prometheus

Prometheus

Ridley Scott finally returns to the world of sci-fi, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m not saying I didn’t like any of Ridley’s post-sci-fi efforts (Hannibal and the Kingdom of Heaven director’s cut spring to mind as some quality shows), but this is his bread and butter.

The press for this thing has been so back and forth on whether this is an Alien prequel or not, and when I saw the derelict craft in the trailer it almost seemed like Sir Ridley and co might’ve been intentionally misleading all along.  But they continued to maintain that this was in the Alien universe, but not an Alien film, so I honestly didn’t know what to expect going in. I intentionally didn’t watch any of the teasers, or trailers (outside of the ones shown at the theatre) and I didn’t read any of the interviews, look at any of the production photos, read any reviews, nothing.  I wanted this to be a similar experience to the one my parents had when they saw the original Alien in theatres not realizing what they were getting themselves into.  And I am happy to report there are some incredibly harrowing scenes in this movie worthy of the Alien franchise.  But Ridley wasn’t misleading; this is NOT an Alien film, well not those aliens anyway.

My advice is to now stop reading and go see the movie.  This is the type of thing you want to see without knowing anything about the plot.  Don’t read reviews either, they’ve been so all over the spectrum you won’t possibly be able to gleam an accurate idea of how good the film is without simply seeing it on your own and making up you own mind.  I have patently disagreed with the vast majority of reviews I’ve read, but I suspect they simply had different expectations than I did.

Frankly, I am amazed a studio was willing to put up the kind of dough this cost (something around 120 million I’ve read) considering the themes and questions this movie raises.  I am certain that this film will be thought of as 100% sacrilegious in many places it is showing, and frankly, I think that’s a good thing.  This movie definitively answers how life on Earth was created, but then starts to ask the questions that would come after we were to make that discovery, “why did they make us?” being chief among them of course.  Not sure why people weren’t able to pick up on that from the very first scene, but I guess it could be because the alien didn’t outright say: “I am making life on Earth”.  I want my sci-fi to be challenging.  I want the movie to make me think about the questions it’s asking, and I don’t need to be spoon fed all of the answers.  I definitely don’t want some mushy, family friendly PG bullshit with characters constantly spewing expositional dialogue because the majority of North America can’t follow a story without being told exactly what is happening at all times.  If you share these sentiments, I suspect this is a movie you will want to revisit many times. I know I will definitely be seeing this more than once on the big screen and it isn’t just because Scott is a fucking visual master.  

That said, even if you don’t get as much from the story and themes in the movie that I did, this movie is still fucking gorgeous and worth seeing on the big screen even for that reason alone.  Even the 3-D is incredibly well done and this is the only movie I’ve seen in a very long time that had convincing depth throughout, no B-movie gimmicks, and was still able to retain razor sharp cinematography at all times.  There was no ghosting, blurring or flickering anywhere to be found.

So, instead of continue to flog the dead horse that is the Xenomorphs, the story instead focuses on the other mysterious alien creature from Scott’s first film, the so called “Space Jockey”.  The ship you saw in the trailer is not the same derelict craft, and the movie is not set on LV-426.  This is NOT a direct prequel to Alien.  It is in the same universe and it does set up the back-story to Alien, although it isn’t explicitly tied to the start of that film at its conclusion.  Instead you have to simply draw your own conclusions about the derelict craft and its contents from that movie, which I actually thought was a really smart move.  The problem with all prequels that try to tie directly into the original films is that you always know exactly how they have to end because they are tied too closely to the beginning of the next film, therefore robbing the movie of suspense.  See The Thing 2011 for how not to do a prequel to a sci-fi classic that in my opinion resides on the same plane of “untouchableness in its perfection” that Alien does.  This movie instead opens up brand new avenues to take story which could easily run in parallel with the one in the Alien series, and frankly have potential to become a far grander scale epic than Alien ever could be.  On the other hand, they could eventually merge into one grand finale for Alien, and that sure would be something if Ridley and HR Giger were on board to close it out in grand style.

One thing that might bug some people about this movie, and admittedly it was something I was thinking about throughout, was how the technology of everything from the cryo-chambers, to the space suites, to even the monitors and displays used seemed much more high tech than Alien.  The ship’s interiors certainly felt like the same universe (similar design motif) but everything was new and much cleaner.  It still looked believable and lived in, but nothing was run down.  At first I decided I would simply have to just accept it at face value because people wouldn’t be able to relate to a movie set 80 years in the future with CRT monitors and shit being used when we have better tech right now.    But then as the movie progresses you find out that this ship, Prometheus is a trillion dollar piece of hardware, and I started reading between the lines a little and I came up with some theories. 

So I’m thinking that this venture into deep space was probably the first of its kind at that magnitude (they mention planet terraforming expeditions, but I imagine those were closer to Earth) and Weyland bankrupted his company to do it all in the pursuit of answers to life’s biggest questions and potentially in hope of achieving immortality. Not an unbelievable motivation for a guy with that much money who’s pretty much on his death bed.  Perhaps that is why Weyland becomes Weyland-Yutani in the Alien films because another rival company buys them out.  Now, the amount of natural resources today is already cause for concern, so in 80 years I’d imagine things wouldn’t be looking to great.  Alien takes place another 30 or so years ahead of this, so what if Earth has become completely stripped mined of all natural resources (after all they were on a deep space mining and salvage ship), and everything is pretty much just patched together old tech, anything that can be salvaged, and whatever can be manufactured out of the old junk and salvage is what gets used.  Heck, maybe there was a third world war in between and people had to start over again.  Prometheus was a rich guy’s science vessel too, so I mean you compare a luxury personal jet to a beat up old semi, and the tech looks pretty different right now too.  I don’t think any of this is all that farfetched, but you may disagree.

