Apr 22, 2015

Review: Prometheus (2012)

There's no doubt that Prometheus is one of the most criticized big budget movies in recent memory. Its situation is pretty similar to something like Avatar's if you ask me and I'd probably consider newcomer Interstellar as part of the gang too. I guess there's just something about mass-marketed science fiction movies that get a lot of people riled up enough to post "20 Reasons Why [insert big budget sci-fi movie title here] Sucks." Honestly, the vitriol that's been spewed over the last three years against Prometheus has gotten a bit exhausting at this point.

Writing this review, I've now seen Prometheus twice. Being loosely tied to the Alien series which is one of the most important franchises to me on a very personal level, I realize that it's not a perfect movie. That still didn't stop me from enjoying Ridley Scott's return to the same universe that put him on the map in such a big way back in 1979. That goes without saying that I'm very much looking forward to the sequel. I also have no doubt that Prometheus 2 will make a bunch of money despite the spanking Prometheus has gotten over the years on the internet.

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At a Glance


Genre: adventure, mystery, sci-fi
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Produced by: David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, etc.
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Music by: Marc Streitenfeld
Running time: 124 minutes
Production company: Scott Free Productions, Brandywine Productions, Twentieth Century Fox, etc.
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Big Picture 2 Films, etc.
Country: United States, United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $130,000,000
Box office: $403,354,469 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong, Kate Dickie, Ian Whyte

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Synopsis


It's 2089 and archeologist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discovers a cave painting in Scotland with an identical pattern found in several other paintings and carvings from around the world. It's significant since it seems to indicate that past civilizations all had contact with the same unknown alien species. Convincing Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce) that she holds the key to answering questions about the origins of humankind, he funds a trip using the pattern from the cave art as a map. Finally arriving at planet LV-223 in 2093, Shaw and the crew of the Prometheus could change the world.

Review


The origins of humanity is no small subject for a movie. It's still something that Ridley Scott tries to tackle in Prometheus which ends up making it an extremely question-heavy film. Usually a film starts off with some questions and answers them by the end. Not Prometheus though. It answers some of them, but actually leaves you with more questions than you had in the first place. That might sound infuriating to some, but to me it's something I really enjoyed.

Ridley Scott starts off bold and he ends bold. I really don't mind a thought-provoking movie that doesn't necessarily tie everything up nicely at the end. Although the ending of Prometheus does seem like an easy opening for a sequel, I see it as the end of a chapter with a lot more to come. The answers that we do end up getting are also quite interesting. Religion and faith are also big themes here with Elizabeth Shaw herself being a believer in God. By the end of the 2000's, believing in religion is probably rare and Shaw faces quite a few tests to her faith. What she's chasing after could easily be construed as proof against her religion even, but she still doesn't let up.

Shaw could sort of be compared to Ellen Ripley of Alien, but besides being a strong-willed female forced to get through some tight situations, there's not much else to compare. Shaw's got a good mix of vulnerability, intelligence and conviction and that makes it easy to root for her. Noomi Rapace is also quite good in the role, although her Swedish accent does come through from time to time. I'm not sure why she had to put on a British accent in the first place even. Did all Swedish people cease to exist in 2089? Doesn't really matter I guess but I'm always for people keeping their regular accent if it doesn't get in the way.

If anyone should be praised for their acting though it's definitely Michael Fassbender. Along with a brilliant viral campaign before the release of Prometheus, David joins a long list of great android characters in the Alien universe (though I'd probably keep Winona Ryder's Call out of there). Fassbender just gets the robot with some human-like emotions thing down pat and it's actually pretty creepy. He goes through the film with an unclear agenda which makes him a constant question mark throughout, just like past android characters too.

Besides a steely-eyed Charlize Theron as a sneaky, behind-the-scenes company suit, the problems of Prometheus begin. In terms of secondary characters, screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof haven't done the best of jobs at making them all that interesting. Even Idris Elba's Captain Janek who should be of at least some interest just isn't at all. It's a problem that gets even worse once you get to guys like Fifield (Sean Harris) and Millburn (Rafe Spall). Quite simply, these are two dimensional characters that you just can't really feel all that bad about if anything bad happens to them.

While I find people fixate a bit too much on the stupidity of Mr. "the biologist" Millburn in a very talked about scene, it doesn't change that touching an obviously dangerous looking thing is a very stupid thing to do. There are some other poor decisions and head-scratching mistakes that happen, but nothing that makes me want to rage as hard as I've seen people do. We're not talking stupid like splitting up in a haunted house or falling down inexplicably when being chased by a killer.

Going back to some more positive aspects, once thing I still can't get over is just how impressive Prometheus is visually. The special effects are without fault and I couldn't help drooling over the many landscapes that Ridley Scott captures. The sets of the Prometheus and the Engineer spaceship are also very well put together and it's clear that every last dollar of the $130 million budget is well spent. Sound effects are also of very good quality and I can't say enough about Marc Streitenfeld's score. I still listen to it semi-regularly to this day.

Prometheus isn't a perfect movie, but it's still the kind of science fiction movie that I like. It's not all action, scares or special effects either. Scott does wow us on a technical level, but I'm glad to see that he was willing to wade into some pretty heady territory. There are some problems on the script and character level, but they're not enough to completely take away from the bold finished product that Prometheus is. It's sure to infuriate some people, but what can I say? You can't please everyone.

Review


7.5/10

Related Reviews:


Alien (1979)
Aliens (1986) 
Alien³ [Alien 3] (1992) 
Alien: Resurrection (1997)

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) 
AVPR: Aliens vs Predator - Requiem (2007)