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Monday, June 11, 2012

Prometheus (Release Date: 6-8-2012)

        Warning: Those who have yet to see Prometheus, are breathless with anticipation, and want nothing more than to read a ringing review won't find what they're looking for here. These were the eyes that I greeted the film with, all eager, and with hopes as high as the ceiling. No, those who've seen the trailers, and felt the goosebumps of Alien-referencing terror raise their blood to a boil would be wise to temper those expectations a bit. Or perhaps adjust is a better word, because regardless of what your final thoughts on Prometheus are, it's probably not the movie you expected it to be. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here: Just like Ridley Scott's Star Beast prequel, let's go back to the very start.

        Paleontologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her co-hort/lover Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are on a mission to meet their makers. The two have discovered ancient cave drawings all across the globe, each pointing to the same distant galaxy, where the scientist pair believe our creators just may have come from. Shaw and beau climb aboard the titular space craft, funded by the ever-devious Weyland Corporation, but when they arrive on the far-away planet, their dreams of a landmark discovery soon turn into nightmares.

        The only two movies that anyone really, actually cares about in the Alien series are Ridley Scott's original, and James Cameron's Aliens. Scott's starter was a horror film, short on exposition and character development, and mighty in mood and visual expressiveness. Aliens, on the other hand, wasn't much of a horror film at all, re-invisioning the Xenomorph as a far less indestructible creature, and putting hoards of them right in the middle of a full-blown action epic. The two could hardly be more different in tone, and where people like me expected Prometheus to be decidedly more in Ridley's wheelhouse, it actually turns out to be something of an amalgamation of the two styles. While his visuals and themes remain darker and more ominous than Cameron will likely ever touch, his newest entry into the Alien universe is about five times as concept-heavy as his last at bat. It includes mythologies, theologies, unexplained conspiracies, and far exceeds its predecessor in terms of length, expense, expanse, and over-all heft. One of Alien's greatest assets was being a simple movie; Prometheus is nothing of the sort, wearing some true Cameron-Style extravaganza aspirations right on its sleeve.

        Yes, it's an ambitious movie, one that wants not only to operate as a big-budget spectacle, but as a think-piece as well. This aspiration sees the flick frequently tripping over itself, not for lack of good ideas, but rather proper execution. Nearly each notion posited by the film (and there are many) is enticing, but at least 75% of them are dropped in the film's final 30 minutes in favor of standard sticky, gooey action-horror beats. They're fine in all, but one would have liked to know more about a lot of particulars, not the least of which being the motives behind the film's most fascinating character, emotion-less android David (Michael Fassbender), whose seemingly arbitrary choices set much of the film's narrative in motion. It's clear that a lot (see: Just about everything) is left open-ended with the intention of being revealed in a future sequel, but that's no excuse to clean up so little of the mess that you've made. Fellow, 'To Be Continued,' films of the recent past, such as the first two Lord of the Rings movies, or Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, had the decency to leave their audiences feeling like they'd had a hardy narrative, cinematic meal. Prometheus just kind of shuts down, and tells you to come back in three summers for about 60% of the movie that you thought you'd just paid for. Frankly, it's disingenuous, and a tad insulting.

        All of this is how I felt coming out of the film: Underwhelmed, frustrated, and somewhat cheated. Time away from the picture, however, has allows my thoughts to congeal into a slightly more positive outlook. The movie is truly a beauty to behold, 3-D handled in an especially classy manner, and some of its notions and set-pieces are pretty juicy. But that doesn't solve the rag sheet of other problems that plague the flick, such as the ill-fitting score, uninspired (albeit pertinent to the film's themes) creature design, a pretty damn deflating lack of tension, and an inability to properly frighten its audience. Perhaps worst of all, it reveals what we should have known all along: There's really no reason to add backstory to film that consists almost purely of a few people running away from a monster, especially the heady stuff that Prometheus tries to tack on. The two movies feel pasted together for no real reason, which just makes Scott's latest effort that much more of a head scratcher. I'm not going to lie: if a Prometheus sequel ever does arrive, and makes good on the set-up that this film offered, I very well might reconsider my stance. In that sense, the jury is still out on the elder Scott's latest offering, but as of right now, I'd have to call it an intriguing miss-fire.

Grade: C+

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