I’d read this really cool Alien spin off novel called Aliens: Earth Hive and the space jockey’s showed up in there as a race of creatures bent on ridding the universe of the Xenomorph race, and they destroy any planet contaminated by them.  In the book they are the elephantine creatures you thought they were when you saw the fossilized corpse in Alien.  Here, we discover that the fossil found in Alien was really just the shell of a suit worn by a race that is very much humanoid in appearance, but with very good reason as you will discover throughout Prometheus.  Normally that sort of thing would disappoint me because I am a monster lover at heart, but I think it was a very good decision in the context of this story.  Also, the effects used to create these beings are probably some of the most impressive I’ve ever seen in a movie.  I honestly couldn’t tell for sure if they were CG, or animatronics, or prosthetic makeup or a combination of the three. 

In fact in terms of visual effects I cannot think of any film to date which surpasses this film.  Everything from the creatures, to the technology and ships, to the effect of space (which is enhanced amazingly by the added 3-D depth) all look incredibly realistic.  The way the movie is shot everything just looks incredible, and I am happy to report that Ridley has lost none of his ability to create completely tangible feeling worlds in his films. I haven’t been able to find out if HR Giger was directly involved in this film like the first one, but if he wasn’t, the production designers and visual effects artists that were certainly did the man’s work justice.  The biomechanical is strong with this one.  Gore wise the movie isn’t particularly over the top, although there are definitely some cringe-worthy scenes in this. The self-surgery sequence is one of the most intense scenes and I feel it rivals the original chest burst sequence, even though it’s less splattery.  Overall the violence is comparable to the first Alien film in that respect so I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s R, but it isn’t a gore fest or anything, but it isn’t what I expected anyway.

Complaints have been coming in fast and fierce about the myriad of plot holes, and I have to admit there were things that bugged me (the biologist terrified of examining the corpse of an alien, but gets brave and wants to pet a large phallic like eel-cobra monster later for example).  But frankly I didn’t find the plot holes in this movie to be terribly worse than any other movie. There are very, very few movies that I would say are impossible to pick apart.  But perhaps because I’d consider Alien one of them, and many likely share in that opinion, they simply elevated their expectations to high for this film.  Nothing short of perfection was going to satisfy many I suspect. The thing about Alien, and most other "perfect" films, is that it is a very simple story that just happens to be drenched in atmosphere.  Prometheus on the other hand is a far larger scope, and unfortunately when you have big aspirations in a script it tends to open up the possibilities for plot holes or unanswered questions.  I know some people are convinced that the writer, Damon Lindelof, is just back to his old ways like with Lost where there never really was a larger overall logic to the things happening in the show.  They just happened to be clever enough to keep the audience thinking that there was by continuously leaving questions unanswered, but then in the season finale it became clear they never really did know where the show was going and were making it up on the fly.  The concerns are of course that Prometheus is doing the same thing, and if they do make the next two films in the planned trilogy they likely do not have any idea how they’re going to answer the majority of questions raised in the film. 

I think in this case I am going to disagree with this assertion.  From what I have read in interviews with Scott and Lindelof, they had very clear ideas about what the answers are too many of the questions raised in the script, and simply left many unanswered intentionally in order to get people to draw their own conclusions.  Not too surpising when you remember this is the guy who made Blade Runner and the studio intentionally had to dumb it down for audiences by putting a voice over throughout the movie to explain what was going on for those who are apparently unable to simply pay attention to a story rather than be told the story in dialogue.  They have a clear idea of where the second and third film will go, but they’re definitely keeping a tight lid on it right now.  I suspect that if the promised 20-30min longer director’s cut does materialize on the blu-ray (no bullshit promises like with The Incredible Hulk this time please, OK?) that many of the gaps will get filled in.  It will likely be my preferred cut, but the extended cuts of films are always my preference.  I am of the mind that you cannot tell a very good story in less than 2.5 hrs unless it is incredibly simple, or merely something to string together sequences of violence or sleaze.

I’ve heard that this is the first of a planned trilogy, and the movie certainly sets the stage for a sequel.  Some people have been saying they don’t want it to continue as it’s better to leave it open ended, but I disagree.  I sincerely hope this movie does well enough, and Fox has faith enough, and Scott has energy enough, to make this trilogy come to fruition.  As big as the scope of this film is, and it’s definitely pretty damn epic, I can’t imagine the possibilities for the sequels.  It could be absolutely bad ass!!

So, to sum up my feelings on Prometheus:  I fucking loved it. It has flaws, but it’s strengths totally outweigh it’s weaknesses.  I’ve seen it twice now and the movie was not at all diminished the second viewing, even after reading about all of the plot holes. I disagree with the negative reviews and cannot understand how anyone could not be totally into this movie.  Although The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises will surely be the big box office draws of this summer, I can guarantee Prometheus will be the movie I revisit time and time again on disc, just like I did with the Alien films. 

SEE THIS MOVIE!!!!!!

-Sweetooth0

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