Greetings all! Mr. Andrew Gaudion here, bringing back the blog which has been left unattended for nearly four months! I do sincerely apologize for the lack of reviews, film news, film features and the sort, hopefully you’ve managed to keep up to date in my absence. But, now that my first year at the University of Warwick, exams all completed, I thought, why not kick start the old blog again, now that I have the time to give it the attention it deserves as it approaches its two year anniversary (ah, 2010, so long ago). During this four month hiatus, I have indeed seen a great many films, some of which I am disappointed not to have gotten round to sharing my views on them, bar a Facebook status. These films included the much anticipated Avengers Assemble (review coming soon, to coincide with the Alderney Cinema’s showing of it in August), the sprawling madcap-ness of Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows (expect a review around the DVD release). But, two films I have seen very recently and that are still doing the rounds in the cinemas (both in first and second positions at the UK Box office at the time of writing) are Ridley Scott’s sort-of-but-not-quite-Alien prequel and the second sequel in the Men in Black franchise. Both films have divided critics and audience members alike, but none more so than Prometheus. Many of you, if you follow me on Facebook, will be fully aware of my reaction to these two films, again Prometheus in particular, but the blog was always a perfect chance to elaborate and test my skills as a critic. So here’s my chance to elaborate on two very diverse Sci-Fi movies, one that asks big questions, and one that has Will Smith threatening to, and I quote, ‘pimp-slap the shiznit’ out of Andy Warhol’. Enjoy, and welcome back.
Review: Prometheus- Big things have underwhelming beginnings…
*SPOILERS ABOUND* Ridley Scott marks his return to a genre he truly did help define in terms of how modern Sci-Fi is conducted (it is hard to find a Sci-Fi movie these days that doesn’t owe something to Alien or Blade Runner). The fact that Prometheus marks Sir Ridley’s return to the genre was exciting enough as a prospect, but it truly is the content of the material that raises expectations. Beginning life as a full-on prequel to Alien, Scott, with a re-write from Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof, saw enough potential in the concept to embark on developing Prometheus into its own Sci-Fi epic, that shared a universe with the Alien franchise, while also exploring questions that have been around since John Hurt and co. first entered that derelict spaceship and found the huge and mysterious, and dead, Space Jockey. Then the trailers arrived, and we were led to believe that this would be more of an Alien prequel than Scott had initially let on. We were finally going to discover who and what the Space Jockey was. And we do. Just, perhaps not in the way that many of us may have hoped.
Prometheus follows the expedition of a group of scientists, led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who have discovered the exact same star-map at different Archaeological digs across the world, from different cultures separated by thousands of years. With funding from the Weyland Corporation (ring any bells), Shaw and Holloway and a handful of scientists, and an android named David (Michael Fassbender) go on a voyage to the location of the star-map. What they discover is beyond what any of them ever imagined, as they come face to face with man-kind’s creator and the possibility of their own extinction.
Prometheus aims to address what the scope of Scott’s 1979 Alien alluded to with the introduction of the Space Jockey. One of the main aspects that makes Alien such a fascinating film is the way that it can feel so small yet so large; it is essentially a haunted-house movie with a monster chasing some unfortunate souls, yet it seemed to be ingrained within a much larger scope, as suggested by the derelict and the Space Jockey. An exploration into that scope is somewhat of a intriguing premise, and the intention for Prometheus to be a movie with its own mythology is something that I find very commendable, I just wish that they went for either a stand-alone film, or a full-out Alien prequel, as this film very much aims to be both, but fails to engage on both accounts.
*MAJOR SPOILER PARAGRAPHS AHEAD*There have been many theories regarding the nature of the Space Jockey’s over the years, and while what Scott presents us here is undeniably bold and promising, with them being revealed as the ‘Engineers’ of the human race, aspects of both their motives and nature simply perplexed me. What is it that we did that would force them to want to kill us? Why do they have these vials of black goo, which seems to have somewhat of an unpredictable nature? And why does the script allude to them being a higher being, only for them to become simple-minded antagonists, that merely embark on killing everyone? These are just a few areas that the script fails to justify and explore.
