1 June 2012

PROMETHEUS- Spoiler Review

This review contains SPOILERS. If you haven't seen Prometheus yet, you'll want to wait before reading this.

I've found it difficult to convert my interest in the genuinely great marketing for Prometheus into excitement about the actual film for the last few months. I've been confronted with incredulous arguments about Ridley Scott returning to the well (by people who didn't see how bad Robin Hood turned out) and my favourite argument, "It's the most anticipated sci-fi movie since Phantom Menace!" Having now seen the film, I suspect they're about to find out how right they were.

Set in the same continuity as Alien, but about thirty years earlier, the film's heroine is Dr. Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist who discovers identical cave paintings in the ruins of several different civilisations. None of these societies had contact with one another, and each shows a man pointing to a constellation in the sky, which Shaw reads as an invitation to the stars. Together with a crew assembled by industrialist Peter Weyland, Elizabeth goes in search of mankind's creators. Of course, she finds more than she bargained for.

This movie is getting mixed reviews, and I can certainly see how it would be divisive, but what is most important to remember is that it sucks. I mean, it really sucks. Even the positive reviews I've seen thus far have been along the lines of "Well, the plot, characters, script and ending were rubbish, but it looked good!" All of that teasing, and all of that courting the audience on Scott's part, with promises of a rich new sci-fi yarn, has led to one of the biggest disappointments since The Phantom Menace. Hell, I'm disappointed and I wasn't even all that excited.

Let's get the good out of the way first. We know a film is bad when even the might of Michael Fassbender cannot elevate it, but he does do a terrific job as David, an android along the lines of Ian Holm's Ash in the original film, and Lance Henrikson's Bishop in the sequels. One of the highlights of the film comes in the first ten minutes or so, when we see David occupying himself on-board Prometheus while its human crew is in stasis, by playing basketball on a bike, and watching Lawrence of Arabia. The fact that an android is the most likeable and motivated character in the film doesn't speak too well of the paper-thin human crew, especially when David's function becomes more clear.

The biggest problem with Prometheus is that David is the most discomforting thing about it. Alien was, first and foremost, a horror film, and to some extent, this prequel tries to go the same way. The utter lack of atmosphere or tension really destroys that, and the script is markedly similar to that of 2011's premake/preboot/whatsit The Thing. Although Prometheus has more new ideas, it's just as obsessed with explaining random shit that we weren't all that curious about when we saw it in the background of a previous film.

Some will give the film a pass for having ideas that really shouldn't be anywhere near a $200 million blockbuster, but that all really comes down to the one scene in the medical pod. If they're referring to the complexity of the Engineers, as a concept, it's hardly Inception, is it? Even Inception wasn't that complicated, but it was structurally sound, at least, whereas this one keeps stumbling upon inconsistencies and outright silliness. This is another problem with the script, by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, which is to say nothing of the lack of drive and motivation, or the fact that all of the best dialogue is quoted from Lawrence of Arabia, while the rest of it makes some of the sterling cast blush while they're saying it.

I'm hardly convinced by the boundless potential of Scott's imagined world, when it all dovetails into Alien. The very ending, when the first xenomorph bursts out of the dead Engineer's chest, is pretty much the same ending as Alien vs. Predator, of all things. This is meant to answer the burning question (no, really) of what happened to that fella with the exploded ribcage in the first film. Didn't most of us just assume that he fell afoul of a chest-burster? Did we need a two hour, $200 million blockbuster to see that, yes, that is what happened. But this was the first xenomorph! Snore.

I could forgive many of the film's faults if it were ambitious, but it's not. Any ambitions it may have are focused first on a film that was made over 30 years ago, and secondly, on a sequel that is, at this point, hypothetical. It's a shitty thing to do, to promise answers to those mysterious marketing campaigns, and then just postpone the inevitable by asking more questions. Lindelof's got form for that, and although I liked Lost, a feature crammed with his rampant foreboding and portentousness wasn't what I hoped to see from this. It's not ambitious, because it's fleshing out backstory, rather than driving forward in any way, shape or form.

It comes to something when even a remake or reboot of Alien would have been preferable to Prometheus. It looks lovely, of course, and Fassbender easily runs away with the whole thing, but somewhere along the line, Ridley Scott has just lost his mojo. Here, he repeats the offence of Robin Hood, by wasting a lot of time, just to tee up more misadventures before the credits roll. This is easily a more interesting film than Robin Hood, but even though I feel vindicated for not having been excited, it's one of the most disappointing films of the year.

Prometheus is now showing, in 2D and 3D, at cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Prometheus, why not share your comments below? I saw it on IMAX 3D, and felt distinctly un-dazzled by the visuals- just one of the many respects in which it's not exactly a giant leap forward.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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