Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review of PROMETHEUS (2012)

- Rated R for sci-fi violence including intense images, and brief language.
- Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Patrick Wilson
- Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
- Directed by Ridley Scott
- Running time: 2hrs 3min

I'm not the biggest fan of Ridley Scott.  I really like ALIEN and BLADE RUNNER, but the rest of his films are either just merely good, or pretty bad.  I liked GLADIATOR, LEGEND (though it's been awhile), G.I. JANE, GLADIATOR, MATCHSTICK MEN, THELMA & LOUISE, and BODY OF LIES.  I didn't like BLACK RAIN, WHITE SQUALL, HANNIBAL (totally forgot he did that one), BLACK HAWK DOWN (horrible editing), KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, AMERICAN GANGSTER and ROBIN HOOD.  I feel like he traded in his trademark visual style of his earlier films for rapid editing and lots of shaky cam (as his brother Tony uses).  With PROMETHEUS (which is the name of the spaceship), he's returning to the ALIEN universe with this adult Sci-Fi film.

The movie is actually more simpler than all of the hype would lead you to believe.  In a nutshell, a couple of scientists find evidence that there is a lifeform on a far away planet that may have created mankind.  A group of engineers from the Weyland Corporation bring them to the planet.  While exploring the planet, they find an enormous cave which has dead carcasses of these creatures, which pretty much look like humans, only twice the size.  But the ship's android David (Fassbender) finds some weird slime and decides to infect a crew member.  This, of course, is no good.  And then one of aliens ends up being alive, but is extremely hostile.  This is when the crew finally discovers just what these beings were trying to do before they were wiped out.  And what wiped them out?

I find this movie incredibly hard to review because it's hard not talking about the marketing.  Fox has done a great job hyping this film up beyond belief.  Everyone is excited for it.  But have they over-hyped it?  I'm going to say... yeah.  Back when this movie started shooting, there was speculation (due to a leak) that this may be a prequel to ALIEN.  At first, Scott denied this.  But after countless leaks kept pouring in, he finally caved and said that it's in the same universe.  It's too bad that this movie was the victim of the leaks.  It is of my opinion that Scott had no intention of letting this information out.  Why do I think that?  Because, none of the reveals are until the final 15-20 minutes of the film.  If I would've seen this not knowing about the ALIEN connection, I would have been blown away.  But now, knowing about the connection, everyone's expectations and anticipations are going to be out of control.  It can't possibly live up to this much hype.  I'm absolutely convinced that if this was released in the early 90's, there is no way we would have found out about what was supposed to be a surprise.  And that's too bad.  Or is it?  Cause if didn't know about the connection, I would have been super excited and possibly overrate it and taut it as being more than what it really is, which is a solid Science Fiction movie. I also have to add that the trailers give practically every big action moment and reveal in the trailer and TV spots.  I was surprised by nothing in this.  Which is not the film's fault, and I ultimately won't hold it against it.  But it's still disappointing when you see all the cool stuff beforehand. 

Okay.  So you know how I feel about the marketing and the story leaks, but how is the actual movie?  I liked it, but it really doesn't live up to the hype.  I must say this right off the bat though.  This is easily Ridley Scott's best directed film since BLADE RUNNER.  Both that and ALIEN have a certain confidence in their execution that hasn't been evident in any other of Scott's films.  Until now.  Finally, he holds shots longer than 2 seconds and invested in tripods, stedi-cams and cranes again.  This is a great looking movie shot with grace and elegance.  The pacing is very slow, just like ALIEN.  And as a fan, I welcomed the pacing.  By keeping it slow like this, it allows the viewer to take in the cold and eerie atmosphere that Scott has created.  And the small amount of action that does take place is shot and edited clearly and coherently.  But it's the tension leading up to the thrilling moments that really make the movie.  Nothing exciting really happens until the beginning of the second hour, and even then, the movie never amps it up very high.  This isn't a problem.  I liked this approach quite a bit.

