Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

Not this guy.
Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott, is not officially a prequel to the Alien franchise, but before you see Prometheus, you should definitely see Alien. It’s impossible not to see the obvious connections between the movies, with parallel themes, plots, and atmospheres. Prometheus is officially set in the same universe as the Alien movies, but is not officially directly connected to the Alien franchise. Long story short, if you liked Alien, you’ll like Prometheus, but there are certainly differences between the two movies, and Prometheus is clearly geared towards a larger audience, although that focus does not always make it a better movie.

The visuals are pretty face-meltingly awesome.
By far the best part of Prometheus is the visuals. There’s a reason that it’s been compared to James Cameron’s Avatar almost as much as it has been compared to Alien, and it’s not because of blue people (currently trying to decide if Prometheus would be much worse or much better with blue people). Starting right off the bat with panoramic shots of what is apparently prehistoric Earth and moving right into some more panoramic shots of some grass-covered Scottish mountains, the film is certainly visually pleasing. Noomi Rapace’s cheekbones don’t hurt either (although they are sharp enough to cut paper). The costumes and set design is equally striking, although the distinctive blue jumpsuits and clear helmets set quite a different tone from the original Alien movies.

The basic outline of the movie is certainly indistinguishable from at least the first two Alien movies (I will confess to not having seen Alien 3 or Alien: Resurrection), involving an exploratory team visiting an abandoned world and everything going horribly wrong, with few survivors. The key difference is that Prometheus is not a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, there are quite a few moments where things jump out at you and at least one scene that is genuinely difficult to watch, but despite just about everyone dying by the end, Prometheus simply doesn’t have the same tense feel as Alien.

Prometheus seems to compensate for this by attempting to explore deep issues about the creation of mankind, our origin and purpose, mostly by using massive sweeping shots of landscapes. Frankly, the gorgeous special effects of alien worlds are actually far more worth the watch than the philosophizing, at least on the surface level. Prometheus introduces an alien race which ostensibly created humans, but the implications of this discovery are confusing at best. As far as the science part of science fiction goes, prepare to suspend your disbelief, as no part of the explanation for how precisely this alien race created humanity makes anything approaching sense. It’s also not clear why they created humanity, although that’s the whole point, as Michael Fassbender’s android character hammers home with a monologue on careless creators.

Even Michael Fassbender is distracted by her cheekbones
But this ham-handed creation stuff leads to the more interesting theme the movie deals with, and no, it is not the equally ham-handed religious symbolism. Similar to the first two Alien movies, the subtext of Prometheus is about parenthood. Main character Shaw’s (Noomi Rapace) interactions with her improbably good-looking husband (Logan Marshall-Green) draw this out, as well as an extremely interesting character played by Charlize Theron, who unfortunately gets a very unfulfilling resolution. The interactions between aliens and humans are also almost all more interesting when viewed in light of their portrayals of parenthood, including possibly the most gripping scene in the movie, which really shouldn’t be spoiled and is highly reminiscent of some of the more gruesome parts in the Alien movies.

All told, I would say that Prometheus is essentially another entry in the Alien franchise, albeit moving slightly away from the horror genre. It won’t revolutionize any genres the way the first few Alien movies did, but it’s still worth a watch. If you’re thinking about watching Prometheus or have watched it and even remotely enjoyed it, I’d highly suggest you also watch Alien and Aliens if you haven’t already.

Overall: Neutral

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