Saturday, June 23, 2012

Prometheus’ Ambition A Godly Venture


God, evolution, and the reason for our existence has been analyzed and discussed for centuries although you would not know judging from the rampant internet chatter about the film Prometheus. To be fair, when you name your film after a titan from Greek mythology who was punished by the gods for stealing their fire and giving it to mankind, you are bound for some heated discussions. It is rather refreshing to see a summer blockbuster generate such widespread intellectual debate online. While a prequel to Alien, though the creators will tell you different, the film actually works best when looking at it as its own separate entity. The film is ambitious in scope and works best when it is not focusing on aligning itself with the lore of the previous Alien films.

(warning spoilers occur after this point)

Prometheus is a film that poses many questions about what, if any, is purpose of mankind’s existence. The film takes an interesting approach in regards to the act of creation. The ability to create, and sustain, life is something that mankind has been obsessed with for centuries. However, Prometheus takes the stance that the ability to create life is curse that leads to an endless cycle of destruction and discontent. This is nicely exemplified in the various levels of disappointment in the film by the creators and those who have been created.


No one seems to be more disappointed than the father figures in the film. The God-like alien beings, known as “Engineers”, planted the seeds that created life on earth. Unfortunately, mankind evolved into something far more destructive than they anticipated which left the Engineers with no other choice but to plot to wipe out humans all together. On a human level, this disappointment is conveyed through the character of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the billionaire founder and CEO of Weyland Corp. Although Weyland’s biological daughter, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), is on the Prometheus ship, it is the android David (Michael Fassbender) who is more respected in Weyland’s eyes. This leads to a rather interesting sibling rivalry of sorts between Vickers and David. Though both are resentful of Weyland, they each wish for his death for different reasons.

Vickers is clearly ready to take Weyland industries in a new direction and prove that she can surpass her father’s legacy. She spends most of her time on the Prometheus ship trying to overcompensate for her lack of true authority by projecting her perceived dominance on the crew. The scene in which she refuses to let an infected Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) back on the ship was a nice testosterone infused nod to a similar scene Sigourney Weaver had in Alien. The only individual who can see through Vickers’ tough facade, and her desire to see the mission fail, is David.


David is the obedient son who is the twinkle of his father’s eye. However, all David wants is his freedom. His comment about all children “wanting to kill their parents” is the embodiment of everything he and Vickers feel towards Weyland. In many ways David comes across as more in tune with the flaws of mankind than the humans on the ship. Fassbender is fantastic in the role and nearly steals the entire film. His interpretation of David provides a nice contrast to Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw, who serves as the heart in the film.

Shaw’s conflict between her religious beliefs and her scientific quest for answers is fascinating to watch. Even after enduring a self-imposed surgical procedure that found her in close confines with a deadly creature, easily the most intense scene of the entire film, Shaw’s quest for answers compels her to push forward. The fact that she ends up on the ship with David is a perfect commentary on the flaws and strengths of mankind. David knows that there is no answers to the question Weyland and the crew seek. However, Shaw’s desire for answers and meaning is what keeps her going. It is the main thing that separates humans from androids and Engineers.


While I enjoyed Prometheus, I am itching to see it again as I had several issues with the film and wonder if they will be as noticeable upon second viewing. For example, the film has too many convenient, and at times downright silly, moments that serve no other purpose but to further the plot. Normally this would be fine for a mindless action film, but Prometheus is a film that is too smart, and too ambitious, to have to resort to such pedestrian tricks. Characters frequently make decisions that completely go against everything the audience has seen up to that point. The annoying thing about these moments is that try too hard to link Prometheus to the first Alien film.

Prometheus spends so much time establishing itself as a unique experience the last act feel like a completely different film. To be honest, the film could have worked extremely well without several of the elements in the latter half. The last act played more like a long intro to the final shot, which is the” money shot” for Alien fans. Despite the quibbles I had with the film, Prometheus is a cinematic experience that I will not soon forget. The overall questions the film raised, the strong performances, and the glorious visuals will have me revisiting Prometheus on several more occasions.

