Monday, 4 June 2012

Prometheus Review

Prometheus (2012) 
Alien has long been the pinnacle of “sci-fi” and “horror” cinema. With amazing production design, interesting characters and an intense atmosphere, Ridley Scott created a film that reinvigorated a genre that was dwindling in ludicrous serial killers and rotting zombies. James Cameron’s Aliens treaded into the action genre as a thoroughly entertaining, if not slightly too over-the-top addition to the franchise. Meanwhile David Fincher’s Alien3 and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection were panned by the critics and also the fans. Prometheus stands as the prequel to the Alien franchise. Being heavily pushed via an impressive viral and marketing campaign, the question of whether it was going to live up to the hype was always in the back of fans’ minds. And while it succeeds as a piece of visually stunning “sci-fi” cinema, some major flaws hold it back from being a well-rounded experience.
The story itself isn’t vastly complex. Set in 2089, Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered a series of similar paintings depicting humanity’s creators in a number of ancient civilisations. An expedition is launched, funded by the Weyland Corporation, to the moon LV-223 in order to investigate the so-called “Engineers”. Not long after landing in 2093, they find themselves in the presence of something far less friendly. Prometheus, on the surface, is a simple “exploration gone bad” narrative that we’ve seen numerous times. However it tries to adds a level of sophistication and intellectual intricacy through its philosophical undercurrent and Dr. Shaw’s ties to “faith” and “God”, that all feels convoluted and almost too forced. Meanwhile Prometheus’ prequel status definitely undermines Scott’s ability to truly explore and invest in these new characters and narrative points. Instead it feels as though there was a checklist of objectives that need to be fulfilled in order for it to fit within the franchise, which similarly hindered the recent remake of The Thing.
Yet the overall pacing of the film is fast and intense. Scenes flow well and manage to create a persistent atmosphere of tension and exhilaration. It’s quite ironic then that the overall length is slightly short. Prometheus needs another 20-30 minutes to further develop its characters and for the audience to truly immerse themselves into the film and grow an attachment to these personalities. Speaking of which, Michael Fassbender’s performance as the crew’s android is simply superb and definitely the standout. There’s a subtle ambiguity towards his motives and actions that is shrouded by his almost creepy voice and interactions. Meanwhile Noomi Rapace’s delivery is questionable as her accent never really settles, but as a whole she does pretty well. The same can be said about Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, but the whole cast is unarguably hurt by a lack of dialogue, and the poor quality of what’s there. Their interactions are short and quick, never indulging in conversations that add emotional depth and intrigue. Thus their demises, however graphic, and violent never really hit home. 

One thing that is immediately evident is that Prometheus is simply gorgeous to look at. The special effects artists and set designers deserve a hell of a lot of credit in their construction of the surroundings and the environments. From the holographic interfaces to the interiors of the Prometheus and the alien temple structure, the high production values are undeniably present throughout the runtime. While nitpickers will question the technological advancement of the Prometheus over the Nostromo (Alien) or LV-426 (Aliens), there’s a cinematic sophistication to each scene’s visual composition. Similarly, the film’s score is a rich blend of tones from Jerry Goldsmith’s original score for Alien and  synthesised and industrial notes. It’s definitely a film that looks and sounds fantastic. 
In conclusion, Ridley Scott’s latest is a highly entertaining piece of “sci-fi” cinema that’s visually stunning to watch. However the narrative inconsistencies and the lack of character development truly hurt the film. It seems that for everything Prometheus does right, there’s a problem that mars the experience. I personally would question whether Prometheus should have been separated from the Alien franchise, thus allowing the freedom to explore and even transcend the boundaries of the “sci-fi” genre. But we'll never know. 

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed your review on Prometheus. I agree that the stunning visuals and Michael Fassbender's performance are by far the highlights of this film. I stumbled on your blog quite by accident while looking for images to use in my own review of this film. I do deconstructions of mainstream films and television on my blog If you like what you see, perhaps we could collaborate on something in the future.