Thursday, June 14, 2012
I'm not going to bury the lead here: I really enjoyed Prometheus. It's not a perfect movie, maybe not even a great one. In fact, I saw a movie I liked better in theaters on the same day (review to come). But it has many great moments, and it left me with enough to think about that it's been squirming around in my brain like a gross tentacle monster for the last five days.
Directed by the original Alien director, Ridley Scott, and set in the same universe, Prometheus is the story of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), an archaeologist who finds evidence that human life may not have originated on earth, but rather, on a distant moon light years away. She and a crew of 17 embark on a mission, funded by the Weyland Corporation (the same one from the original Alien, minus the Yutani), to explore this moon, and hopefully meet our makers.
What they find couldn't be farther from their hopes, as they find an underground facility, abandoned for millennia, due to some unknown disaster. They also find that maybe our creators didn't have the best intentions in mind for us after all. A major recurring theme in the movie is that of the creator abandoning or rejecting the creation. It comes up time and again throughout in many different forms. Also, there are monsters.
I think one of the reasons I enjoyed it is that I'm not the biggest fan of the Alien franchise. I think the first two are great movies, but they've never been a regular staple in my life. I can't even remember the last time I watched them, though I hope to remedy that sometime soon. It seems there's a lot of hate and bile for this movie from those guys, but I'm just watching and judging the movie on its own merits, separate from the first film.
I really liked the main cast, especially Noomi Rapace as Shaw and Michael Fassbender as the Laurence of Arabia quoting android, David. Fassbender gives a Fass-cinating performance, playing a seemingly emotionless being that may have a lot more going on underneath than we think. Some of his actions in the movie seem to be under his own motivations, motivations contradictory to those of the crew and his masters. Noomi Rapace's Shaw is a strong woman in the tradition of Ripley in the Alien movies, and her faith is tested time and again as she is put through one horrifying ordeal after another. I won't spoil anything, but there's one scene in particular involving Shaw that you won't be forgetting anytime soon.
Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, the cold Weyland representative, who is calling the shots, though she soon finds her command undermined by David and others, as the mission goes awry. Idris Elba plays Janek, the ship's pilot and captain, not a scientist, more of an everyman type. They're both fine in the movie, but are not really given the attention they need to become more well rounded characters.
Guy Pearce has a small role as Peter Weyland, which is the weakest in the movie. He's playing a very old man under some terrible old age makeup. It's very distracting. I don't get why they didn't cast an actual old actor. If it's for the sake of those viral videos promoting Prometheus starring Pearce as a young Weyland, shame on you, Ridley Scott. Don't sacrifice the quality of your own movie in the name of marketing!
The rest of the crew is pretty much just there for body count purposes. I didn't even bother to learn their names.
A lot of people are complaining that the movie is vague or unsatisfying. That characters' motivations are unclear, and that major questions posed in this movie are left unanswered by the end. These may be valid complaints, but I actually prefer some ambiguity in my science fiction. A great comparison would be Frederick Pohl's classic series of Gateway novels. The first book follows explorers on a similar mission, to learn more about an extinct alien race that they only know of through ancient artifacts. By the end of the book, little more is known about the aliens, but much is known about the people pursuing them, and that's what's important. In the Gateway sequels, we learn much about the aliens, and even meet some, and while they are fascinating reads, they never quite live up to the intensity and raw humanity of the original. If Prometheus had answered the big questions, I think it would have risked the same thing. In science fiction, the act of seeking answers is often more important than finding them.
So there you have it. I dug the movie. Whether you do or not is entirely up to you, but I think Prometheus is a film worth seeing either way. Also, read Gateway! Great book.