Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

Prometheus *** ½ 
Directed by: Ridley Scott.
Written by: Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof.
Starring: Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Idris Elba (Janek), Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway), Sean Harris (Fifield), Rafe Spall (Millburn), Emun Elliott (Chance), Benedict Wong (Ravel), Kate Dickie (Ford), Patrick Wilson (Shaw's Father), Lucy Hutchinson (Young Shaw).

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is one of the best sci-fi movies in recent memory. Not only that, even though the film was billed as a prequel to Alien, it stands on its own as a great film – it is not reliant on nostalgia for its greatness like many long running series are. Scott didn’t like this being considered a prequel to Alien, but says it is more of a film that takes place in the same universe as Alien and its sequels, but may not really be a part of the same story. Yes, you walk in expecting another Alien movie – but the movie quickly subverts and exceeds those expectations. Even now, days after I saw the film, I cannot stop thinking about it.

When two scientists – Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover cave painting from thousands of years ago which all have the same pattern. These societies had no interaction with each other, and yet they seem to be pointing in the same direction – out into deep space. They scientists, with generous help from the Weyland Corporation, figure out what planet these cave painting seem to be pointing to – and an expedition is mounted. Shaw and Holloway feel that they may have discovered humanity`s creators. The Weyland Corporation sees an opportunity to make money. The scientists, and a crew that includes the icy cold, mysterious Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), and robot David (Michael Fassbender), who has modeled himself after Peter O`Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, head off to that distant planet – and as you can probably guess, things do not go as planned.

The original Alien was really a horror movie, with science fiction elements. The sequel, Aliens directed by James Cameron, was more of an action movie, with science fiction elements. The great thing, to me at least, is that Prometheus is real science fiction through and through. This is a film full of ideas about where humans come from and why we exist. Yes, there are horror elements – a couple of bloody scenes that are very tough to take (there is a self-inflicted surgical scene that is among the more disturbing scenes in recent memory), but at its most basic level, this is classic science fiction stuff – done with intelligence, which is rare in this day of age. Even the best of the recent sad stock of science fiction usually gives way to action at some point – but even when Prometheus becomes a series of violent episodes at the end; it retains that mystery of the unknown that drives great science fiction. We know this from the first scene, which gives us a very brief explanation of perhaps how life on earth began – and, depending on how you look at it, may just answer the bigger questions that the movie asks. Like many great science fiction stories, Prometheus asks more questions than it answers – but that is part of what makes Prometheus so interesting.

The performances in the movie are mostly very good. Charlize Theron is good as mysterious and cold Meredith Vickers – we know she has secrets, but she is good at hiding them – and making us look closely at her seemingly expressionless face to try and figure them out. Noomi Rapace, the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, is excellent in what is essentially the new Ripley character, as the tough as nails heroine, who is still sympathetic and human. The best performance though belongs to Michael Fassbender, who has the difficult task of playing the robot. Unlike previous Alien movies, there is no secret that Fassbender’s David is a robot – and I think that works well for the movie, as it allows a more philosophical debate about creation to be had involving David. Fassbender does an excellent job making his emotionless character the most fascinating one in the film.

But let’s be honest – it is the visuals that truly make Prometheus special. Ridley Scott has always been a gifted director in terms of his visual style – and blending special effects with everything else, so it becomes part of the movie, and does not overtake it. And this is one of his best visual achievements. The ship, and the planet, where most of the movie takes place are two distinctive visual environments. This movie is a visual triumph above all else – but the story and characters never take a back seat.

Prometheus may not be a movie like The Tree of Life, another movie that looks at humanity’s creation, but then Ridley Scott and Terrence Malick on working on different levels. What Prometheus is however is one of the most intelligent of all recent summer blockbusters. Yes, it has the action and the special effects to keep the masses happy – but there is something much more going on underneath the surface. You may not see a better blockbuster this summer.

No comments:

Post a Comment