Friday, June 15, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

Title: Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Patrick Wilson

Ridley Scott’s most recent foray into science fiction -Prometheus- is in many ways different then its predecessors and in many ways the same. As I’m sure many of you know, Prometheus is a prequel to Ridley Scott’s own Alien (1979), the film that redefined sci-fi films and kick started the whole alien franchise. It also happens to be the first science fiction film from Ridley Scott since he made Blade Runner (1982). It’s interesting how Scott denied that this was a prequel for a while, only to later admit that the film does in fact take place within the same universe. That’s right my friends, Scott is playing on familiar ground here. The art design for the interior of the spaceship looks like something that might have come out of 2001: A Space Odyssey (1969) or Scott’s own Alien; you know, lots of white corridors, very cramped, very claustrophobic. Same as all the other films in the Alien franchise, The Wayland Corporation is the company that oversees space exploration; and same as all previous Alien films, every spaceship gets an android to accompany them. So yeah, this film has a certain familiarity to it for fans of the Alien franchise; the question on my mind was what was going make this one different?

On this film we meet a group of archeologists/scientists that are hot on the trail of humanities origins. They are after the answers to the biggest questions in life: Where did we come from? Who made us? And why did they abandon us? Their search begins with  a series ancient paintings they find, in all of these ancient paintings from different eras in human history, the same image is depicted: humans pointing to the same constellations in the sky. So they zero in on this constellation and embark on a journey towards this sector of the universe, hoping to find the engineers of humanity. Will they find what they are looking for?

To me, Ridley Scott is this cinematic god, he makes movies that I end up falling in love with and can watch over and over again; so of course, seeing this movie in theaters was a major event for me! Like the Greek story of Prometheus, Scott’s films feel like stolen fire from the gods themselves. The worlds Ridley Scott creates are so rich and detailed that he can make a fantastic setting a reality; Blade Runner (1982), Legend (1985) or Gladiator (2000), no matter how fantastic the setting, these worlds feel real, complex and intricate. Another thing that distinguishes Ridley Scott’s films is that they have the highest production values. He makes sure he’s working with the best of the best in order to produce a high quality film. This is also the case with Prometheus, one look at the film and you can just tell that the people that were behind the cameras knew what they were doing. For example, the visual effects work in Prometheus is flawless. This time though, I have no idea who the conceptual artists behind Prometheus are; I don’t know who’s handling the visual effects or the make up effects; to me Prometheus is Scott working with a whole new generation of creative talents; which of course is great, if you’ve seen Alien, then you’ll feel a familiarity with this world, yet at the same time, it will feel new and fresh. I love how Scott’s approach towards visual effects is “if you can do it live, do it live”, an advice given to him by fx guru Douglas Trumbull while filming Blade Runner. This is the main reason why Scott doesn’t overdo CGI; if he can build a set, he will. This kind of filmmaking adds a level of realism that is quickly disappearing from today’s films, where sometimes they construct only half a set, or only the floor is real; not so in Prometheus where Scott spent a large part of his budget on good old fashioned set construction. Normally I hate CGI, but I've always said that when it's done well, it really, really works. Im glad to say that Prometheus is one of those rare occassions when CGI is done right.

