Saturday, 16 June 2012

Prometheus (2012)

My friend Shannon called me up the other day to ask if I wanted to come check out Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012). I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it, since I've never seen Alien (also Rid, 1979), but most of the buzz I'd heard was positive, so I tagged along. The primary feeling Prometheus left me with was that Alien must be ten times better. I don't mean that as an insult: Prometheus is a perfectly decent summer blockbuster that presumably lays the groundwork for a much more lauded film.

Prometheus suggests that Charlize Theron is an android, which I have long suspected.
Scott's latest yarn recounts the travels of the doomed ship Prometheus, which treks off to a faraway planet searching for humanity's forefathers (we subsequently learn that mankind as a whole has some serious daddy issues). The ship is manned partly by reps of the Weyland corporation (you can spot them because they're blonde sociopaths) and partly by research scientists (you can spot them because they're morons). The party makes contact with extremely cranky alien life, and when the dust settles the only ones left standing are Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and android David (Michael Fassbender), who hightail it out of there before the credits roll.

Prometheus does a great job of including viewers who are new to the Alien franchise: the plot was perfectly comprehensible without any background knowledge. 15-20 minutes could be cut for a better-paced film, but that's so standard nowadays there's hardly any point mentioning it. My main quibble is with the scientist characters, who were bogglingly stupid (for example: two get lost overnight in a path which we later see mapped as perfectly round). Charlize Theron is marginally more interesting as sneaky, serpentine Meredith Vickers, but Fassbender as David really steals the show. He's 50% Laurence of Arabia, 50% Mephistopheles, and 100% deliciously evil.

It's the small character details -- David watching Peter O'Toole's Laurence to copy his hairstyle, Janek's (Idris Elba) seduction of Vickers (he asks "are you a robot?" and seranades her with "Love the One You're With"), that make Prometheus better than your average sci-fi thriller. Dramatic excellence is there as well -- both cinematic beauty and edge-of-your seat tension -- but by and large it's embedded in too much bloated sci-fi rhetoric. Prometheus gets a 3/5, and I'm pumped to watch Alien.

"Oh, I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay...."
FINAL GIRL: Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw. Rapace previously played the kick-ass Lisbeth Salander in Niels Arden Oplev's 2009 take on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. I haven't seen Oplev's GWDT, and based on Rapace's performance here I can't really picture her as punk goddess Lisbeth. The good doctor Shaw is just so... well, good. She's a damsel in distress with vague spiritual leanings and a lovey-dovey sweetheart (Logan Marshall-Green) who brings her roses and champagne. When Shaw finally toughens up, she surprises the audience as much as her enemies. None of this is to say that I minded the character: Rapace does a good job. I hope we'll see her on the big screen again soon, maybe even playing a character whose name is not a variant on Elizabeth.

4 comments:

  1. The promotion for this film made it look freakin’ awesome but also, a lot like Alien and I think that’s the big problem with the film. It’s pretty much the same formula used over again and even though Scott tries his hardest to get our heads past that, it’s too obvious, too quick. Good review Rebecca.

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    1. Hey Dan! I'm really interested to see how/if my opinion of Prometheus changes once I watch Alien. I've heard Alien 2 is quite different from the rest of the franchise, so I might add that to my screening list as well.

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  3. Yeah, the 'scientists' bugged me, especially how Shaw seemed to be doctor of whatever-the-plot-needs-at-that-moment. Hieroglyphics? Sure! Examining alien DNA? No problem. And her vague spirtual leanings bugged me too- I think if you're going to make a character religious, their characterization should be informed by the specifics of their faith. Shaw could have had a Flying Spaghetti Monster decal around her neck instead of a cross for all it mattered to the plot. But despite my nitpicking, I also really liked the movie. Good review.

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