Thursday, June 14, 2012

Prometheus - Close but not quite.

Prometheus, for those somehow unaware - is a prequel to the 1979 classic "Alien". Sure, Ridley Scott and the producers have been saying they wanted it to be its own story and its own thing, but that doesn't change the fact that it is definitely a prequel to Alien. However, it doesn't set the stage for the first film, which I was sort of expecting. I consider it a pleasant surprise. I love the franchise, and "Aliens" (1986) is one of my all-time favorites.

Overall, I thought this movie was good and entertaining. There were a few things I almost wished I could have rewound through to see again, but I enjoyed it and found it well worth going to see.

So the basic story of Prometheus is primarily about the Space Jockeys. Secondarily, its also about where the notorious "xenomorph" aliens came from. The opening of the film was a little screwy, and I don't think a lot of people understood that the beginning was showing the origin of human life, but I got it and that really added a lot of understanding to later parts of the film. The first act of this film is mainly just giving us back story and setting the scene and tone of how things are going to play out. I found myself intrigued. When we finally get on board the Prometheus herself, the fun starts. Michael Fassbender plays David, the synthetic/android/'artificial person' whatever. And he does an absolutely amazing job in the role, managing to convey exactly what an android in an Alien film should be - polite and charming on the surface with a core of malicious intentions. Some of David's actions don't make much sense despite it being incredibly obvious what his intentions are and where he's getting his orders from, it could have been done better but that's just a nitpick - he was definitely my favorite in this film.

At first the mission and the plot have a heroic feel to it, like its celebrating this brave band of noble explorers who are on a fantastic voyage to expand humanity's understanding of its origins. Charlize Theron then steps in and gives you a slap in the face, letting you know the real reason that Prometheus is on LV-223. I have to say until that moment, I was beginning to raise my eyebrow at the plot. Eventually, we see what became of the so called "engineers" - fans of the first Alien will know them as Space Jockeys. As the team explores the dank, creepy environment filled with things that obviously are not conducive to anyone's good health, there is so much that seems to be crying out to be explained, and is just forgotten. It helps add an air of mystery to what happens, but its not the greatest. I feel that the plot could have been better and had less horror cliches in it, but its good enough to carry things along. So here's a question for you: if you were in a space suit, in a underground cavern looking for your creator, and you happened to find a huge pile of their corpses, do you think you would stick around? Definitely not. Things like that really irritate me sometimes, and I feel with the talent that is behind Prometheus, they could have come up with something a little less mind-numbing, something that doesn't take the suspension of disbelief and try to throw it out the window.

That said, there are some very creepy moments, and a few genuinely terrifying ones complemented by some outstanding visual effects. A scene involving medical treatments to Noomi Rapace's character (whom she plays marvelously) comes to mind, one I won't soon forget. What does let the film down a little is Marc Streitenfeld's forgettable score, its not awful but like I said, forgettable. In fact there's one moment where the feel of the music almost directly contradicts the harrowing nightmare the characters are experiencing on screen. 

Perhaps intentionally and perhaps not, this movie shows where the xenomorph aliens in fact came from. At least, thats what I gathered from it. You probably won't realize it until late in the film, or in my case after. Sitting there having a glass of water and wham! Now you know where they came from. It was an interesting twist, and when Rapace's character unleashes it thats when you'll likely figure out where the xenomorph's came from. Like I've stated though, this film does NOT set the stage for the first Alien film, or any of the other ones, not even the silly Aliens vs Predator films. What it does do is make you go "ohh, NOW I get where they come from!" and then feel disappointed that it didn't go further.

I understand why Prometheus wanted to only loosely be connected to the original Alien films, but frankly I think it was a bad decision. Sure, having its own spin on things and being in a slightly separate universe allows new, younger fans to break themselves into the franchise. But honestly, I don't think there were many people in the theater who came just because the previews made it look like a good sci-fi/horror flick. Both before, during, and after the film people were talking avidly about Alien and Aliens. I wanted so badly for this movie to set the stage for the first Alien, and I'm ok that it didn't, but it still felt a little disappointing to have the film start filling in blanks and then suddenly stop and change directions. We started with goo, and ended up with enormous face-huggers and chest burster 2.0, and you're just going to stop there, really? The ending of the film felt like a cheap shot, and in fact I'd have to say that the transition from the second act to the third was really abrupt and sloppy. Following a WTF was the point of that whole scene moment, suddenly revelation that you were expecting followed by cliche. Don't misunderstand, I'm satisfied overall with this film, I just think that fans of the franchise might feel a little cheated by how things play out.

The creature design for the Space Jockeys/Engineers is pretty interesting, and if you like a bit of gore in your movies there isn't any in short supply here. The build up to some of the crazier moments will get your blood pumping and your butt clenching, the tension in this movie is incredible and though it takes a bit to really start, once the wave of suspense starts it keeps right on going until the end with only a few minor hickups. 

So, overall this film is great and very entertaining. Would I see it again? Sure, once or twice, but it doesn't have the longevity of Alien or Aliens. The acting is phenomenal in this film, absolutely fantastic work by all the actors. The film looks wonderful with breath taking special effects and set design. Some of the props were a little odd but no complaints. The music was forgettable but the sounds are great. Apparently the orchestra was given sheet music to be played backwards which was then digitally reversed to create unsettling sounds - rather creative and quite effective. The plot is a little screwy and no matter how much you read about it wanting to be more of its own thing, fans of the series won't be able to help wanting more connection with the rest of the franchise.

What I loved:
The suspense, the gore, the back story of not only humanity but the xenomorphs.
What I hated:
The plot, the score, the messy continuity, and not seeing Charlize Theron naked ;)

Final rating: 3/5 stars, or 70%, or B-. Worth seeing in the theater for full price.

Please tell me what YOU thought of this review and the film its about in the comments :)


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