Prometheus – Movie Review
June 22, 2012
Filed under Arts & Entertainment
Accolades immediately began pouring in, and to this day, Alien is widely considered a classic sci-fi masterpiece. Alien has inspired countless works of science fiction, with it’s xenomorphic antagonist being parodied and paid homage to time and time again. It’s sequel, Aliens (directed by James Cameron) involved\ an entourage of space-soldiers known as the Colonial Marines (based heavily on the Mobile Infantry from Starship Troopers). All these elements, including towering, dark-skinned aliens (spawned by a Queen), small aliens that latch onto a hosts face (hugging it tightly) and use their body as a living incubator for their young who burst from their chest’s, have become staples of modern science fiction works; Star Craft to Halo, and everything in-between have admitted to drawing inspiration from the Alien franchise. The bottom line here, is that the first two Alien movies are phenomenal examples of science fiction.
Then came Alien 3, essentially a rehash of Aliens that director James Cameron himself called a “slap to the face”, and suffered from horrendous mediocrity. Alien Resurrection (For some reason, instead of just “4″ they decided to use on of the most cliché subtitles for a movie in existence) suffered from no shortage of production problems, including a director who could not speak English. Resurrection is the movie that pretty much put a 10x28mm-caseless pulse rifle bullet right into the chitinous, acid filled head of the Alien franchise. The Alien vs. Predator movie released a few years later did little in the way of triage.
So, what does any of this have to do with Prometheus?
Prometheus was conceptualized in 2002 as a prequel to the original Alien film. Director Ridley Scott had been toying with the idea of returning to the franchise, and seemed interested from the get go. The movie was, unfortunately, trapped in development hell until 2009 when pre-production finally began. While Ridley Scott claimed it would not be directly related to the Alien movies, he said that fans would “recognize strands of the Alien’s DNA, so to speak…” A statement that, in the end, proved shockingly apt. But aside from all this, how good was Prometheus as a movie? To answer that question, we have to look at many elements of the film.
Firstly, what is Prometheus trying to achieve as a quasi-prequel? Ridley Scott said he wanted to explore the origins of the Xenomorphs, and while the film certainly does that, it also leaves very much unexplained and open to a sequel, which is an extremely cheap film-making tactic. Some of the best scenes in the movie, at least to a fan of the franchise, would be the ones that contain “alien DNA”. There is one scene where the characters are investigating a cave, and come across a monstrous carved mural on the wall, featuring what appears to be an Alien Queen in the center. The characters quickly move away from this finding , but for the audience members savvy in Xenomorphic physiology, it was a beautiful wink. While there is not an excess of creatures in this movie, the few that are featured are very suggestive of early concept designs by H.R. Geiger for the original film, all of which were extremely creative and, most importantly, frightening.
The visuals of Prometheus are spectacular. The opening shots panning across expansive landscapes seem alien, yet very familiar too, something very tricky to achieve. The camera does not suffer from close-up shaky shots, and while there are certainly many shots in almost total darkness, the lights on the suits of the characters and from their flashlight provide enough to see exactly what’s going on at all times. In fact, the character’s helmets have lights around the neck that illuminate their faces and make it easy to tell them apart, this also draws attention to the actors emotions and features. The biggest problem with Prometheus, however, is the lack of answers. For every question we were given an answer to, ten more pop up. While a healthy amount of mystery in any story is a nice touch, there was simply too much of a good thing here. For example, the main characters, Elizabeth Shaw and Logan Marshall-Green, found multiple “star maps” in caves all around the Earth. How they took five dots on a cave wall, and matched them to the billions of stars in space is breezed over, and from a later revelation realized by the captain of the ship, Janek, it makes shockingly little sense that the map placed on Earth led them where it did.
Was Prometheus a good movie? The acting was great, Michael Fassbinder as “David”, the android, was particularly good. Although he often appears devoid of emotions (because he wasn’t programmed to have them) we are still given glimpses of his understanding of the concept, and even a flicker of feelings in response to other characters. Noomi Rapace did an excellent job portraying Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, though her role was, at parts, contrived, and certainly inspired by Ripley from the original series. The special and visual effects of Prometheus could give Avatar a run for its money, with huge, epic alien vistas as the backdrop for the inventive pieces of technology no sci-fi flick would be complete without. The story suffered from an overdose of mystery, and a dash too much coincidence for my taste, but these complaints are just shallow craters on the surface of an otherwise engaging and enjoyable movie.