The script is simply the biggest problem with this movie. It appears to be incapable of juggling these themes whilst also presenting a certain degree of Sci-Fi nastiness that is expected of this type of genre movie. While Scott certainly still knows how to gross-out an audience, we find it hard to appreciate his craft due to the lack of connection towards much of the characters. I really should stop comparing this movie to Alien, as it was, realistically, never going to match up, but that film had perfect and unique characterization, as we spent the run-time with a crew of only seven people. In Prometheus, there is a crew of 17. There is no way that the film can allow us to care for all the characters involved, most are simply there to be disposed of rather quickly. The characters that we do pay particular attention to, from Charlize Theron’s Vickers and Idris Elba’s Janek, while performed well (bar Rapace’s questionable English accent), are far too threadbare in their characterization to really care about what happens to them. It is ironic, then, that the most interesting character isn’t even human. If you are familiar with Damon Lindelof’s work, namely Lost, you will be well aware that he likes to throw questions into the mix without necessarily having the answers for them. While this may be an intriguing way to keep television audiences interested, it simply does not work as well for a cinematic audience. Certainly, raise questions which thoughtfully invite us to question our origins and faith, but don’t you ever expand questions so much so that they do not make sense. There is no reason as to why these star-maps would lead these scientists to this planet, which simply turns out to be a hanger for the Engineers spaceships. And why on Earth do the scientists only find out why they are in space once they are out of hyper-sleep and the mission is about to begin? I would certainly want to know where I was going and what I was doing before I boarded a spaceship where I’ll spend the next five or so years of my life living on. Glaring plot-holes such as these distract the audience from embracing the large themes at play in the movie, and the course of the events of the movie are likely to anger Alien fans, as for a large part, the movie doesn’t fit into the timeline and does not lead into the events of Alien, as we were supposedly promised.
Michael Fassbender as the ship’s Android David is easily the best thing about this movie. An incredibly well-drawn out character, and superbly performed, David represents most of the key themes of the film, particularly concerning the questions of humanity. His motives are questionable (despite some rather un-subtle foreboding dialogue) and you are never quite sure whether he is being sincere or simply following orders. He provides much of the films intrigue and the best connection with the Alien franchise, that being its exploration of android characters. And Fassbender shows incredible range, particularly during an early sequence as he occupies the spaceship alone as the human crew members rest in hyper-sleep. He more than shows why he is one of the most in demand and watchable actors in Hollywood today.
While the script may be flawed, there is no denying the awe-factor of the world of the film; the production design is flawless. Once again taking a leaf out of H.R. Giger’s sexually mechanized Necronomicon book; Scott has orchestrated sets of jaw-dropping beauty and surrealism. From the ships of the Engineer’s to the Prometheus ship itself, you truly believe that this world exists (until, someone, once again, drops a horribly cliched line). The world of the Engineer’s ship and caves is fascinating, which is why it is particularly frustrating when the script takes us away from its exploration after merely spending five minutes inside of it.
Prometheus presents a beautiful and awe-inspiring world set within the framework of a poorly written script. It does not know what is good for it. The audience wants to explore these new worlds for as long as possible, you would have thought the scientists would too, considering, you know, that they are scientists. Instead they merely pop in for about ten minutes and decide that they have had enough of answering the biggest questions of the universe for today. It asks big questions, yet ends up resorting to a big slimey monster; it wants to be its own film, yet caters to fan-boy needs in a hack-job fashion. It is by no means a terrible film, the world is too beautifully realized and Fassbender too awesome for it to have no merits (the 3-D as well actually immerses you for a change). There is the sense that a sequel could answer some of the films glaring questions, and may in fact lead into Alien (although Lindelof has stated they would move further away from the Alien-verse), but some plot holes just can’t be filled. Audiences and critics alike have been split, and it is a highly recommendable cinema experience if only for the debating factor. But, if you truly love it’s heritage and believed in the hype, you will leave the cinema feeling wholly empty, with a void that only a certain Xenomorphic embryo from 1979 can fill.
2/5- While certainly awe-inspiring and creatively alive with ideas, the script is just too darn awful to truly engage. Certainly not terrible, but disappointing none the less as we were promised so much more.
Tomorrow (or maybe this evening) come on back to check out my review for Men In Black 3.