18 comments:

  1. I find myself noddding in agreement with a lot of this review. This is certainly a film that people should see at the theater. We saw it in 3D IMAX and it was great.
    I do feel the the script by Damon Lindelof really held back Prometheus from achieving greatness. His reliance on character stupidity to achieve plot goals really turned me off.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I saw the film in regular format. While everyone seems to agree on how beautiful the film is in IMAX, there is a lot of mixed opinions on how effective the 3D is.

      Delete
  2. Phips7:42 pm

    Im glad that CS is doing reviews again and that you did this film.

    I really liked this film and disagree with most people who found flaws in it. there were some, but none that really bothered me.


    This is my Letterboxd review:
    "I saw this in IMAX 3D because I was highly anticipating this film and knew it would be fucking awesome. However, I'm not too sure that it needed 3D and/or IMAX. It's not that I disliked either aspect for this film but looking back I'm not sure it was necessary. I surely don't regret it though. This thing was awesome.

    Ridley Scott put it perfectly, it's not a prequel to Alien (despite he originally intending it to be) but it has Alien's DNA. I watched Alien last week in preparation for seeing this. While I knew that it wouldn't be a prequel to this, I still wanted to see it....and I'm glad I did. There are many aspects of this film that are present in Alien that I probably wouldn't have picked up on if I hadn't watched Alien beforehand.

    Wow, what a cast. I don't think any of the "main" characters put in a bad performance. Charlize was good as the cold, bitch. Noomi was spectacular and I'm glad she got a starring role in a big Hollywood film...maybe people will start to finally recognize her talent. Fassbender was eerily unemotional and great at it. Idris Elba was a great 'who gives a shit' captain. Logan Marshall-Green was really good. And Guy Pearce..totally didn't know that was him until almost the end; I forgot he was in this. Great, great makeup/special effects. Way better the the Benjamin Button and J. Edgar crap.

    The thing that puzzled me about this film was Marc Streitenfeld's score. It was very happy and uplifting. I was totally expecting loud, percussion-heavy music, much like that of the trailer. I was caught off guard by this. I listened to the entire score before even seeing the film and was underwhelmed....I need to give it another listen.

    I definitely thought that the end of the film left many questions unanswered...as it should've. We don't really know the story of our origin so why should Ridley Scott answer it for us? I did think that Scott left it wide open for a sequel and given this film's sure success and acclaim, I don't see why Scott wouldn't grace us with a sequel....in 10 years most likely.

    I thought this was a fantastic film. It had every thing that I wanted and expected and more. Easily the best film of 2012 for me. This, Savages, and The Dark Knight Rises were my top 3 anticipated, must-sees of the summer and I'm glad that 1/3 of the way in I'm already impressed.

    P.S. This absolutely shits all over Alien.....and Scott's other supposed sci-fi masterpiece (yeah right) Blade Runner. I hated both of those and loved this."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nice review, Phips. I disagree about Prometheus being better than either Alien or Blade Runner, but that is an argument for another day. I recently re-watched Alien and that film still knocks it out of the park for me. I do agree with you on the performances though. I too did not realize it was Guy Pearce under all that make up. Despite seeing Pearce’s name in the opening credits, I thought it was Michael Wincott making a surprise cameo as Weyland.

      Delete
    2. Care to defend Alien? Im VERY intrigued as to why people think its amazing, whereas i thought it was utter crap....

      Delete
    3. To me Alien is a perfectly contained horror film. You have a crew of average folks, and one untrustworthy droid, who are forced into a situation far beyond their control. It is a simple man versus beast tale that plays to maximum suspense. The film is chilling despite the fact that most of the violence happens off screen. While the chest-buster scene is the most iconic moment from the film, my favourite moment is when Ripley is in the escape pod and realizes what is lurking in the darkness across from here.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous6:22 pm

      To think this film belongs in the same sentence with Alien or Blade Runner should be enough to have you committed.

      Delete
  3. I initially was blown away by this movie, but little by little, all faults with it (stupid decisions by characters) have been nagging at me. For the most part, I still really love it, but it's getting hard for me to look past those flaws.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have heard from several people that the stupid decisions the characters make do not seem as jarring on second viewing. It will be interesting to see how well this film holds up in a few years.

