. After archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a string of clues to the origin of human life on Earth, they enlist the help of the Weyland Corporation to make their way to a distant planet where they believe they will find the alien species that created humanity. Once there, they find the remains of what looks to be an old colony, but as they continue to explore the caves, they start to realize that there may be a menace amongst them that's more powerful and more terrifying than they could have ever imagined.

Those of you who follow my blog will know just how excited I have been for the release of Prometheus. As a huge fan of Scott's original Alien, I waited (im)patiently for his return to the franchise after thirty-three years. And for most of the film, I have to say that I was filled with an awkward giddiness that kept me engaged from start to finish. It's only in the time after the movie ended that I've started to realize that Prometheus wasn't all it's cracked up to be.

The first major issue with the film is its place as a "quasi-prequel" to 1979's Alien. In recent months, Scott had claimed that while the film would not directly precede the events of Alien, it would take place within the same cinematic universe and would explore the mythologies behind the creatures and events he created within that universe. And so, I was prepared for a film similar to Alien but not necessarily connected to it in any way, shape or form. Where the film goes wrong is in its execution of this idea. Rather than steering clear of the Alien storyline, Prometheus acts as though it's going to answer all the questions left resonating by its predecessor. It has all the pieces to do so, but it's only in the final act that it becomes clear that the situations aren't exactly the same. In a way, the film hypes up the story as a direct prequel but then ungraciously reminds the viewer that it isn't by taking the story in a different direction right at the end. Perhaps I was just put off by this idea, but it took me out of the film and made for a bit of a disappointment.

The second issue is the screenplay itself. While the story proves to be inventive, and it does manage to channel some familiar plot pieces from previous Alien films, it doesn't seem as though the situations are interconnected or plausible. We go from one scene to the next, but we're never quite sure why anyone is doing any particular thing at any given time. I suppose the real issue is that we're never given a clear sense of any character motivation. In past Alien films - especially in the original flick - we always had a great sense of character development. We knew who was doing what, and why they wanted to do it. In Prometheus, however, these things prove to be a bit clouded. Our two archaeologists seem straight-forward enough: they want to learn the origins of human life. But it's some of the ancillary characters who act in strange and peculiar ways, and there really isn't a reason given for some of their actions. And aside from Michael Fassbender's David (an android), we never really get to know any of the characters on an intimate level. Maybe that was the idea, and the joke. Let's make the audience know the most about the only non-human character on board the ship. My biggest issue with the screenplay, however, is that it tried to force emotion onto the audience in blatant and over-the-top ways. Because we couldn't establish any real connection to the characters, it seemed as though tiny plot pieces were added here and there to make us feel some sort of emotion to a given character from time to time. Unfortunately, these moments just seemed gimmicky and proved annoying after a while.

What's sad about all this is that the screenplay actually spoils some rather fine attributes about the film. For starters, I thought the special effects were incredibly well-done, and although they're nothing ground-breaking, it definitely looks realistic, and for that, Prometheus should be applauded. We're also getting a slew of decent performances from the cast. Rapace is good as our apparent lead, although I know she's capable of stronger work (see: 2010's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). Fassbender offers the best performance in the film, bringing forth an android that is both the most and least human-like in the franchise. That's quite a feat considering we've gotten some great android performances in past films in the franchise from the likes of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen. I also thought that Charlize Theron and Idris Elba played their parts well, but both were a tad bit under-utilized, in my opinion. Also be on the watch for a fine supporting performance from Guy Pearce, who you may not recognize under all his makeup.

Still, despite everything I've just said, I have a strong desire to return to the theaters to give this one another chance. Part of me thinks that the only reason I'm so put-off by the film is because it hyped itself up to be a direct prequel then left even more questions unanswered. It's almost as though Scott wanted to leave this film open-ended for a potential sequel, and I can see where they might have the possibility. I suppose we'll have to wait and see about that, but I very well may give this one another view, and should I do so, my thoughts and opinions could very well change drastically. But as it currently stands, I'd go into this one a little wary because, despite all the issues I have with its "quasi-prequel" status, there are still a few negative aspects that simply cannot be overlooked.

Movie Review Summary
Grade: B-
Should You See It? Maybe

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