Louis Takes On Prometheus
Director Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner) has returned to science fiction creating a semi-prequel to his genre changing Alien. Visually as stunning and focused as the original, it doesn’t quite have the compelling elements that made his earlier works so excellent. Too many questions remain at the end of the film to make it a classic, but it is still far better than the more pedestrian efforts that Hollywood seems to produce. Having all of the elements of classic science fiction, the film moves rather quickly to start, but then seems to get rather lost among the ruins trying to find the thread of where it was going.
Two researchers, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered a link between ancient cultures and a distant solar system. With the help of a really rich old guy, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), they set out across the universe to find the planet and what might be the origin of the human race. Upon reaching the planet, android David (Michael Fassbender) wakes Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who is not the captain of the ship, but in control of the overall mission. Upon landing on the planet, they discover an area that has artificial structures. Landing, they begin to explore them and find far more than they ever expected.
One of the more obvious points the film tries to make early on is about the origin of the species. In conversations between characters, there is questioning the existence of outside influence on the evolution of humans, along with a challenge to the notion of an unknowable god. This religious discussion is dropped as the film continues, though it is replaced by a subtler examination of genetic testing. Subtle, only in that rather than have the characters drone on about the ethics and morality of it, he simply shows what can happen when people tamper with forces they really don’t understand. And the arrogance of thinking they actually do understand it.
Visually, it is a wonderfully shot film. Wide vistas in space, of the ship moving freely among the stars, and then gently landing on the planet all have a quality of realism that pushes the technological aspect of the film higher than others in recent memory. While the planet itself is a dull palate of browns, the interior of the ship is both bright and colorful, allowing for an observable contrast when moving in and out of the ship. Not to say the planet itself is dull, it is quite realistic and believable, and it is as intriguing as the entire adventure itself. Deadly, but containing a truth about the nature of the universe perhaps best not learned. All of the effects are extremely well done showcasing a variety of inventions and advances in filmmaking, especially one as visually demanding as this, with a style and ease not seen usually seen.
The acting is all excellent, though the character are fully developed when we meet them, and only serve to react to the events as they unfold, not be the creators of or learn from those events. This cast full of veteran actors deliver performances of straightforward and well defined characters while doing a terrific job of simply being who they are supposed to be. Nothing more or less is expected from them. Everyone goes about playing their roles in a quite workmanlike fashion, neither turning in a poor performance nor an excellent one, (with perhaps the exception of Michael Fassbender). The robot David is the most compelling and interesting of the characters, and Fassbender does an excellent job of conveying rather complex set of emotions both subtly and effectively. In many ways, he brings together elements of the film that might otherwise not work nearly as well.
If there is any fault to be found with the acting, it has to do with the use of 40-something year old Guy Pearce to play an 80 something year old character. Hollywood seems to feel the need to occasionally allow some actors the opportunity to play older and younger versions of themselves. While makeup and effects can go a long way to making the outward appearance change dramatically, they have yet to understand it is not just looking old, but the bending and misshaping of the body, the lowering and slowing of speech. It is this latter, the speech, which is the most erroneous error that is usually made, this film being no exception. Eli Wallach or Max von Sydow could have easily put together the performance of powerful and menacing, but old and weak, that this role needed.
I really wanted to like this much more than I did. I enjoyed it, but the plot meanders around a bit, and at times it’s not clear what is going on, or what is going to happen next. While this can be a sign of really creative writing and filmmaking, in this case, it’s just a weak script. There are a number of major questions left unanswered and very little character development.
The ending felt both rushed and labored, leaving the direct link between this film and the original Alien conjectural. Then there is the possibility of a sequel, although it would go off in directions different than the Alien series. It doesn’t resolve questions about the original series very well, and the questions it raises aren’t answered either. It reaches further than it’s grasp.
Despite its flaws, this is a really well made, entertaining film. The film does try to go further than it should, but the spectacle of this planet and the interesting effects that are sprinkled throughout the film make for a enticing addition to the science fiction genre. While Ridley Scott may have not recreated the overall excellence of Alien or Blade Runner, he shows that he is still a capable director.
I would recommend Prometheus to both science fiction fans, fans of the original series and anyone looking for a good movie to watch.