Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

Director Ridley Scott’s Prometheus is a semi-prequel to his 1979 Alien. The hallmarks are the same: gruesome monsters, body horror, terrific production design, and a strong-willed, never-say-die heroine (played this time out by Noomi Rapace). The major difference is that it takes itself a lot more seriously. The script, credited to Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, aims for gravitas by imposing the Alien story elements onto the basic plot of Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the prologue, set in prehistoric times, extra-terrestrial beings sow the seeds for future humanity. The film then shifts to the late 21st century, where archaeologists (Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) interpret disparate cave paintings as an invitation by the extra-terrestrials for humanity to meet them in space. Two years later, a ship from Earth carrying the archaeologists and others arrives in the nearest inhabitable solar system. The film’s version of Kubrick and Clarke’s supercomputer HAL 9000 is the intelligent--and untrustworthy--android (Michael Fassbender) who has overseen the voyage while the ship’s crew has been kept in suspended animation. And as with HAL 9000, he’s by far the most engaging character; the film presents him as an effete narcissist who idolizes Peter O’Toole’s T. E. Lawrence. The film’s twist on the 2001 plot is that the extra-terrestrials’ goals are not benevolent. This of course sets the stage for the monster-movie suspense and gross-outs familiar to viewers from the first Alien picture. The creatures and the body-horror moments are really all that carry the story along. The awe, mystery, and grandeur of 2001 is turned into cliché. For all of Ridley Scott’s talent for imagery and attention to production detail, he isn’t a deft storyteller; the only dramatic effect he handles well is jolting the audience. Despite actors as capable as Rapace, Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, and Guy Pearce, the cast is a pretty dull bunch. The real stars of the film are the visual artisans: cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Arthur Max, costumer Janty Yates, creature designer Carlos Huante, and visual effects supervisor Martin Hill.

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