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.
Ridley Scott is in top form with Prometheus, his first science-fiction film in the three decades since Alien (1979) and then Blade Runner (1982). Wonderfully dark and existential, this effort playfully balances elements of both of those films, among others. A masterpiece in craftsmanship, Scott gives us a tantalizing new place in the movies filled with rich ideas, excellent adventure, a palpable sense of dread, real thrills and first-rate acting.
Some of the movie’s detractors point out that it doesn’t have all the answers to the questions it poses. That fact is true, but I’m struggling to figure out why that’s a complaint, exactly. I suppose it depends on what you want a movie to be. Most of them are journeys that arrive to predictable conclusions. Some, like Prometheus, are journeys of discovery where one set of answers can lead to more deeper questions. The rewards here are measurable not in the lack of answers, but in the urgency and fascination with the questions.
We begin on terrain in a world that looks like Earth, a place not unlike a national park somewhere except for a great white human-looking creature that appears on a rocky ridge by a flowing river. He eats what appears to be some kind of food that is unrecognizable to us and that causes him to vomit rather violently. His body quickly begins to decay. What flows into the river from him can be seen morphing into other living organisms.
What is this strange creature? Where does he fit on the timeline; does he come before or after us? Is this this movie’s “dawn of humankind”? Is this Earth and is he just visiting, or is this his home? Is he aware that he’s naked or does he always travel that way?
From there we flash-forward to 2093 aboard the trillion-dollar spacecraft that is Prometheus and its privately-funded journey across the universe in an effort to trace the origins of humankind. The head of the corporation is the elderly Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, in full old-man prosthetics). He appears in holographic form the way Princess Leia did in Star Wars, courtesy of his on-board android David (Michael Fassbender), who is pretty much a humanoid version of HAL 9000. He can perform surgeries on the ship as well as on people, decode any language, and show historical events in holographic form, which is a step up from being able to relay only messages.
David’s evidence of old drawings on caves show that an Earth-sized moon that orbits a mighty planet the size of Saturn may hold the key to the birth of our civilization. The exploration team that will eventually do the groundwork in the caves are awoken from their cryogenic sleep. With shades of Scully & Mulder, the team’s appointed leaders are Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, who I’m beginning to confuse with Tom Hardy). They share a romance fueled by their determination for the mission, though they share opposing worldviews of it: she’s bound by her faith in a “creator” while he holds true to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.
If David is the old tycoon’s android representative on Prometheus, than the corporation’s human rep is the tough, intelligent Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). The action to this point takes place entirely aboard the Prometheus as we get to know the players in the crack science team as well as the ship’s crew members, including Janek (Idris Elba), the pragmatic captain who is happy to have it known that he is less scientifically knowledgeable than rest of them.
What follows is the Prometheus’ landing on the strange new satellite and it’s desert highland landscape and the exploration work in the caves underneath a great pyramid-like structure. The crew discovers that creatures who once lived on this planet have matching DNA’s to humans, which only fuels more questions and more urgency to explore them further.
Beyond that, I can’t give anymore away. Wouldn’t be fair. The action moves between the caves and the ship as tension builds about how to move forward in the mission, complicated by the diverse personal and political agendas by various members both on the exploration team and from within the ship’s crew.
The sequences in the caves are expertly done, our collective fascination tweaked by the discoveries of long-dead beings as well as the craftsmanship in sequences like David decoding the password granting them access to a mysterious cavernous hub of a room filled with cylinder-shaped capsules that stand upright all over the floor. What are they, tombstones? What is that ooze flowing from them? That it turns into menacing variations of the “vagina dentata” theme with their teethy sliminess and their thrashing tendrils only serves up more questions. What were they trying to keep secret on this planet that the defense mechanism left to be found by its unfortunate visitors is so gruesome?
In the tradition of Scott’s strong feminine sci-fi hero in Sigourney Weaver, Noomi Rapace embodies all of these questions with strong-willed determination and a breakneck urgency. Whereas Weaver finally went on a vendetta against creatures she couldn’t stand, the Rapace character is more fundamentally concentrated on discovering what’s beyond them. Slaying them off is just an obstacle to finding out what they’re protecting. Rapace is fearless and almost completely unrecognizable to us from her terrific work as the protagonist in the original Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
Fassbender (Shame) is equally good as David, who lifts much of his persona from characters in movies that he likes, such as Peter O’Toole from Lawrence of Arabia. He has the best dialogue throughout and is given just as much complexity as the great computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Has there been a better human performance of an android on film than this one? Every shot he’s in is a captivating or a mesmerizing one.
