Saturday, June 9, 2012

Prometheus 3D Review

Director Ridley Scott has hinted that his new film Prometheus contains elements of his 1979 classic Alien. If you have seen Alien and Prometheus, you would find out he wasn't lying. But all you have to do is watch the trailer to realize this. There's a scene where we see an alien space jockey contraption that looks exactly like the one in Alien.

Prometheus starts out in the past on an unnamed planet, that could be earth. A space ship is seen. There's a humanoid standing before a waterfall. He drinks a liquid and it causes him to get sick. He falls into the water, and disintegrates, leaving his DNA.

The film then moves to the future. It's the late twenty first century. Archaeologists and lovers, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover an ancient cave painting. It's a star map which they interpret to be an invitation to visit from aliens like the one above whom they call Engineers. They believe that mankind was created by them. The film then flashes forward to the starship Prometheus. It has been built by the Weyland Corporation to explore the planet found by Shaw and Holloway. Its pilot is Janek (Idris Elba). The whole mission is overseen by Meredith Vickers. (Chalize Theron) Also onboard is the android David. (Michael Fassbender) As Prometheus lands, the scientists discover an alien structure. It contains dead humanoid aliens and other lifeforms. The lifeforms are definitely not the friendly ones we saw in Close Encounters of a Third Kind.

"LOST" in Space.

The performances in Prometheus are very good. Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green are enthusiastic scientists on a search for the mysteries surrounding the star maps. Charlize Theron gives Vickers, a cold corporate veneer. But it's Michael Fassbender's David that is the most interesting. Fassbender is always excellent. (X-Men: First Class) His challenge is to play an advanced android, one who is not human but mimics emotion. It's daunting because he has to add an artificialness to the character. Fassbender does this and makes David a fascinating character.

Ridley Scott has always been a director whose visuals in a film define his artistry. (The Duelists, Gladiator) But his stunning visuals here don't overwhelm the action. Scott expertly stages the action scenes and makes the audience feel as if they are there for the terror. Of course, he's helped by CGI which is used to horrifying effect.

As for the 3D version of Prometheus, one would think the medium would be perfect for Scott. And if you're going to release a movie in 3D, film it in 3D. Scott did. The result is that unlike many 3D films, there's no problem with lighting. Some live action scenes have depth and that cool popping effect. The problem is that Scott uses the snobby approach to 3D. That is, he doesn't really emphasize it or hurl things at you. He uses it in a more subtle way. The best scenes are the ones where computer holographs are displayed aboard the ship. These shots have pop. But if a director is going to film in 3D, he should use it. Place objects in foreground and background. Prometheus is not Hugo. (2011) Still, I found it interesting enough to recommend the 3D version.

Of course, movies are not just visuals. They tell a story. And here's where Prometheus has problems. The screenplay was written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. But I detect Lindelof's presence all over the screenplay. First, let me just say there are some dumb moments for the characters. Examples include Shaw convincing a crew member not to bring weapons. Yeah, that's a contrivance so the humans can be turned into fodder. Then while in the alien structure, the humans take off their helmets. Huh? What about catching an alien cold? Not so smart.

But recall that Lindelof was show runner and writer for the TV series Lost. He has a fear of midi-chlorians. (Entertainment Weekly, 2-5-10, pg. 31) You see screenplay writers cite the explanation of the Force caused by midi-chlorians in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999) as overexplaining a plot point and weakening the story. The result is that I see writers doing less and less exposition in film.

If you've seen Lost, particularly the final seaosn, many of those mysteries that they've heaped on you weren't explained. And that's the problem with Prometheus. There are questions that the screenplay refuses to answer. These leave huge plot holes. What are David's motivations for his actions? What are the Enggineers' motivations? Prometheus refuses to answer these questions. At the end of the movie, I screamed, "Oh, Damon." Look, I don't want all the answers. You don't need to explain to me who created the alien humanoids for example. But in a film with the resources in place to explain questions raised, it should answer them. And you better pay attention for the sparce exposition that Prometheus does give you. It happens very fast. Hint: Janek has a couple of important lines.

Prometheus is thought provoking. It's fascinating, horrifying, exciting and confounding. It demands a sequel just to answer some of the questions. If it stands alone, this film has deep flaws. The grade is B.

1 comment:

Spockchick said...

LoL, Bernie, your review was almost the same as mine :-) although I was a bit more harsh. I fear for the trek sequel now :-(. I have never seen Lost so I can't comment on the stamp of the screenwriter, but so far I don't like him. My main problem is that supposedly smart people - with a collection of PhDs - do monumentally dim and unscientific things (like taking helmets off and wanting to bring a clearly infected person on to the ship. Sheesh!