Saturday, June 9, 2012

Movies: Prometheus

- Spoiler Territory -

Things I liked:
  • Visually and technically, it's stunning. This is the best use of stereoscopic 3D that I've seen since Avatar (I should note that I have not yet seen Hugo, however).
  • Noomi Rapace's, Charlize Theron's, and Michael Fassbender's performances (Theron and Fassbender have a scene together that had a dark, twisted undercurrent that I think the film could have used more of, actually). Idris Elba and Guy Pearce were fine too.
  • The whole "auto-surgery" sequence.
  • The whole "Engineer's pilot room" sequence. I thought it was a neat choice to have the soaring orchestral soundtrack abruptly cut to complete silence when the holographic replay unexpectedly stopped.
  • The whole prologue/opening-title sequence. It did a pretty good job of saying to the audience: "this isn't Alien, exactly, just so you know".
  • The holographic "ghosts" (though as a practical bit of alien technology in the film, I'm not sure they make a lick of sense).
  • The geological survey devices, "POPS" I think they were called, which are little flying spheres that shoot out red lasers in all directions as they fly to map out the surfaces of structures. Their ideation and use in the film allows for some nifty visuals as they zip around and we're shown the resulting three-dimensional map they create of the structure they're surveying. These scenes tie in nicely with the use of stereoscopic 3D.

Things I didn't like:
  • The Geologist and The Biologist characters, which I describe here by job title, as they don't leave any impression as actual characters, besides perhaps 'the angry one' and 'the incredibly stupid one', respectively. The Biologist in particular does something so incredibly stupid that it was beyond belief, beyond any semblence of human behaviour. I'll ask you: if you are frightened and trapped on an alien world in an alien structure littered with alien corpses, and you are confronted by a weird penis-eel animal that's being outwardly aggressive, is your first thought to reach out and touch it, while talking to it as though it's a cat you're trying to coax out of hiding? The Biologist's behaviour in that sequence felt like pure plot-device manipulation. All the more frustrating because it could've easily been handled so much better, with the same plot result (dead Biologist).
  • "Daddy issues". Vickers' "...Father." line felt like it was there for the really dense people in the audience who hadn't figured that plot point out on their own, earlier in the scene, based on the terrific, subtle acting and filmmaking cues on display. It's a pet peeve of mine: never elbow the audience in the ribs and say "Get it?!" during a scene, they'll hate you for it, rightly so.
  • The old age makeup for Guy Pearce. It wasn't terribly done, but it did look weird. Though I like Pearce as an actor, I think there was a missed opportunity to cast an actor of a beliveable age for the part (though not the part's "actual" age, as I think the idea was that Weyland had, using his vast financial resources, medically extended his life long past any natural point).
  • Logan Marshall-Green is not great as Holloway. Competent to be sure, but Holloway as a character has the potential for all kinds of layers that Marshall-Green doesn't access in his performance at all. As acted, Holloway's vaguely excited, and then vaguely depressed, and his ultimate self-sacrifice had only a vague resonance. Relative to my previous point, they should've cast Guy Pearce in this role, instead.
  • I thought the faith-versus-science, creationism-versus-evolution themes were clumsily handled (this is a criticism of the script more than anything).
  • Total waste of Vickers character in the end (assuming from all the evidence supplied that she's dead). Charlize is a huge asset, you don't want her along for the sequel? Seriously?

Things I'm still unclear about:
  • What was the ultimate point of David contaminating Holloway? I'm not sure how it plays into David's motivations: is it simply a matter of coldly wanting to play out "let's see what this does"? Otherwise I don't see how it fits into Weyland's plan at all.

The Verdict?

My feelings on this one are complicated. I've mentioned in an earlier post that Alien is a particular favourite of mine that I saw when I was much younger, but I don't feel that Prometheus has, as the crass internet meme goes, "raped my childhood". Strangely, I find it easy to disconnect it from Alien, in that it seems more like a remix or jazz-improvisation of that film and the visual motifs in it, rather than a continuation of it, if that makes any sense. Additionally, the fact that Prometheus deliberately does not dovetail neatly into Alien helps.

As I left the theatre, my main thought was "it's too bad that everyone involved didn't put forth all that talent and effort toward an original film, rather than an Alien prequel".

That said, I do think it should be seen, and should be seen in a theatre in 3D. Despite any critcisms I have, there is still a lot to be valued in Prometheus. Though it didn't meet my admittedly high expectations, it's certainly not from lack of trying on the part of the filmmakers.