Movie Review: PrometheusPosted: June 20, 2012
I have done my best to avoid any spoilers in this review, however, you may feel that I’ve given away too much at points. If you do, I apologize and hope you can still enjoy the film.
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I love the Alien franchise, the first two installments are classics and while I may not be too fussed on the third flick, the entire series is a cool, interesting sci-fi saga, so I was pretty stoked about Alien director Ridley Scott returning to the universe to make a prequel to the film.
Prometheus isn’t a direct forerunner to the original movie, but its grounded in the same universe and hints at what’s to come, Scott recently said that he sees there being another couple of films to come to bridge the gap between this and Alien.
The plot follows two archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who discover the same motif recurring over and over in the artwork of various, unconnected human cultures. Humans bowing down before a giant figure pointing at five dots in a pattern, a pattern which matches a distant star system. Searching to meet these mysterious beings they call the “engineers” and discover mankind’s origin, they are bankrolled by the aging billionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), who gives them the ship Prometheus for the journey.
While the human crew wait in stasis the only presence on the ship is the android David (Michael Fassbender) who cares for the ship until they are thawed out. The mission is overseen by the corporation employee Vickers (Charlize Theron).
They arrive at the only inhabitable planet in the system, and begin to investigate a large pyramid left by the Engineers. But as their expedition continues they begin to discover that some misadventure has befallen the Engineers, that some on board may have different agendas and that the creators they sought to meet might not be the benevolent beings they envisioned.
I don’t really want to say more than that and spoil what’s in the film, so let’s cut right to the review.
I really enjoyed this flick, and it definitely fits in with the rest of the saga. In many ways its very different from Alien, which is a small scale, down and dirty, sci-fi horror, while this is a much bigger, expansive vision. The film hinges on the central character of Shaw, who seeks to discover’s mankind’s beginnings and approaches it all with this intense faith in the Engineers, she is in all senses a true believer.
Rapace is sensational in the role, she has this cute, almost elfin quality to her face which allows her to convey the joy of discovery Shaw experiences when they arrive on the planet and her enthusiasm and intelligence. She’s someone you instantly get on board with, caught up with her desire for answers and then rooting for her when things begin to go awry and she reveals this utterly believable inner toughness.
Like Ripley in the original movies, she’s a wonderfully tough heroine, driven and determined and also showing decency throughout. And she retains those soft, human edges that ensure you remain locked into her story, bringing a fragility to the role that ensures you stick with her as she is a believable human being trapped in this nightmarish scenario.
However, the film really belongs to Michael Fassbender who is phenomenal as David. It must surely be one of the greatest performances as a robot ever put on screen, with Fassbender creating a character who is at times oddly likable and yet maintaining this sense that something is a little “off” with David, that there is a certain something missing which stops him from being completely convincing as a human.
You’re never sure just how much of an emotional response David feels, because at times there’s a suggestion of enjoyment or desire, yet at times he feels mechanically cold. Similar to the replicants in Blade Runner, there’s a niggling question as to whether a robot can have a soul or personality, and its all left rather vague.
David also ties in with the theme of the relationship with creators. There’s a wonderfully poignant scene where he discusses with Holloway the motivations for the mission, which also suggests that David may be more emotionally developed than they think. Holloway expresses that part of the reason he wants to meet the Engineers is to find out why they made mankind to which David simply asks why humans made robots, Holloway’s rude, rather thoughtless response- “We made you because we could.” hints that perhaps the Engineers are not the compassionate, loving creators Shaw in particular has envisioned.
But what makes the scene resonate and will stick with me longest is David’s response- “Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?”
Along with the themes of mankind’s origins and the nature of humanity, the film continues the themes of the original films.
There’s a continuing theme of motherhood, and also the body horror of the original. There’s the same fear of infection or violation by an outside force, especially in a few rather brilliant gross scenes which had me flinching in my seat. Theron’s character, Vickers, is paranoid about contamination and seems germ-phobic, but its something far worse than mere bacteria that she should fear.
There’s also the same mistrust of corporations, with Vickers being a deeply untrustworthy presence and a sense of forboding that there may be other, less noble motivations at work behind the scenes.
I also liked how it played with some of the things left over from the series. There are some nice nods to the series from ominous similarities in some of the pyramid’s carvings and things they discover on their expedition, as well as David continuing the alphabetical robot naming pattern (he follows Ash, Bishop and Call from earlier Alien flicks).
It also ties in with seeds sown in Aliens, that the creatures that are to come are far too perfect as killing machines to have evolved naturally and that they may have been, ahem, engineered.
The special effects in the film are mind blowing and its great that a lot of the sets were built for real, meaning they have a tangible, grounded quality that is often lacking when green screen is used. There are real wince inducing gory bits and all the creature design on the film is of a fantastically high standard.
Ridley Scott is a director with a fantastic eye and sense of vision and this continues here with some parts of the film being extremely beautiful. He shoots it all wonderfully and shows a great sense of timing and framing which ensure the film is visually fascinating.
As for the cast, there is a wealth of talent on display. I’ve already discussed the stellar work done by Rapace and Fassbender, but across the board the actors all do great work.
Theron as the brittle and cold Vickers is wonderful, with the character being convincingly hard hearted but never lurching into caricature, and she even manages to elicit real sympathy for her. There’s a late revelation that’s kind of easy to see coming, but nonetheless Theron is on fine form here.
Logan Marshall-Green, who I only previously knew of from his work on The O.C. is very good as the enthusiastic scientist Charlie, and there’s a real chemistry between him and Rapace, ensuring they feel like a real couple. Charlie is at times an oafish, unthinking kind of bloke but LMG does fine work in still keeping him the right side of toolishness and his disappointment in what they find is understandable and highlights the difference between him and Shaw, as her intense faith ensures she remains optimistic while he falls into a bit of a funk.
The ship’s captain, Janek, played by Idris Elba is possibly the most human of the characters, a simple man who’s not really that bothered with the mission and more concerned with safeguarding his crew he brings a real warmth to proceedings. Elba is probably, after Samuel L Jackson, the coolest man on the face of the earth and he really breathes life into the role despite not getting that much screen time. Elba makes him a noble authority figure while also maintaining a laid back, very human charm to the character.
Special mention should also go to Rafe Spall and Sean Harris, who play two of the expedition members who bicker constantly and contrast nicely. Spall’s character seems eager and naive and suggest this is his first big mission into space, whereas Harris brings his character a gruff, disillusioned side that hints that a lot of time in space may be taking its toll. The two make one of the wisest moves in the film, but at the same time, this being in the Alien universe you begin to suspect early on that they won’t live happily ever after.
All in all, its a wonderful addition to the series, it may not have the visceral impact of the first film, or the wonderful characters of Aliens, but its still a brilliantly performed, fascinating sci-fi movie exploring some big issues and shot beautifully.
Verdict: A visually glorious, extremely well crafted science fiction film. Builds on and develops themes began in the original films, as well as also approaching issues such as humanity within artificial intelligence and the motivations behind scientific creation and exploration. Yet it also manages to create good characters and have some genuinely disturbing gory bits. The cast are, to a man, on fine form, with Fassbender in particular being amazing. I eagerly await the further installments. 8/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO