Monday, September 17, 2012

perplexing Prometheus puzzling problems.....

hi there

so, Prometheus. when it was announced that Ridley Scott was to return to science fiction - in particular possibly the realm of Alien - there was much excitement. when Ridley Scott started saying things like "well, we have no real script or story but it will certainly be in 3D" there was great concern. this was around the time that James Cameron had unleashed his soulless, horrid Avatar on the world, tricking people into thinking it was "brilliant" by being (and this remains the case thus far) the only film to use this 3D gimmick to do something beyond having things stick out at you randomly.

of what use is a pathetic, frustrating gimmick like 3D to a great visionary like Ridley Scott? i for one was at a loss that all of a sudden Ridley was more interested in making people pay more to see his film than he was story development. it was sorry to see him being reduced to punting a format that cinema chains quite like, but patience was granted - Ridley has a lot of goodwill from film lovers. besides, it was a return to the world of Alien, so there was a case to trust him.

and then, throughout the production, mixed signals emerged. it was an Alien prequent, then it wasn't. it was to be "kinda" in the same Alien universe, but nothing to do with those films. finally, at the premiere, Ridley Scott declared "well, it is an Alien prequel of sorts, but seven or eight movies before the first one.". if that is Ridley Scott saying "i am only making these films from now on" quite like James Cameron and his desire to thrust even more Avatar films on us then it truly is a sad day.

just to clarify up front for Ridley and everyone else - Prometheus only really works as a film if it exists as an Alien prequel, a good deal more directly than "seven or eight movies" and even then only if you allow for rather large, obvious "oh R2 D2 can fly, I wonder why he didn't later on" plot and continuity issues. if you judge this film purely on its own merits then you are left with a hollow, confusing and simply badly constructed movie that looks quite nice.

the usual *** SPOILER WARNINGS *** are very much in place for everything after the film poster. and i do mean it this time. in short, if you are a fan of the Alien movies (well, the first two) then this is well worth seeing. if you had no interest in the Alien films but for some reason were impressed by Avatar, well then here is a film somewhat similar, except that it has a soul of sorts and is a much, much better crafted film. 

onwards, then, for comments that i fear will mostly tear the film apart. sadly.

the film opens with some beautiful tracking shots across an apparently uninhabited planet, one that we are led to believe is Earth. it turns out not to be uninhabited, though, as one human-like character is found there.

after staring at a spaceship, perhaps engaged in telepathic communication, this character decides to eat something or other that kills him.

well, more dissolves him into some nearby water. it's worth remembering that part.

we are then whisked into the future (about 70 years from now) where two people (Logan Marshall-Green and, in her first English language work, Noomi Rapace) are looking at some cave paintings in Scotland.

it seems, for reasons hinted at by carbon dating or similar, that this is the final proof the two need that life on Earth was started by aliens - and that someone had left a "stellar map" as to how to get to those that started life here.

we then jump a decade or so to find a ship called Prometheus heading (presumably) towards the planet from the cave painting. a rather eccentric chap called Weyland has paid for the trillion dollar (!) journey.

most of the crew, including the two cave painting fanatics, are in one of those deep sleep, carbon feezing type storage things. we thus get treated to the rather popular Michael Fassbender, playing the ageless android common in Alien films, mooching around entertaining himself for ten or so minutes. man, he really likes Lawrence Of Arabia.

as the ship reaches the planet the crew are woken up and then - only then - are told of exactly what they are doing. they are informed of pretty much all above by a hologram of Weyland, played rather bewilderingly by Guy Pearce, made up to look rather old and certainly unrecognizable.

what happens when they hit the planet (well, perform a decent landing as it happens) features some of the most contrived, silly and "let's just gloss over this part" film making in history. planets are massive, but they are able to straight away identify an "alien" landing strip that takes them to exactly where they need to be. a lot of running about, looking in awe at something, running about, oh! look! silicon storm! everyone rush inside, let's go back outside, don't touch that and let's take it back into the ship things happen.

you get a few cool looking but ultimately not going anywhere sequences, like the one above. in the scene there, Noomi and her friend briefly bring back to life an alien (called in the film "engineer") head, only to sort of freeze and destroy it. the engineers, those that Noomi and her explorer boyfriend type partner are convinced brought life to Earth, appear to have been infected and wiped out by some rather tasty, destructive liquid that's stored in containers on the planet. what are those lethal containers for?

before we get to that, let me be as entirely random with Charlize Theron as the film is. Charlize Theron is in the film. she stands around looking mean, and every now and then says rather mean things. but she also engages in sexual activity with a crew member once in a while.