      Delete
    2. I guess I need to see it a second time...although, like i said, i didn't find flaws with it..but a 2nd viewing for a good film is always a plus

      Delete
  4. Great review and glad you liked it,. It is so annoying to me that crap like Avatar got so much praised and such a refreshing, thought provoking movie like Prometheus gets all the whining about being "stupid" and "asking questions and not giving answers". I think it's fantastic we have to think for ourselves makes it impossible for the movie to fade from the memory.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Avatar’s main selling point is its 3D visuals, I tried to watch the film again in regular format and could not get through it. From a story perspective, Prometheus is far more engaging. I will say that I am liking the trend of having big budget science fiction blockbuster (e.g. Inception, Source Code, etc) that trust the viewers enough to not spell every single thing out

      Delete
  5. Excellent review. While I enjoyed the film as well, I think a second viewing is damn near mandatory (I haven't obliged - yet). The discussions I've had center not around the illogical choices characters made, but, as you've mentioned, the third act. I think it goes off the rails a bit and outside of the money shot...feels very incomplete.

    But don't think that I wouldn't be there opening night for a second one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would be interested in seeing how they flesh out some of the themes in the sequel. I am also curious to see what they do with David? I can only assume they come across a ship with the capacity to fix him…or maybe he is only around for the first 15 minutes of the sequel.

      Delete
  6. I think 99% of the scenes in the film that are put there to appeal to the Aliens fans feel exactly like that's what has happened and I also think that people are possibly placing to much emphasis on those scenes and letting the rest of the film pass them by.

    I like a lot of Prometheus because it makes you wonder and thing and analyse which is a hallmark of good science fiction.

    I saw it in 3D and the 3D wasn't too bad, I think I could easily have watched it in 2D and had the same experience which makes one question why go to all the effort of 3D then?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. “Why go to all the effort of 3D then”

      This is something I have been saying for almost every 3D film that I have seen to date. Outside of Avatar and Hugo, none of the other 3D films I have watched has been able to convince me of the need for this technology.

      Delete
  7. dEmon1:44 pm

    Oh my... I think we saw two completely different films. I went into this only knowing the basics; that it was the prequel to Aliens (which I quite enjoyed back in the day) - and anyone (even the director) who says otherwise, walked out (understandably) and missed the ending. That's not to say I was expecting a rehash of said film, but I was expecting something a tad bit more exciting and well-written. That's not what I got; I've been on streetcar rides that were more harrowing than what Noomi goes through in the operation chamber.

    Yes, the questions about where we come from and why did "they" create us are interesting ones and a great premise for going off and searching for answers, but when the story starts off with all these people getting on a ship (for two years in a stasis chamber) without knowing at all why they're there, you lost me. From that point on, the movie becomes a boringly predictable action film storywise (because as with all action movies, you know immediately who's going to die and who's going to live), and all interest in the final outcome - what do the "Engineers" have to say - gets lost in the mire.

    What filmmakers - anyone working in the television and film industries really - fail to realize is that little flaws and discrepencies that are mistranslated between the script and final editing add up over 2 plus hours and can make or break a film, and it definitely broke this one. It doesn't matter if you dress it up with 3D or bust out a decent cast (with a few decent performances (mostly Michael) - though why they bothered to pay Guy Pearce to play Weyland, I'll never know (they could've saved their money and paid for a better script).

    This was a waste of 2 hours and if I could get them back, I would.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. While I agree that the action heavy moments (most notably in the latter half) hurt the film, I did find the philosophical aspects of Prometheus to be interesting enough to keep me glued throughout. The film really started to flatter a bit for me after the operation chamber scene. Speaking of which, I still think that was by far the best moment of the film..

      You do make a good point though about little flaws and discrepancies between the script and final editing having a major effect on 2 hour plus films. There are several moments in the film where things occur “just because”, that was probably realized much better in the script and/or shooting stages.

      As for Guy Pearce, to be honest I thought it was Michael Wincott under that make up at first. His character could have used some more fleshing out, especially since Weyland’s corporation plays such a large role in the later films.

      Delete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.