Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Prometheus Review

In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan who creates man from clay and steals fire to give to man. The gift is of civilization. As punishment, he is tied to a rock and each day an eagle sent from Zeus would eat his liver. The liver would always grow back and the eagle would always return, creating a cycle of torment. The Prometheus in this movie is the name of the ship, but it is also the almost literal definition of the Engineer(s) we see in the film. There is also a Christian motif that ties in. Some of that is on the surface, while more of this is in the subtext.

You may already know that the movie Prometheus is a pseudo-prequel to the movie Alien and is also directed by the same guy: Sir Ridley Scott, also of Bladerunner fame. I'll try to break the rest down the best I can, and in the most spoiler-free way that I can. This is a very difficult movie to review and actually one of the most difficult movies that I have ever seen to even form an opinion on. For starters, I love a movie that leaves you with questions to ponder. This one however, unleashes a whole lot of questions, then answers only a few, and very vaguely, at that. To be clear, Prometheus is a visual splendor to behold. I love everything about the aesthetic of this movie from the very beginning to the end. The weakest part of the movie though, has to be the way that the characters are written. It is almost written like we are only supposed to get snippets of motivations for the characters to act the way that they do so they can explain it sometime later. I kept waiting for those explanations but most of them never came. That could very well be because one of the head writers is Damon Lindelof of Lost fame. The problem here is that this is not a television series. That works for Lost, but as a stand-alone movie, not so much. I recently read that director Ridley Scott has spoken on really wanting to do a sequel. Wanting to do a sequel? Unless this movie was shot back-to-back with a sequel in the can, then there is absolutely no excuse for leaving so much up in the air. It is like someone you know telling you a fantastic story of actual events, and they can describe every detail to you except the ones that actually matter. This is too bad, and unless the sequel's timeline overlaps, then only some questions actually can be answered at all.

Anyway, there were things I did like beyond the visuals. Micheal Fassbender is absolutely amazing as David the android, not to be confused with the David the android from the movie AI, played by Haley Joel Osment. Fassbender as David takes on a  Peter O'Tool persona from the movie Lawrence of Arabia, and that is even given as a plot device. He is excellent in the role and the character boarders on iconic. We aren't always sure of his motivations, and that is something that isn't actually explained. The other standout performance is by the lead, Noomi Rapace (the Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), portraying Elizabeth Shaw. She embodies a lot of what Sigourney was to Alien. I did like the ending of Prometheus and how it branched off away from the Alien franchise while nodding to it at the same time. There is a lot to chew on here and I do love the overall idea of the film. It is certainly a movie that makes you think about it afterward, even though some of that is to just ask yourself "why did the characters act the way they did?". There is indeed more to this movie once you ponder some of the themes. The motif of self sacrifice so life can happen vs. selfish acts of self-preservation happens again and again. The entire Weyland mission could be a symbol of of the later, and even the Xenomoprph alien of the original films is depicted on the wall as what must be some sort of warning symbol about what selfish acts of survival are capable of becoming. The Xenomorph is just that, a beast that sacrifices anything else it can so it can survive. There is also the torn abdomen symbol that repeats more than once in the film. It is both a nod to the Titan Prometheus of Greek mythology and likely also to Jesus of Nazareth. If only the movie weren't so cryptic about a lot of what it is trying to say.

What I didn't like: All of those mile-wide plot holes. It is like they seemingly didn't care about having to patch them up later with a sequel... but when, and how much will actually be answered? I don't like this. As I mentioned, I felt that there were too many times that characters did not react realistically to the situations in front of them. You have this geologist who gets lost and a biologist who tries to pet the wild life. Those two clowns should have never been picked for this mission in the first place. Actually, if I thought I were looking for an ancient civilization, I would have probably sent someone as a peacekeeping ambassador, one of the best historians, and stashed more than a few military reinforcements on the ship, but that's just me. Also, while I did like that they had the guts to include the level of religious allegory and connection to the story, it would have worked better if they would have fleshed this out to actually make sense without having to read so much between the lines. Those lines are so far apart that you can get lost in there. I'm guessing that they felt they had to tread carefully, but they did this in a way of not telling what needed to be told to set up the entire plot line. The characters also feel like they are sold short. Charlize Theron feels so cold that you aren't sure if she is human as Meredith Vickers. I'm guessing that it was intentional, but it feels a little too melodramatic in my book. Also, although Idris Elba does his best as the ship's Captain Janek, it is kind of getting beyond cliche for the black character in this type of movie to be a sergeant or captain who sits back from the action, hangs out on the ship, and chomps on cigars. (see Aliens and the Halo games) While it has worked in the past, can't we get past this kind of character? How about a more racially mixed crew? I was surprised that Avatar was guilty of not representing anything for mixed races too. Zoe Saldana doesn't count, since she plays an alien in digital makeup. Surely we as a society are headed this way. You see it every day. Why not embrace this? They invest in historians, astrophysicists, and astronomers to help with research to keep the science in check but by the timelines set in these films, the median should probably be a little more gray than black and white. Just saying.

Overall, I must rate this movie higher than it sounds like I actually appreciate it. It is hard not to be critical, but it is fun. I would still recommend this movie to anyone who loves science fiction story telling and doesn't mind the heavy religious overtones. It is a really a must if you do like the Alien movies. It is a visual feast for the eyes and the first half of the movie is pretty darn solid. Unless you have a killer rig at home, I think a theater viewing is highly recommended. The 3D is very solid and I'm happy to see 3D getting used better and better these days. The map room in 3D has to be seen to be believed. Hugo has raised the bar for interior 3D shots and this is movie is a nice progression from that. Just know that there are some characters' actions that will make you scratch your head more than once. I really do hope for a sequel so more of the movie will make sense. It could actually make this movie better, once the major plot points are understood better and could actually make me rethink the review score. It's that kind of movie.

Overall: 7 (out of 10)

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