Tuesday, July 3, 2012

PROMETHEUS (2012)

Written by Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof


Directed by Ridley Scott


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. June 11, 2012  6:15PM


In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from the Gods to give to man which enabled them to begin civilization. "Prometheus" is also the name of a a spacecraft carrying a crew out in to the universe on a scientific search for the origin of mankind in Ridley Scott's latest film. This is the director's first venture back in to science-fiction since he made the two films early in his career that still remain highly influential in this genre; "Alien" in 1979 (which "Prometheus" is somewhat connected) and 1982's "Blade Runner". These films took what traditionally had been stories mostly involving green space-men demanding to be taken to our leader and places them in possible future settings, incorporating real science and intelligent visionary ideas while also remaining highly entertaining with tense action sequences and flashes of shocking, brutal violence. "Prometheus" wants to revisit some ideas and images that where previously displayed but left unexplained in the first "Alien" but also to create a fresh, independent film that will stand on it own. While there are several moments of visual brilliance, this film is unable to truly recapture the spirit of the original as nothing feels innovative and isn't helped by a murky plot that offers more confounding questions than answers.

Set during the later part of the twenty-first century, two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), a woman of faith and her boyfriend, Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who only believes in science, discover a connection between unrelated ancient cultures in which they all depict an alignment of stars which are believed to be a possible map that could lead to the creators of humanity. A crew is assembled to explore this distant planet which is financed by the wealthy CEO of the Weyland Corporation. An android named David (Michael Fassbender) is on board to watch over them during the long voyage through space as he spends his time studying alien linguistics and endlessly viewing the film, "Lawrence of Arabia" which he uses Peter O'Toole's famous role as a guide to more closely emulate a human.

After they finally arrive, the small crew of the Prometheus is awakened, which is lead by Captain Januk (Idris Elba). Elizabeth and Charlie can't wait to explore this mysterious terrain but they are informed by the no-nonsense Weyland employee sent to monitor the mission, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), an icy blond who seems to have less emotions than David, that they are not allowed to make contact with anything they find without her permission.

The search party discover that there is breathable air in the large, stone structures but only find the mangled remains of giant humanoid beings. A room is also found containing tall cylinders with a dark liquid oozing from them but the Captain cuts their exploration short as he warns them that a large, dust storm is approaching and need to get back. Shaw manages to bring a decapitated head along to study while David secretly has one of the cylinders with him but two crew members get separated, being forced to stay behind until the storm passes. Overnight, the men become aware that they are not the only living beings in this structure.

Shaw is shocked to find that there is an actual link between humans and the previous inhabitants of this planet but she also slowly learns that this mission was not strictly for scientific purposes. David has been given his own assignment which involves a disturbing use of the two scientists and the lifeforms of this domain. Elizabeth must find a way to stop him or it may lead to the possible extinction of our planet.

"Prometheus" is a great-looking, mildly entertaining but unremarkable sci-fi flick but when you factor in Scott's brilliant first film or James Cameron's even more impressive 1986 sequel, "Aliens" (the other two sequels don't merit mentioning), then you can only look at this film as a huge disappointment. What is missing is a clear, thoughtful script with well-defined characterizations, actual breathtaking tension and some honest-to-goodness, bone-chilling scares. It may not seem fair to compare this to the previous "Alien" films but it's also impossible not to as "Prometheus" shares just too many similar plot points from several of the other movies and offers very little that feels truly fresh or suspenseful.

Ms Rapace (miles away from the punk computer hacker in the Swedish version of  "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo"), is in the difficult position of being compared to the tough and intense, Ripley, immortalized in all of the previous "Alien" films by Sigourney Weaver. While she certainly doesn't make you forget that iconic character, Rapace holds her own as her Dr. Shaw is a slight and softer presence but is more than able to summon great strength when required. This is most evident during the film's most harrowing scene where she has to perform surgery on herself to remove an unwanted visitor. Ms Theron was originally given the role of Shaw but had to drop out due to prior film commitments but once that was delayed, she took on the other part. I don't doubt that she would have been quite good in the lead but I think she's much more effective in the supporting role as she brings a quiet menace to Vickers. Perhaps it was because he was playing an android but the usually reliable Mr. Fassbender was surprisingly flat. He appears to be held back as if he's unsure of how human to actually make David and it seems like a complete waste to use such a naturally charismatic actor in such a cold, unemotional role. I didn't recognize Guy Pearce as he appears briefly as the elderly financier of this excursion. I'm assuming there were going to be scenes involving a much younger version of Weyland that ended up being cut but the heavy aging make-up the actor is buried under was unconvincing and distracting.

Although "Prometheus" features a terrific cast and slick visual effects but the film is unable to breakthrough nearly enough to be able to shine on it's own without being simply a reminder of the more memorable work that inspired it.