Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Prometheus, a brief review

I've never had so many people ask for my opinion on one movie before. I'm humbled.Thanks for your interest. You lovely people know who you are.

Touted as a "prequel" to Ridley Scott's classic Alien, Prometheus follows a group of archeologists and scientists to discover the origins of humanity. This leads them across the universe in pursuit of the world's oldest and most daunting question: who made us?

As with last time, my review will focus on three major aspects of the film, with allowance for expansion in needed areas.

And away we go.

TECHNICAL

The film is technical perfection. 

Shot by Dariusz Wolski, Prometheus is fat out gorgeous. From the opening five minutes of Iceland Soaring, we are treated to primordial glaciers and looming bacteria-infested mountains. Everything is in a state of glistening decay, and Wolski captures this primeval paradise with precision and perfection.

Watching Prometheus in 3D with ETX sound was a symphony. The elemental decay of both worlds and individuals is captured with enhanced design, looming into the human body and even to our DNA. The editing is flawless for the first half, allowing silent scenes to speak louder than most of Lindelof's writing (which we will get to eventually). Watching the actors work within odd and violent atmospheres was a treat, and Scott as usual is a master of lens and epic scope.

Scalia's and Scott's handling of the much-touted C-Section sequence is both terrifying and agonizing. That scene alone, though I think it could've had more impact, was the singular moment where I forgot I was sitting in a dark room. Well done, Misters Scott and Scalia.

NARRATIVE

During the first half of the film, I was genuinely confused. Why? Because I wasn't sure where things were going. Watching Fassbender's David ride a bicycle and play basketball was the most interesting part of the movie for me. The relationship between Shaw and Holloway worked rather well in my opinion, considering that they really only shared one scene together.

Solid first half. Palpable buildup. Some intriguing character development.

This is where things get contentious for me, and where my thoughts have both been challenged and affirmed. Simply put, I think the film suffers from the same problems that Lost did. Namely, it follows a formula of putting forth philosophy as icing when we really want discussion and practical application. We know that they are in pursuit of the world's most distressing and intriguing question, but we are rarely given any reason to care why. Shaw's child-like innocence is both plausible and child-like, though rightly maligned in certain instances.

The second half is where the film falls apart. Questions proposed at the beginning are not answered. I understand Roger Ebert's comment about good science fiction being about the question, but I contend that there is a profound difference between asking questions and using questions as filler. In short, I'm not entirely convinced that the questions asked in Prometheus are true questions. Because, to propose such questions then follow them up with a highly odd sequence where a zombie-like creature (looking more like the Elephant Man) throws crew members around like paper strikes me more as filler to get us to spectacle. The concept of rebirth being followed by death is indeed interesting, but the execution is poorly done.

I love spectacle, but it sounds like the writer's came up with set-pieces and shoe-horned ideas around them to compensate for a lackluster narrative. Considering that Prometheus suddenly has very smart people act in such thoroughly stupid ways doesn't help their case about smart people asking smart questions. To go from them creating technology that can outline entire caverns to being upstaged by horror cliches had me screaming, "don't touch the angry looking serpentine phallus!" Seriously. Bad form.

Also, it strikes me as very odd to have a crew member who has gone on such a long journey with a woman he loves suddenly beg to be torched. The scene is cumbersome and not set-up well, especially considering the intimacy that said characters experienced together.

I know I'm griping, but these things legitimately bothered me.

MEANING

God and evolution are not exclusive terms. As someone who sees little reason to not accept theistic evolution, I found the "tension" in the film laughable. Science and religion are not shown in conflict as much as you have immature sniping and childish innuendo being championed as "conflict." Shaw's comment in response to a question about Darwinism provoked the sole laugh from that theater, and I was the only one laughing. "I choose to believe." This is not tension, it is better satire.

Shaw shows no loss of faith, and any comment about God from crew members or androids is misused and bulky. Since her faith is touted, it would make sense to show her religious conflict in realizing that their "engineer" could indeed be evil. There is no pondering such a heavy idea. It is used to keep us interested until something explodes out of someone's chest. Which does happen. And it's kinda cool.

CONCLUSION

In short, I'm not convinced that Prometheus has sold me. The ideas that stand alone are indeed interesting and worth pursuing. The film is gorgeous, well acted and MUST be seen in 3D and ETX. The set-up for a sequel is indeed palpable and the sole question, which wasn't answered at all, is still fresh.

However, the narrative is clunky, most of the crew members ought to be wearing red (nerd joke), and the questions share the same qualities as Lost and an emergency glassed-in hammer:

break open in case of uncertain narrative, use once and disregard.

3 out of 5.

--Nick

*review open to rewriting

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