Tuesday 5 June 2012

Review: Prometheus

Year: 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Micheal Fassbender, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

Synopsis is here

WARNING: As always I don't try and ruin plot to those sensitive to spoilers and the like. However, when talking about a film such as this one, what's nothing to one person could be something to someone else. So those who are worried, just avoid at all costs. Short review: I liked it, but...

A film like Prometheus is the perfect milestone to showcase the evolution of a director. Such a prospect is always appealing to me. It's a chance to see in what ways a filmmaker has progressed from their beginnings. You can take on board what they've learnt and now what they can now bring you and Ridley Scott's Prometheus is no exception. The first thing you witness with Prometheus, 33 years after the release of the film which allows this prequel to exist, is the scope.

Prometheus is a film about scale. The ideas behind it are grand in size. This is not just the visuals, which take you from the vast highlands of Scotland to the dank terraformed crevices of LV-233, but also in themes. Prometheus is about creation and how we perceive the very notion our own being. The question of how we would interact with those who may have made us, and how they would respond to us, is raised often. Like other sci-fi's before it, the film plays with the idea that if someone had created us, we may only be playthings or nuisance's.It's this desolate idea that brings the films anxiousness, even more so than the ozzing and/or the creature features. Prometheus, like another poignant sci-fi, Moon, is quick to tell us our own significance may only significant to ourselves.  The film toys with this through many of the dynamics of the characters. Layered amongst the hi-tech gadgetry and ozzing canisters,  three relationships touch upon basic concepts of how we relate to our own creators, family.

The first half of the film concentrates on such matters and takes it's time with such matters too. Prometheus is gradual with it's building blocks, with Scott trying to place pieces together like a chess strategy. These themes matched with Scott's wonderful visual eye (with some sublime cinematography from Dariusz Wolski) help show that Prometheus is a film that wishes to be warranted with a certain grandeur.

Such grandeur however comes with an unfortunate amount of weight. Despite it's posturing and exclamations from the director himself. Prometheus is still a chip from a larger milestone and there is a baggage it cannot shed for a matter of reasons. One can argue that this is not meant to be an "alien film", however, the film's references and echoes are not only as clear as day, but sometimes come across as clunky as some of the films dialogue and characterisation.

Prometheus almost threatens to fall apart in the second half of the film. There's a distinct sloppiness, that allows character inconsistencies, outlandishness and rushed revelations to take over. One example comes from an individual who provides two oddly placed, but stark, bait and switch moments, that just do not come naturally from the character themselves. One moment is a turn of heroism which sits awkwardly with moments we've seen.  A handful of characters are not integral to the plot, and are written in any particular way, making their outcomes feel quite necessary. Scott stated that there was only strands within the films DNA, but the films hectic climax seems all too hasty to tell us what universe this is all in.

It's been argued that the main characters are hard to care for. I don't think so, but I do feel that the film installs a coldness about them. Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw is not Ellen and isn't meant to be. However, the resilience of Ripley is replaced with a grating "true believer" who appears quick to distress and given a relationship that could have been given more depth. Other prominent roles from Charlize Theron (icy and determined), Idris Elba (cool captain) and Sean Harris (getting slightly typecast) are sketchy in terms of their writing, but are given more heft due to their performances. A creepy performance which stands out stems from Micheal Fassbender as David, who becomes the glue which tries to gel many of the pieces together despite his own schizophrenic actions within the film.

Flaws aside, Prometheus is at it's best when it does it's own thing. The film with it's talk of ancient gods, is really all abut the genes. One of the stronger threads is one the film shares with the Alien series, that the female of our species is quite simply the most vital and important link of our being is at times wonderfully explored as a visual metaphor. When the film ponders on the questions that we wish to ask our own "engineers" it excels. It's a shame that when the film captures symbolic moments, we're given the laymen's dialogue for the so called "slower" viewers of the audience.

Despite it's clear wish for grand gestures, Prometheus, does remind me just how tight and taut Alien was, whether it wanted to or not. This is not the horror, sci-fi hybrid many may expect, but it does strive for something intriguing. It doesn't go for out and out scares, but give out manage to bring forth a certain foreboding, and quiet distress around its pontificating (although it needs more Geiger). For now (until the directors cut raises it's head) Prometheus is an sometimes fascinating, sometimes frustrating artefact which is clearly ready to take some strides in it's own direction. It may just have to get rid of the facehugger snapping at it's heels.