Prometheus is excellent entertainment, one of the summer’s best, breathing welcome new life into a sorry genre of creep-out thrillers that don’t aim very high and deliver even less.
Yes, the movie leaves things open-ended, priming us for a sequel, but not even these characters fully understand what they’ve gotten themselves into. Besides, it’s the journey and not the destination that matters most here, and the amazing forward thrust of the action along with an exceptionally good balance of acting, special effects, and ideas transcend this into a magnificent, nightmarish space odyssey.
Prometheus **** (out of 4)
From TV to film, you’re bound to recognize some of your favorite performers in the Celebrity Shorts Programme – a group of 8 shorts involving celebrities, many of whom are playing themselves or riffing on their own personal characteristics.
Judi Dench and Penny Ryder carry on the way teenagers do in Friend Request Pending (12 min), a funny sketch that sees Dench playing a woman at her laptop who simply can’t wait for a man she knows to reply to her friend request on Facebook. Don’t blink or you might miss Tom Hiddleston‘s cameo (the baddie from Avengers).
The Carrier (18 min) has the feel of nighttime drama with Rita Wilson (It’s Complicated) playing the mother to recently deceased son Chad Michael Murray (One Tree Hill) in this tragic drama about how the mother visits with those closest to him in order to share a grim discovery about him that he kept secret or didn’t know about himself in life.
David Duchovny is the voice of an animated polar bear riffing on fame and its corrupting influences in The Beaufort Diaries (4 min), a slick and sharply observed monologue.
The Voorman Problem (13 min) is a perfect short just this side of Ray Bradbury or the Twilight Zone with shrink Martin Freeman (The Office) enlisted to examine the psyche of maximum security prisoner Tom Hollander (Pirates of the Caribbean), who sets out to prove that he is God. Ingenious and entertaining.
Charlotte Rampling stars in The End (17 min), another very well written piece that considers a film industry so desperate for good stories that they digitally remove actors from films of decades past and replace them with the hot young things of today so that they may appear in good movies, too. Rampling’s riff on her own tough persona here is magnificent and very funny.
Blitzen Trapper Massacre (7 min) follows Rainn Wilson (The Office), number one fan of the Portland country/folk quintet who gets to meet them but who is rejected from their company with his rough edges and poor taste in humor. Very funny.
Michael Fassbender (Shame) and Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) star in Pitch Black Heist (13 min), a glorious black and white caper about a couple of bank robbers as they plan an upcoming heist. Good acting here barely overcomes a fairly paint-by-numbers story.
Check out our coverage of the WorldWide Short Film Festival:
- Douglas Breaks Down The ‘X-Ray Spex’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The ‘Stranger In A Strange Land’ Programme - Now Onto The ‘Homeland Security’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes On The ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The “All Tomorrow’s Parties” Programme - Douglas Godhino Reviews The ‘Superfans’ Programme - Xavierpop Takes on The “Creative Control” Programme - MovieJay Reviews the “War, What Is It Good For?” Programme - MovieJay Reviews ‘The Family Compact” Programme - Next Up A Look At the ‘Iron Ladies’ Programme - Xavierpop Covers ‘The Love Hurts’ Official Selection - A Break-Down The ‘Who’s Your Dada?’ Programme - MovieJay Reviews The Opening Night Gala: Winners From Around the World - The @xvrpop Ultimate Worldwide Short Film Fest Preview - The CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival’s Screenplay $50,000 Giveaway is Back!
A new poster has dropped and I have to say that I really dig the old school sci-fi feel to it. Slowly but surely I am definitely coming around on this film. It’s gone from meh to a definite watch.
Check out the poster below:
Let me start right off by saying I have not seen this trailer for Ridley Scott‘s highly anticipated Alien prequel Prometheus starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Alba and Guy Pearce. Just as I was about to post it, the Twitter exploded with just how spoilery it is.
So therefore check it out at your own risk. I for one am on the fence with the movie because I personally think it’s a bit blasphemous that they are even messing with such a brilliant series, (well Alien was brilliant). However it is Ridley Scott and my love for his talent and his movies knows no boundary so I will definitely check it out. And that is why I refuse to see this trailer.
However, feel free to check it out but do so at your own peril and don’t say I didn’t warn you.
About the Film Ridley Scott, director of “Alien” and “Blade Runner,” returns to the genre he helped define. With PROMETHEUS, he creates a groundbreaking mythology, in which a team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a thrilling journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.
Prometheus opens June 8.