Monday, June 11, 2012
Movie Review: Prometheus
(Author's Note: My new job has me quite busy, and while it does allow me the ability to see many more new releases than I did when I was broke with nothing but time on my hands, it also makes it harder to get these made in a timely fashion. That's why I release these as written reviews ahead of time, just so you guys have SOMETHING.)
When the fuck did it become so hard for Ridley Scott to find decent writers? Seriously, since when does a guy with this kind clout end of with such shitty scripts to work with? Between this & Robin Hood, I'm beginning to think the guy doesn't even read his own movies anymore and just focuses on making them look pretty.
You see, like everything else Scott's made in the last few years, Prometheus is an absolutely gorgeous film. Beautiful set pieces, breathtaking cinematography, truly immersive especially in 3D...all of which fails to conceal the fact that the movie is just not very good. It doesn't really work as a prequel to Alien (oh yeah, spoiler alert, Prometheus is a prequel to Alien) in fact at times it feels more like a remake; a dumber yet paradoxically more ambitious remake but a remake nonetheless.
I say it feels more like a remake because is Alien one of those franchises that seems terrified of change, and recycles the same basic plot over and over again. Generally when audiences say they want a sequel to this or that film, what they mean is they want more stories told about the same characters or set in the same universe, but what studios always seem to think they mean is the same story told slightly differently. This is why the only thing that changes in a Die Hard sequel is the square footage of area for the bad guys to takeover and John McClane to get trapped in. They went from a skyscraper to an airport to the entire city of New York to the whole freaking country, and at this point the only way for the series to keep going is for the terrorists to hold Jupiter hostage.
Likewise, every Alien movie has had the same basic set up and story beats, and Prometheus is no exception. A bunch of people on a ship investigate a planet, find the aftermath a big horrific whatever, & get killed off one by one by monsters. There's an android with ulterior motives, a corporate jerk who gets everyone killed trying to capture the monsters alive, and a tough female who doesn't seem important until she's the only one to survive. Even the Alien vs. Predator movies fit this description. You know, say what you will about Alien Resurrection, at least it tried to do SOMETHING new...even if that something was utterly retarded.
To the film's credit it does try for a new element to the story that was never present before, it just fails miserably. This time the crew aren't going for the simple purpose of investigation. They are, in so many words, on a mission to find God, Star Trek V style (thankfully the film isn't quite as bad as that, though). Ridley Scott was always a vocal fan of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the original Alien was partially inspired by that film. With Prometheus, however, Scott has gone from homage to imitation*. Both films are atmospheric & beautifully shot, feature human characters we don't know or care about & an AI character we do by virtue of his not being boring, both revolve around a space expedition to find a race of nameless aliens who created humanity for really vague to the point of nonexistant reasons, & both fail to be meaningful in any way, shape, or form. 2001 was much better at hiding it though, using long takes, minimal dialogue, & that infamously surreal ending to imply some grand statement was being made. And at least 2001 had HAL, a genuinely great character regardless of the larger movie around him. David, the obligatory android in Prometheus, is just a mass of contradictory behavior & confusing motivations. It's a tragic waste of a really great performance by Michael Fassbender, who might've been the most interesting character in the franchise had he been given more to work with.
This time the Ripley role** falls the the former Lisbeth Salander Noomi Rapace, presumably cast for her remarkable resemblance to Sigourney Weaver. The character has potential, being a religious scientist searching for God only for the god she finds to be horrific & murderous, but nothing ever comes of it. Despite the dueling nature of her identity & her spiritually trying ordeal, she never once reconsiders or questions her faith.
Charlize Theron's character of the standard corporate goon is a spectacular failure from a storytelling perspective in that the writer completely fails to give us a reason to hate her. Aside from being slightly rude she never does anything particularly wrong, never endangers the crew in the name of profit as the corporate goon normally does in an Alien film. In fact, the worse thing she ever does is refuse to let a contaminated crewman back on board; you know, the same thing Ripley did in the first movie. There's also a hackneyed twist as to her identity that adds nothing and is almost immediately forgotten.
Yet despite all that, not only do I recommend you see Prometheus, I recommend you see it on the biggest, IMAX-iest, 3D-ist screen you can find, because it is truly a beautiful piece of work. And I don't mean "beautiful" in that James Cameron Avatar "look how expensive our film is" way, I mean it in a finely-crafted masterpiece way. This is one of those rare times when they say 3D is "immersive" & really mean it. See it for the spectacle, just adjust your expectations. It may not read like a great film, but it certainly looks like one.
P.S. The final shot where we finally see a proper Xenomorph, just so they're clear that it is indeed an Alien prequel? HORRIBLY edited. Like, bad movie trailer horrible.
*Just so we're clear, I'm not saying Prometheus is a ripoff of 2001, I'm saying it very clearly wants to be something very much like 2001.
**You know she's the Ripley of the movie right away because it's an Alien movie, there's only three women, one's a evil corporate bitch & the other has no screen time & isn't movie star-attractive.