Both Alien and Prometheus have certain similarities, but the differences are evident as well. For example, while Alien was a straightforward horror film and for all intents and purposes a monster flick, Prometheus is more of a philosophical film. Like many of the best science fiction films, this one explores the bigger question that humanity asks itself like for example: where the hell did we really come from? And therein lays the crux of this film. It questions religion; it questions the existence of god. Should we believe in life after death? Why are there so many different beliefs on the matter? Could it be that no one really knows the answers to these questions and so we simply choose to believe what we want about the after life and God? This is the main reason why I loved this movie so much; it asks these big questions and actually attempts to answer them. Prometheus basically summarizes where humanity stands with regards to these questions. Yet the film doesn’t eschew the Christian angle of things, actually, Christianity is represented through its main character Elizabeth Shaw as played by Noomi Rapace. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t expecting for Prometheus to touch upon some of the themes that Blade Runner plays with, namely, why we die. This is the reason why I love Blade Runner so much. It has its android protagonists ask their creator for more life. Prometheus also plays with these ideas, which I found fascinating considering Ridley Scott himself is getting pretty old. I’m sure this is a theme that matters to him as a filmmaker now more than ever; so he touches upon it yet again on Prometheus. This is probably why we have characters addressing the issues of life after death, or characters simply wanting, searching to elongate their lives, this once again, and same as Blade Runner, is a film about accepting death. “A King has his reign and then he dies, it’s inevitable” says Meredith Vickers to her employer Peter Weyland; by the way, to me, Scott expressed a lot of his concerns about death through the Weyland character. After all, Scott was 74 at the time of making Prometheus! My admiration goes out to Mr. Scott for making such an amazing film in his golden years. 

Ridley Scott made Prometheus at 74, that's what I call one tough cookie! 

The great thing about Prometheus is that even though it tackles all these philosophically heavy themes, it does not forget to entertain. We get some awesome looking aliens and creatures on this one! Fun stuff! A bit gruesome at times, but then again this is probably why the film earned (thankfully!) its “R” rating. Yet, when compared to Alien, Prometheus feels sometimes a bit constrained on this department, you can tell times have changed, there’s not a lot of blood on this one. But things do get gruesome, and gory believe it or not, the film plays a fine balance in my book between showing you just enough mayhem. Finally, I will say that I was not one bit disappointed with this film. I don’t get why people are saying that it’s flawed? Flawed how? I guess comparing it to Alien is the reason, but we have to remember, that even though Prometheus is obviously linked to the Alien universe of films, it’s still its own beast. It’s obvious that Scott was aiming for a film with its own personality and uniqueness, not a film that felt like it was walking on tired ground. Maybe the scientists don’t act professional enough at times and get themselves into peril too easily? Almost as if they were asking for it? Maybe…but then again, we have to remember this is also a horror film; characters have to put themselves in peril! Highly recommend it, in my book this film was nothing short of epic, amazing, thrilling…top notch, cutting edge filmmaking at its best. This is Scott showing us he’s still got it! I can’t wait to see what he’ll do with that Blade Runner sequel he keeps talking so much about. Prometheus gets the highest possible recommendation from this Film Connoisseur!

Rating: 5 out of 5


Anonymous said...

I am right there with you on this. I really liked this movie. However, I am in a minority.

I did have an issue with the last two minutes of the movie since it felt tacked on and not necessary. However, it did take anything away from the rest of the movie.

A shame since soooooooo many people are ripping it apart since; it left too many questions, didn't spoon feed answers to viewers, or end with Ripley and her buddies.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

You summed up what made Prometheus such an amazing science fiction film well, Francisco.

I agree that while Prometheus is tentatively connected to Alien, it is not a true prequel in the sense of the word that it tells a story that prefigures the events or characters in the film Alien. What it does do is follow similar plot conventions as Alien and also uses antecedent alien beings and technology from Alien. Like you, I enjoyed Prometheus as a science fiction film that told its own unique story, independent of Alien, which focused on intellectual questions and minimized the visceral elements.

I don’t understand why people are so angry that Prometheus isn’t a straight-up prequel to Alien. The Thing (2011) was a direct prequel to The Thing (1982) and it was so slavish to the film it was foreshadowing that there was no suspense to it because you knew precisely where the film was headed to from frame one. I honestly believe that if Scott made a similar film with Prometheus, the same fans now complaining about Prometheus’ lack of connectivity to Alien, would be complaining that the direct prequel was just a tired, unoriginal rehash of Alien. Fortunately, Scott did not succumb to fan (and I’m sure studio) pressure and made Prometheus about themes and ideas that he was interested in, only using the Alien universe as a foundation for those ideas.

