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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prometheus

Ridley Scott returns to the Alien franchise with Prometheus. Really, what more needs to be said?


What it's about

The discovery of incredible ancient wall paintings on various sites throughout earth prompt a couple of scientists to enlist the help of the starship to Prometheus to travel towards a distant planet where they hope to uncover the true – and extra terrestrial - origins of humanity.

What we thought

While, for some of us, 2012 is all about its big superhero films, other genre fans have undoubtedly placed most of their “summer blockbuster” hopes in the semi-resurrection of a beloved science fiction franchise: Ridley Scott's Prometheus.

Scott's 1979 game-changer, Alien, is rightly held up as one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, but in the decades since, his original vision has been sullied by countless sequels and spinoffs, of which only James Cameron's Aliens ranks as a truly worthy followup. Prometheus may not be a direct Alien prequel (thank goodness for that, honestly) but it does have Ridley Scott returning to expand on the universe he created all those years ago.

Expectations then, really couldn't be much higher. Not only are the franchise faithful promised a new look at an old favourite, Ridley Scott fans have their undeniably worthy film-making god returning to the genre that he helped to shape, a genre that in turn shaped his entire career. It's hard to imagine where science fiction cinema would without Alien and Blade Runner and, by the same token, it's equally impossible to imagine Scott's long and varied career without these same two films – genre classics that remain to this day, three decades later, his calling cards.

As if this wasn't enough to build expectations to the Alien equivalent of pre-Phantom Menace levels of StarWars hysteria, the whole production has been shrouded in the kind of secrecy you simply don't see much of these days outside of Chris Nolan's Batman films. Still not enough? Not only does it already have fans of its genre, its franchise and its director in its pocket, Prometheus also makes a grab at those millions of die-hard Lost fans (who presumably still haven't learned their lesson) by having the screenplay be co-written by Lost's own co-creator Damon Lindelof.

With all of this in mind, it's hardly surprising that Prometheus can't hope to live up to its promise but, regardless of the film's actual quality, by the way it plays out, it becomes all to clear that Prometheus will almost undoubtedly disappoint anyone who sees it, in one way or another.

Well, OK, probably not those who have remained faithful to the Alien franchise no matter how low it's sunk but, to be fair,winning that particular audience over is hardly cause for celebration. Release anything that doesn't actively suck and you have effectively rewarded them with their best film since Aliens in the early 1980s.

For everyone else though, Prometheus can't help but frustrate. Fans of the more horrific side of science fiction will be let down by the film's slow pace and many talky scenes, while affectionados of so-called “smart science fiction” will find the film's themes and ideas just a bit too familiar for comfort. Those looking to have their minds blown by the year's most enigmatic film, meanwhile, will almost undoubtedly leave wondering what all the fuss was about. As for those who hold Blade Runner and Alien up as two of their favourite films, they will undoubtedly find Prometheus to be nowhere near those film's levels of ingenuity and originality.

Indeed, when you get right down to it, Prometheus' biggest failing is that it offers little ty new to anyone even remotely familiar with science fiction cinema since the early '80s. Alien and Blade Runner are obvious parts of its DNA but so are A.I., Contact, The Thing, lots and lots of Star Trek and a whole lot more. Even its clunky dialogue, shallow characterization, odd pacing and occasionally under-developed storytelling can't obscure the fact that the worst thing about Prometheus is just how un-special it landed up being.

All that said though, I still at least mildly recommend going to Prometheus, preferably on the big screen and, though its far from the worst offender in the pointless 3D stakes, preferably in 2D. For a start, though its themes of finding out what it means to be human by looking towards the skies, has been done to death, it's fairly well handled here. More importantly, it's simply always good to see a science fiction film that understands metaphor and knows that the secret behind great science fiction is awesome, and I mean literally awesome, ideas.

It's also a film that more than showcases some of Ridley Scott's greatest skills as a director. Say what you want about the script – and there is plenty to say – Scott has still managed to create a film that is a wonder to behold, with awe-inspiring cinematography and magnificent art-design, making for one one of the most visually breathtaking films of the year. And pacing aside, Scott certainly knows how to deliver on those horror/thriller set pieces.

The acting too is top notch as Noomi Rapace (following hot on the heels of Sigourney Weaver as a typically great, ass-kicking, Ridley Scott scifi heroine), Chalize Theron (back on form after the misstep of Snow White and the Huntsman), Idris Alba (playing against type as the film's light relief as the Prometheus' cocky, laid-back captain) and, best of all, Michael Fassbender (in another scene stealing turn, this time as a morally and emotionally ambiguous android) make the absolute best of their underdeveloped roles.

Effectively, Prometheus is the anti-Men In Black III as the low expectations of the latter gave way to pleasant surprise (for me at least and, if just about every other reaction on the planet is anything to go by, only me), while the sky-high expectations of the former can only give way to disappointment. See it by all means, but do try and go in with reasonable expectations. Believe me, you'll thank me later.


1 comment:

  1. As is mostly the case these days, Fassbender does steal the show! But I agree with you, all three main characters are amazing!
    You should check out my interesting take on the film.
    The Popcornography review:
    http://popcornographyblog.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/prometheus-review/

    ReplyDelete