17 June 2012

FWS Movie Review: Prometheus

I finally saw Prometheus at 1015am at the IMAX 3D in Dallas this Saturday and with the poor word-of-mouth I've been getting from friends, I decided it was time to see and make my own judgement. Prometheus marks Ridley Scott return to world of sci-fi cinema, and returns him to his previous masterwork, 1979's ALIEN. This time though, instead of 2122, LV-426, and Flight Officer E. Ripley, we get 2093, LV-223, and Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. The principle idea of the film was to show where the the race fans have referenced to as the Space Jockeys came from and how their horseshoe shipcame to rest on LV-426. If you've seen the many trailers (especially here at FWS) then you know the basic plot and the visual style. So, the real question is, after the raping of the ALIENS universe by other directors since 1992's ALIEN 3, is Prometheus a broken promise or is it a grand return of the ALIENS universe? Well, here is the review and answer.



If you have read or seen other reviews of this film, than you know of the overall negative tone that surrounds the film, but FWS does not fall into that pattern. Prometheus is a masterpiece, and much like, his 1982 dysutopia work of art, BLADE RUNNER, Prometheus is a dense, dark, moody, noble film with special effects that have reset the bar for state-of-the-art (done by WETA, of course), giving the audience science fiction images unlike any seen in the genre. Every scene is deeply layered with density and design it is almost chewy, and I was grateful to have seen it in IMAX 3D to experience the peerless designed environment of 2093. Mr. Scott's way of showing how man interacts with his machines is a the new standard...watch out Apple! Unlike the Star Wars prequel films, the SFX does not overwhelm every scene, drowning out the actors, and casting the world of 2093 as flat and plastic. Instead, the actors, chief among them Michael Fassbender (David), Noomi Rapace (Dr. Elizabeth Shaw), Idris Elba (Janek, captain of the Prometheus), and Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers executive of Wyland), are at the top of their game, giving the futuristic world concrete human emotions and actions for the audience, and not hollow cardboard symbols of good and evil. The Academy of Motion Pictures should be eyeballing most of the performances in Prometheus, particularly Michael Fassbender, for award season.

It was the complexity that Michael Fassbender breathed into David, that set his performance something that fell into the middle of the two original artificial persons (Ash and Bishop), and Fassbender owns one of the best lines in the entire flim when he is talking to Dr. Holloway. This level of complexity and level of thought is extended to the Space Jockey or Engineers as they are called in Prometheus, I will not spoil the mystery, but these aliens are not the same that we might have imagined, but they are something greater. The way that Ridley Scott designed these Engineers, who recall ancient Greek marble statues, allows for me to feel that xenomorphs are the most truly 'alien' species in this fictional universe. Prometheus takes the viewer on a ride through three acts. The first is the trillion-dollar Wyland funded space scientific expedition to LV-223, and plays out like an exciting exploration sci-fi film harking back to 2001: A Space Odyssey and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. Then it twists in the second act, into a space horror film with deep dark bloody secrets that splash across the screen. At the last gasp, Prometheus is about survival and sacrifice with some first grade action. It surprised me how many fist flew in this film, giving it a crackling kinetic energy.       
For those of us, myself included, that are giant ALIENS fans, Prometheus is steeped in ALIENS lore, making more than a dozen visual and audio references to the first two films, connecting this films to those in a hard way, but for us fans, there is a real emotion reaction to Prometheus that also felt in the first two, connecting the bond that much tighter.
After the film was over, I took off the 3D glasses, and said 'fuck', with my heart still racing. That was proof enough that Prometheus is an big budget, big idea sci-fi epic direct by a master, and it just set the bar much higher for all of us that create science fiction and all the films that come after it.


