Saturday, 2 June 2012

'Prometheus' Review

Prometheus (dir: Ridley Scott, 2012) Cert: 15

There is no denying that Ridley Scott's return to the genre he defined is amongst the most hotly-anticipated films of 2012, in fact it's probably higher than The Dark Knight Rises for many, and whilst hype and hope can be a great thing, it can also have the polar-opposite effect and cause tremendous and usually unworthy disappointment. Some early reviews (from the press screening I wasn't invited to THANK YOU VERY MUCH) have been mixed to say the least which for me was concerning. Alien is my all-time favourite Sci-Fi/Horror film so like many other mortals, my anticipation for Prometheus was sky-high and now having seen the film, I can put my two cents in.

 Set in the late 21st Century, Prometheus follows a group of scientific explorers on-board the spaceship 'Prometheus'. Lead by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), the team find a series of star-maps which they believe could be the clue to discovering the truth about where mankind originated from. Their journey takes them to the darkest corners of the universe which soon becomes the location for a terrifying battle to save the human race as we know it.

 If you are entering Prometheus solely expecting 'a prequel to Alien' then yes, you may be disappointed. Scott has noted countless times that this film is more suggestive to his masterpiece rather than a intrinsically linked tale. In fact, he has even said there will be two more films before they even meet Alien's narrative time-framing. However the comparisons between the two are undoubtedly inevitable so they should supposedly be addressed. Is Prometheus as good as Alien? No. Is Prometheus similar to Alien? Here and there. Does it really matter? In my humble opinion, not really. Scott's latest is perfectly acceptable viewing for die-hard fans like myself or newcomers who have never experienced his previous works - it's a stand-alone film that's neither a prequel, remake or re-envisioning, it's simply a big-budget Sci-Fi epic in 3D.  

 If Prometheus is anything like another film from Scott's filmography, it would be Blade Runner; the central character, David (played immaculately by Michael Fassbender) is an android who asks questions about his existence, his purpose, whether he has a soul and a functioning, beating heart. These themes run through Blade Runner's veins as thick as blood and it's clear that his 2012 picture resembles and re-builds on this timeless Sci-Fi ideal. 

 In regards to the mixed reviews, in some areas I can see why - at times the dialogue is clunky and ill-fitted, some of the characterisation could have done with stronger fleshing and constructing and occasionally co-writer Damon Lindelof works in some ludicrous and baffling plot-strands which ring true of his screenplays for Lost which by the fourth season really did become lost; muddled and confused by it's own processes and ideas, however Prometheus has so much more positive, wonderful and staggering entities to offer it's spectators that these quibbles quietly flush away for the most part.  

 Soaked and layered with philosophical and existential questions, Scott's latest offers an array of strands for the audience to latch on to - often characters like David are hard to read, questioning their motives and egos. Themes about mankind, the right to live and freewill build wobbly bridges over the desolate, brooding planetary causing seriously engrossing and occasionally troubling viewing. Plus the film manages to balance genres successfully throughout; this is more of a Sci-Fi thriller than a horror, yet there are certainly some moments the ooze with grotesque and repugnant awe so expect to squirm in your seat.

 This being a Scott film means it obviously looks fantastic - unlike the quaint, nauseating and claustrophobic spaces of Alien, Prometheus is a grand, ever-growing spectacle that dazzles, mesmerises and enchants at every possible opportunity. The sheer velocity, unparalleled scale and undeniable vision is simply earth-shattering - she is a thing of haunting, harrowing and uncomprehending beauty. Scott's direction has lost none of it's flair either; his camera is manic and dizzying yet it never feels out of control - mixed aerials, cranes, pans and tilts give the film so much visual range - the skies dance with troubling wonder, the moon waterfalls crash, the infernos surge - all this drama is steadily captured by a master of his craft. His direction is so advanced yet it screens ever-so effortlessly.  

Still from Prometheus (dir: Ridley Scott, 2012)
 Like in the majority of Sir Ridley's movies, this feature too presents strong, determined female characters who are fully-functional and not dictated to by men. Sigourney Weaver's Ripley from the Alien franchise is an all-masculine heroine; she requires nothing from the opposite sex because she consumes and embodies both genders whilst Rapace's Shaw here does have a male-affectionate relationship, yet this does not make her weaker or any less valid than Scott's original space-blaster, she is simply a different character in a different picture.

Prometheus provides a lingering, over-bearing atmosphere that might not be scary in the traditional sense, but when applied to the ambience and vacancy of planet LV-223 and merged around the simply awe-inspiring and often freaky H.R. Giger universe, it doesn't have to be as chilling and tense as it's predecessors' because it's imagery and themes are strong enough to bind the whole thing together. 

 The performances are collectively strong with Rapace and Charlize Theron excelling in their dominant roles. Idris Elba is also great, as is Marshall-Green but as noted earlier, the film's star is Fassbender. David is a wonderfully developed, multi-stranded and morally ambiguous character whose question-laden dialogue provides so much to Prometheus' narrative progression. Often his soft, well-spoken tone makes David an embracive yet concerning creation - his lust for understanding his and indeed life's purposes can make his motives seem contradictory in the best possible sense. Being brutally honest, I personally think Fassbender is the most consistent actor currently working; he is phenomenal here.

 Hype can be a dangerous thing and one thinks far too many fans and critics over-built Prometheus in their sub-conscience; they helmed it to an impossible height that the film could virtually never reach in reality consequently and rather unfairly making it seem disappointing. This is a bold, audacious and beautifully thrilling Sci-Fi extravaganza laden with spell-binding imagery, true cinematic craftsmanship and a stellar performance ballot. It might not be the Alien prequel so many thought it was (incorrectly mind you) but this is still gloriously efficient, dynamic and surging cinema that will take an awful lot to replicate or better. Scott defined this genre and he clearly has no desire to pass the responsibility just yet.

Minor quibbles aside, this is a breathtaking, gigantically ambitious and mesmerising filmic achievement that is worthy of great praise. See it on the biggest screen possible.

By Chris Haydon

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