I graded Prometheus very close to your score on my blog post, but had a very difficult time explaining why I liked the film so much, because so many of the elements that make Prometheus so thought provoking are impossible to describe without spoiling the film for people who haven’t seen it. I try very hard not to spoil films in my reviews – particularly theatrical releases – but following this self-imposed restriction can make explaining one’s opinions difficult. You did a good job skirting plot-specific points in your review, while still explaining why you thought Prometheus was such an “amazing, thrilling…top notch” film.

I agree that Prometheus does cover some of the same life/death concepts as Blade Runner, as well as the creator/creation questions. These are obviously ideas that Ridley Scott still thinks are fundamentally important issues thirty years later. Prometheus is far from perfect in its story construction and pacing. The final third of the film almost feels like a concession to Alien franchise fans and as a result the weakest act of the film. Still, there are some interesting ideas that Scott manages cram into all the mayhem happening at the end of the film.

I for one am looking forward to re-watching Prometheus on Blu-ray and looking for more of the visual clues that I’m sure will add to my better understanding of the film.

Franco Macabro said...

Hey Fritz, I agree with you about the film being different, because it is, it has so many elements that we'd never seen before, but I disagree about it not being a true prequel, because I felt that it was one. I mean, we are seeing the birth of the Xenomorph after all, the very first one, this connects us directly to Alien. We do see who the spacejockey was, we do see how that ship crash does directly connect to Alien, but at the same time, as I mentioned on my review its a totally different tale.

The real differences between both films is that Alien is a rather simple (yet effective) film with lots of style. While Prometheus is the deeper more philosophical one. To me, Prometheus had lots of connectivity to Alien, if people don't see that then they are blind, many things connect it to alien, yet it retains it uniqueness, thats a great feat in my book.

I try to avoid spoilers as much as possible, but as you said, its hard doing that with Prometheus without spoiling it.

I've heard some reviewers complaining about the ending...I personally had no problem with it, I thought it was awesome, the creatures...the effects and the final revelation in that bunker that Shaw stuff in my book. I loved the engineers, cool alien beings. Bening? Or Evil? I liked how they mentioned something about them possibly being military in certainly felt that way. The ideas presented about the creatures being a biological weapon? Cool many ideas. Totally agree with you, I need to see this one again, which I will be doing at some point during this weekend.

Thanks for your comment Fritz!

SFF said...

Another fine review here Franco.

It is a stunning film on a visual level.

I liked how you mentioned Blade Runner which this film seems to tap really well on a philosophical level. That film just seems to endure because so much of it is left to interpretation. There is indeed a great aspect of that here. I'm glad you noted that.

But I enjoyed your assessment of the film against the Alien and Blade Runner classics. It's hard to deny the connection to these worlds.

But like you the Prometheus and Alien films for me were naturally connected and it was fun to look at how they worked with one another, but also remain very different.

Prometheus does walk that balance and that tight rope of keeping one foot in the franchise and one foot in refreshing new territory rather expertly.

The film will no doubt endure over time like those original classics you weaved into your assessement here. Great stuff as always. sff

Vladimir said...

I am sure that I will watch this film several times from a DVD in the future. And the ending seemed promising for a sequel.

Also, I wonder if they had shown same versions of Prometheus in Europe and in the States. Any ideas?

Unknown said...

Nice review! We are in agreement with many things about this film. I did feel the script was weak but this is more than made up for with the stunning visuals and strong performances from the cast.

This will definitely be a must-have when it comes out on Blu-Ray, esp. now that Scott has said there will be a longer cut of the film!

Franco Macabro said...

SFF: To me Blade Runner has always been about death, and accepting it as part of's about lamenting about how everything you've lived will fade away once you die. It's about wanting more, and being sorry that this simply wont happen. Prometheus dealt with the same issues in many ways.

