Thursday, 14 June 2012

Prometheus

In the late 21st century, a group of scientists led by Dr Elizabeth Shaw discover a star map, similar to those already found, all painted by different and unrelated civilisations. Their belief is these maps are an invitation to seek out mankind's creators, or "engineers". So, funded by an ageing Peter Weyland and his corporation, Shaw and a team of scientists have the trillion dollar vessel Prometheus bestowed upon them in which to travel two years through space to reach their destination: LV-223 and to try and find the answers to the creation of mankind. However, they very quickly realise that they may not find what they're looking for. God doesn't build in straight lines...

This is it. The film over 30 years in the making. The Alien franchise, one of the best known, best loved movie franchises of all time. The history of the franchise is impressive: Alien, the 1979 original directed by Sir Ridley Scott (with only his second feature film) is an instant classic. Everyone knows the story. Aliens, the 1986 sequel, is just as good and was helmed by James Cameron in only his third feature film. 1992's Alien 3, though looked on unfavourably, gave David Fincher his directorial debut and still stands up today. Finally, 1997's Alien Resurrection was written by the legendary Joss Whedon and was the only English language film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Finally, the series gets its prequel film, with Ridley Scott, the man who created it all, back at the helm, explaining everything Alien fans could ever want to know about facehuggers, chestbusters and space jockeys. Except it's not. And it doesn't. And it shouldn't. Prometheus is its own beast with "strands of Alien's DNA". Yes, it's a prequel, but it's not a direct prequel. This is a back story about the beginnings. And what a story it is.

Let me start by saying this: The sheer scale of Prometheus is incredible. The visuals are stunning, beautiful and grand. I guarantee this film would look epic on an IMAX screen. The sets are massive and give the film a grander, more event-like feel. The attention to detail and intricacies in the mise-en-scรจne make this film feel a little bit more special than it already does being associated with the Alien franchise. It shows just how much care and attention to detail has been paid by Sir Ridley, Damon Lindelof et al. Also, the 3D in this is totally justified. Scott's experimentation with the format has paid off, as his entire world becomes immersive. The 3D also achieves something which I believe it should be solely used for. Instead of making it feel welcoming, the 3D makes the audience feel uncomfortable, with things flying towards them and getting covered with goo and falling metal. It's like a cinematic ghost train, but in a good way. Also, the subtle references to Alien and the franchise made me happy, and by the sounds of things made a lot of other audience members happy as well.


From there though, things start to fall apart. Well, not fall apart, but become decidedly dodgy. There are a few scenes in the film which are completely unnecessary. They don't go anywhere, they don't explain anything and are surely only there to satisfy Ridley's appetite for filming erroneous footage. The main problem with this film though are the various sub plots. Some of them make no sense. Some of them are introduced and then forgotten about. Some of them reach a conclusion which is either unsatisfying or plays no part in the overall plot or both. The main crux of the story is good, and there's a lot of tension built up, but it's when we're diverted to a side story that things get confusing and illogical. Believe me, there's a huge amount of 'movie logic' at work in this, too many moments where you end going "What? No. That's not how science works. What?? Why are they doing that? Who would say that? Why go there?! Why are you trusting him?!" many, many times. In particular, the sub plot with Peter Weyland makes no sense in the context of the film, and the 'shocking twist' at the end of the 2nd act is illogical and is never revisited. Bad writing. As for the dialogue, 90% of it is natural and flowing, but there's a definite 10% margin for awkwardness, though I wonder whether or not that's the writing's fault.


I bring to your attention the performance of Logan Marshall-Green as Dr Charlie Holloway, love interest of Noomi Rapace's Elizabeth Shaw and surely the most athletic, good-looking and unlikely archaeologist of all time. Indiana Jones makes sense, this one doesn't. Marshall-Green is, for lack of a better word, terrible. He has no on-screen chemistry with Rapace even though they're supposed to be lovers, his choice of line delivery is questionable at best and even his movements are forced and unnatural. Having said that, he's the only bad actor in a crop of good ones. Charlize Theron has got the 'ice queen' thing down, and she delivers again here as Weyland's representative on board Prometheus. Idris Elba plays the cool, bad ass captain with his usual swagger and style. Michael Fassbender is creepy as hell as the humanoid android David, delivering a perfectly emotionless performance. This guy is money. However, the best piece of casting by a mile is Noomi Rapace. Sometimes her Scandinavian accent slips in, but aside from that, she's perfect. Her motions are natural, her reactions realistic, her delivery near-perfect, and as a side note, there's a scene which takes place in Vickers' cabin *cough cough* where the scenario she's placed in, her performance and her look (mainly her look AFTER the action in the scene) make her seem like a carbon copy of a young Sigourney Weaver from Alien. Seriously, it's uncanny, and it's a really nice touch.


Overall, does Prometheus answer every question the fans wanted answered? No, and it wasn't meant to: Prometheus was designed as the first of three prequels leading up to the events of Alien, so the plot and the conclusion of the film make sense when you look at the bigger picture. However, if you ask whether Prometheus answers every question it raises by itself, the answer is no. So many things are illogical, forgotten or left unresolved,, it's disappointing. I understand leaving some things open ended for future films, but you still need a satisfying conclusion and I don't feel like Prometheus ever achieves one. Having said that, the film is beautiful to look at and an uncomfortable joy to watch. Just don't judge against the Alien films: Prometheus is its own goo-dripping, face-hugging, chest-bursting creature just waiting to jump out at you.


Rating: ***1/2