that is what passes off as "well rounded character" in the world of Ridley Scott these days. just as well that he selected an Oscar winning actress for this pivotal standing around scowling role.

speaking of which, Noomi Rapace. it never dawned on me the fact that this whole The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo business was flawed a great deal due to her "brilliant" acting. given more or less the lead in this film, she is quite frankly terrible in performing the part of a preposterous character.

preposterous? well, she doesn't get all that upset when her explorer / partner / lover gets a bit killed by whatever it is in the cannisters the engineers have. she also, presumably Matrix style, seems to just develop skills as and when the plot requires it - in particular martial arts.

she's also quite a dab hand with technology too, going on the ease with which she learns how to program a complex, rare machine that she has not seen before in order to perform an abortion on herself.

the running, jumping and fighting she does after this interest bit of self-surgery, which only seems ridiculous after you've watched it, is equally impressive.

back to the film? if we must. Michael Fassbender the robot has discovered "hologram films" of the engineers and their last few moments. he quite likes watching them.

Michael Fassbender the robot concludes from these films that the engineers have all these tubs of potent chemicals in place as part of a plan to wipe out all life on Earth.

remember the bit from the start? the dissolving alien thing? one thing i have been perplexed by is the claim that the film is "highly ambiguous". no it is not. the first engineer "accidentally" started life on Earth by introducing his DNA into the water. for whatever reason the aliens didn't actually like the idea of life on Earth and thus they were planning on correcting the mistake. as they say, simples is the plot.

Earth would pretty much be safe, though, if they had not taken the decision to wake up the last of the engineers. it turns out that Weyland was cryogenically frozen and on the Prometheus ship all along. he wants to meet his "maker" in order to get more life.

Michael Fassbender the robot tries to explain this to the engineer as best he can, but the engineer is having none of it and simply lamps Weyland and anyone else he can. do you remember the scene in which Roy Batty meets his maker, Tyrell, in Blade Runner? imagine that seen, full of beauty, intrigue, sorrow and astonishment re-written by Paulie Shore for him and Jackie Chan to star in, but only in a way that does not stretch their acting talents. that's what happens.

what also happens is a bewildering reference to the "Space Jockey" sequence in Alien. here you see the engineer take the seat of either the controls or the massive gun of their ship and get ready to head off to Earth for some top level killing. the implication is that something happens next and this is how and why they find him in this pose in that film.

except that they do not leave him there. in a scene reminiscent of Bruce Willis twatting a helicopter with a car, only less stylish, the crew of Prometheus, presumably bored of sex with Charlize Theron, crash their ship into the engineer one, bringing it down to the planet surface.

and then it gets quite ridiculous. instead of simply getting in to one of the other ships on the planet, the engineer is all of a sudden quite keen just to kill the humans that have come ever so far to visit him, and thus off it goes in pursuit of Noomi.

Noomi gets the better of the engineer by locking it in a room with whatever the hell it was she had taken from her womb. which means that the engineer gets "impregnated" and guess what he/she/it gives birth to.

yep, a prototype alien. all very interesting and that, but it does mean that the engineer is not trapped in the massive gun / console thing of the ship. it was made rather clear that this was the last of the engineers, on this planet at least, so just who was it that the crew of the Nostromo found in the seat, and how did they get there?

Noomi and what is left of Michael Fassbender the robot climb aboard one of these other ships and jet off. not to head home, you understand, but to rather see if they can find other planets that these engineers might call home. well, Ridley Scott also made Thelma and Louise, the ending of which was rather popular i suppose.

bar a few thrills and spills, and one or two "twists", i've more or less given you the film there. that's quite a big problem, to be honest. Prometheus should be a far more complex, detailed, involved and frankly interesting film than it is. what could have been a brilliant Alien prequel is instead a film that references it as and when it needs to, opting for fancy visuals over a decent story. the oddity, and perhaps the saving grace of the film, is that no matter how poorly developed they are the characters are still interesting enough to watch. but they could have been so much more.

one thing i am noticing in comments around the internet is the more times you view this film, the more apparent the failings and holes in the plot become. the best advice, then, and the advice i am certainly going to follow, is to simply just watch the film once and walk away from it thinking "that's not a bad go at telling the pre-Alien story". if some sort of extended cut (no doubt Blu Ray only, frustratingly) comes up then i might be interested if some of the gaps are filled in. otherwise, this is one of those watch once and then let the DVD gather dust on the shelf affairs. that one can say that of a Ridley Scott film is a sad, sad thing indeed.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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