Well, it can't be all good, and while I think Prometheus is one of the bravest pieces of sci-fi film making in many years, it does have its share of bumps in the road. At times in Prometheus, Ridley takes his tones of realism with human behavior too far, much like overcooking a quality steak. All of the characters in Prometheus, it seems, from Engineer, to Artificial Person, to the science crew are out for themselves, giving the viewer little motivation for us to care who gets killed, save for Dr. Shaw. Scott's want of this hard-boiled frame of mind causes for the characters of Millburn and Fifield to miscast in their roles as a biologist and geologist.
 Fifield does not act like a geologist at all, and should have been cast as a general worker on the Prometheus and assigned to the science crew, given his disdain for the scientists seen in the film, despite that he is one. Then we come to the worst scene of  Prometheus. While the ship is touched down on LV-223 after their first surface expedition and just after some weird shit, there is late-night booty call scene! The captain of the ship is on the bridge when Ms.Vickers strolls up, and instead of some enlightening dialog on the current situation or how fucked up the mission is, we get the captain asking Vickers for a roll in the hay...really?! This was a lost opportunity for Scott to probe more about Wyland's mission to LV-223 or just venture some theories on what the hell was going on. And speaking of what the hell is going on...what is going on with the whole space zombie thing?! The film leaves that plot-point dead in the water, and that was one of the critical elements with film, no one seems to know or care about the events unfolding onboard the ship. 


On Friday, when I laid out the template for this blogpost, I really believed that the 'ugly' of Prometheus was going to be something like' Ridley Scott wasted the opportunity and should made  Prometheus more of a direct sequel to 1979's ALIEN', but that wasn't it once I witness the movie. No, the 'ugly' portion of is how the science team behaviors once they are on the surface of LV-223. All manner of protocol is thrown out the window, and the team just pushes forward with reckless abandon, while David opens doors and turns on alien systems in the pyramid without any care for the team. I guess Wyland didn't install Asimov's Three Laws. It is really damn sloppy work both in the film's own interior logic and behind the camera, screaming to half-baked plot-points. This extends to when the two members of the science team encounters the alien space cobra thing seen in the trailers, it shocked me how badly done this scene was, and how a trained astrobiologist acted when confronted with a clearly hostile alien lifeform. My favorite, how Dr. Shaw, a PhD in archaeology is suddenly medically trained and makes medical decisions over the ship's crew in regards to biological samples brought onboard ship. It should be said that the space truckers of the Nostromo did a better job.  

Should you go see Prometheus or wait for it on Netflicks/Redbox?

I originally thought Prometheus was only a film for us massive fans of the ALIENS universe, but it turns out that this film works on a number of levels. But one thing is the same, some films are an experience best had in the theaters, Avatar was one of those, and so is Prometheus. Witnessing the power and dark beauty of this work is best enjoyed on the big screen...like IMAX big. So, pay the 15 bucks to see it on IMAX 3D, you'll thank yourself later. 

Is Prometheus a Prequel or a Spin-off of ALIEN?

The best youtube movie reviewer, Jeremy Jahns raised this question, and decided to take a stab at it. Unlike other prequel film, Prometheus has different people, on a totally different planet coming in contact with a new alien species not seen in the previous films (or is it?). It remains to be seen if it is accepted by the fan community as  canon for the ALIENS universe.I hate to cheap out here, but I think that depends on what they do with this little enterprise they've created. If Prometheus gets another film or two to bridge the gap between 2093 and 2122, than Prometheus will stand as more of an opening chapter to the backstory to ALIEN and ALIENS. If this is it, than the film is  spin-off rather than a direct prequel.
 Here is what Jeremy Jahns says:

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Jeremy Jahns is the best movie reviewer on youtube:

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  1. Nice review William. I was entertained, to say the least, but I think I was expecting something so much better after all of the promotion for this flick. Maybe it was too much like Alien.

  2. True, it is similar, and it was not what I was expected, either. I didn't expect the role of the space jockeys/Engineers and how they are related to us. That guy from ancient aliens must be wetting himself in happiness.

  3. Ratings typically carry age recommendations in an advisory or restrictive capacity, and are often given in lieu of censorship. In some jurisdictions the legal obligation of administering the rating may be imposed on movie theaters. movie reviews