The characters are mostly fine, though they are mostly of the cookie cutter variety.  The crew of the ship are full of your standard types of people: You have the hard-nosed chief of the ship (Charlize Theron), the wide eyed and hopeful scientist (Rapace), a douchebag scientist that thinks he's better than everyone (Marshall-Green), a nerdy type (Spall), a really mean hard ass with a Scottish accent (Harris), and the stern but understanding captain (Elba).  The best character is easily Fassbender's David, who is an android fascinated by human behavior.  I love the early scenes of him walking around the ship alone while everyone else is in hyper sleep.  We see him throw basketballs through a hoop while riding a bicycle, researching the crew and watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.  These establishing scenes have the preciseness one would see in a Kubrick film.  Besides him, the characters aren't anything special.  Not that I didn't like them, but I would say the ones I did like were more because of what the actor brought to it, not how the role was written.

I really liked Theron in this.  Her character definitely has the awesome bad ass quality that most fanboys salivate to see as she walks around with her perfect completion and skintight suits.  She has some of the best moments, including one when she won't let a crew member on the ship because of contamination (much like the original ALIEN), and I like where the scene goes.  Noomi Rapace is fine.  At first she was kind of a blank slate and I found her to be sort of stiff, but as the movie goes on she gets a few chances to shine, especially during one of the movies best moments that gives a new meaning to do-it-yourself abortions (I know that doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I had to say it... heh).  I also really liked Idris Elba as the captain of the ship and his best moment comes at the finale.  I didn't care too much for anyone else.  I guess Rafe Spall was fine, but his character was too generic.  I found Harris to be annoying.  In order to be an intimidating tough guy, he opens his eyes really wide and talks in a gruff voice.  It got old fast for me.  Guy Pearce is in this briefly, and he's fine I guess.  Speaking of brief, why the hell would you hire Patrick Wilson to be in your movie for 13 seconds?  Weird.  My least favorite character was Rapace's scientist partner and lover played by Marshall-Green (who is most likely to win the Tom Hardy look-a-like contest).  His character was too one dimensional, and did some really stupid things.  In fact, a lot of the people in this do some really stupid things to the point where I wanted to say, "What the hell am I watching?  FRIDAY THE 13TH?".   Speaking of which, there's a cute scene that has Elba and Theron talking about getting laid that would feel right at home in one of those horror films.  It was unnecessary and completely out of place here though. 

If it sounds like I'm being too hard on it.  Well, perhaps I am.  This was my most anticipated movie of the summer, and I guess I wanted this to be a four star movie.  And you know what?  That's unfair.  I shouldn't have gone in with these expectations.  There are many things that do work here.  The visual effects are absolutely mind blowing.  The ship, the outerspace scenes, the scenes in the cave, the space jockey's ship, and many things that happen in the finale (and the trailer for that matter).  Scott does a marvelous job ramping up the tension, and there are many memorable moments in the movie.  I just don't want to give all the cool stuff away (if there's anything left to giveaway).  Man, I am being too hard.

Okay, you know what?  This is not a gamechanger.  It's a standard Sci-Fi thriller that's done well.  Even though the characters are generic, they're still fun in a way.  I mean, ALIEN isn't know for it's deep characterizations right?  It's known for it's nailbiting suspense and atmosphere, and in that sense PROMETHEUS delivers.  I walked out of the movie satisfied and even days after seeing it, I can't get some of the imagery out of my head.  The details of the science technology is quite astounding.  The amount of effort and talent to bring all of that to life is very impressive.  Oh yeah, I also don't think I've talked about Fassbender enough.  He's fantastic in this.  His David is chilling.  You never know if you can trust him or not (especially if you remember what happened with Ian Holm in ALIEN).  His performance is definitely the highlight here.

With all of my complaints and nitpicks, I still can recommend it.  Though I'm not sure to who.  Fans expecting a full blown ALIEN prequel are going to be severely disappointed.  Ridley Scott was right when he said it's just another story in the same universe.  There is nothing that directly links this to the other films.  Also, for people that haven't seen the ALIEN films (particularly the first one) might be bored.  It moves at a snail's pace and takes over an hour for any of the violence to kick in.  And those looking for a smart sci-fi movie may be let down too, as it's not really that intellectual.  It's just a solid sci-fi film that is well directed.  I was entertained, but probably would have liked it even more if the hype wasn't so out of control.  Fessbender is amazing, Ridley Scott can finally direct again, and it's nice to see an R rated science fiction film in the midst of summer.  I am eager to see it again now knowing what the movie really is.  Give it a chance, just know what you're getting into and judge it for what it is.  Not for what it's not.

*** (out of ****)

Note: (The 3D looks fine but definitely not worth the upgrade)

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