Vladimir: I don't know if there are other versions of Prometheus being released around the world, but I do look forward to seeing a directors cut of the film once its released on dvd, that should make for a more complete film, no doubts! I loved that open makes you wonder where Elizabeth Shaw is heading and what a wonderful film it would make. Let's hope it gets made someday.

J.D. I pretty much enjoyed the whole film, didnt really find anything wrong with it, I'm also looking forward to that DVD, I'm sure it will include a directors cut, now THATS going to be exciting because I did feel at times that the film was going fast from one thing to the next, where in ALIEN Scott really took his time with scenes. Looking forward to that dvd release!

Thanks for commenting!

Dan O. said...

Nice review. I was entertained, to say the least, but I think I was expecting something so much better after all of the promotion for this flick. Maybe it was too much like Alien.

RVChris said...

I really liked Prometheus (though not quite much as you did) and am a bit surprised about how divide the reception has been. It seems that either people love it or really hate it. I felt that the characterizations and writing could have been better but everything else was done very well. I didn't like the retcon of the Space Jockeys being in suits (Humungous Elphantine creatures seemingly growing out of chairs are much cooler than 8 foot tall pale humans!) but it didn't really bother me as its a prequel but telling its own story at the same time. Prometheus is probably the best prequel movie I have ever seen right there with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (another one that a lot of people don't like) if you count that as a technical prequel.

I feel that while Prometheus is a prequel in that it takes place in the same universe as Alien (and perhaps Aliens since Ridley Scott used James Cameron's Weyland-Yutani name) it also stands alone on its own. You can see Prometheus without having seen Alien but the two certainly compliment each other in terms of themes and plot.

I also was reminded of Blade Runner while watching Prometheus, because of David and Weyland reminded me a bit of Tyrell, especially the father aspect.

I am looking forward to the extended Blu-Ray cut of Prometheus and even the possible sequel!

Franco Macabro said...

@Dan O: Well, it's a prequel after all, it had to be like Alien, but ultimately, I didnt think it was that much like Alien, while it did share some similarities Prometheus is a film with more depth to it. It isn't just a monster movie, the way Alien is, Prometheus is a film that asks bigger questions.

The scene I found most similar was the one where they had to have this whole discussion about letting a contaminated person enter the spaceship...though the results in Prometheus where extremely unexpected! I liked that twist there.

@RVChris: I hear ya, I too saw it as a cop out, giant walking skeletons would have been cool, but I guess Ridley needed to connect with the human angle, where we come from and all that, there had to be something more human about them.

True about the mixed reactions, I guess those that dont like philosophy might find it boring or too weird, though to be honest I found it entertaining, even though its a thematically heavy film, I loved all the creatures and the ships and the suits...and for the record, I love Temple of Doom, I don't get why people hate it so much.

Yeah, I too immediately picked up on the parallels between Tyrell and his androids in Blade Runner requesting more life from their creator, and Weyland and the Engineers on Prometheus. Death is a very important theme to Ridley Scott, both films make it their main theme! Why must we die? Life is so good, why does it have to end?

I also enjoyed Prometheus's explorations on the possibility of an "afterlife", characters are constantly referring to it on the film.

venoms5 said...

I haven't seen it yet, but Scott says in Art of Prometheus book that initially this was supposed to have been an ALIEN prequel, but he felt he couldn't make such a creature scary anymore so decided to go this route with it. Hopefully I will get to the theater before it's gone.

Franco Macabro said...

After having seen the film and pondered and thought and regurgitated it in my mind...I realized another thing that made it a bit different then ALIEN. While in ALIEN everything is deadly serious every single second of film, characters on this one are always joking around, and there's even some levity in certain scenes, something that NEVER happened on ALIEN.

Hey man, hope you have tons of fun with it, I know I did. I'm actually looking forward to seeing it again.

Franco Macabro said...

And don't worry, theres a whole other slew of alien creatures on this one, strange and different! Hope you enjoy it man.


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