04 June 2012

Prometheus review (minimal spoilers)

This is a "minimal spoilers" review of Prometheus, the latest installation of the Alien franchise. Yep, despite Ridley Scott trying to trick everyone before the premiere this movie IS part of the established Alien universe, though the story takes place before Alien. It is not a real prequel since Prometheus isn’t linked story wise with anything from the previous movies except for the Weyland corporation.

I saw this movie twice. Once with 3 friends and the next day with my dad.  I myself was not hyped, I liked the first short trailer for the movie but didn’t find the longer trailer to be anything exciting or special. As such I was more underwhelmed than disappointed afterwards. The guys I went with either thought it was mediocre or were really disappointed. My dad hated the movie and was pissed about “wasted money”.

There is one fundamental problem with the movie that I have to address straight away. If you saw the longer trailer for this movie – then you have seen EVERY single important scene that is in the movie. You can really piece together the plot from there. I guess this is what annoyed me the most afterwards.

The story is that cave paintings found all over earth point towards the existence of some aliens who may or may have not created mankind. Coming to the conclusion that the dots found on all paintings all over the world show the same constellation of planets an expedition is scrambled together and sent to investigate.  The movie puts heavy emphasis on creation of life, existence of God and the meaning of life as its main themes.  Though it does a rather poor job at exploring those themes, except for a couple of great scenes involving David – the equivalent to Ash and Bishop from the old Alien movies.

The movie builds up slowly, the first act is perhaps the strongest and most coherent part of the movie while act 2 and 3 get rather odd and actually boring/tedious to watch. The expedition reaches the planet depicted in the planet constellation on the cavern paintings and the scientists fairly soon discover hi-tech remnants of an intelligent civilization.  Soon monsters are loose and the action takes over, and with that it unplugs the brains of this movie.

It’s hard to describe the plot without spoilers, it’s also hard to describe the plot because so little actually happens. The movie is 2 hours long, it felt like a long watch and I started to get bored towards the end. The main problem with the movie is the script, the story is simply underwhelming and not really that interesting. Characters are largely anonymous cannon fodder material,  even the “main characters” doesn’t have you rooting for them because you don’t know them. Most of them also fail to convey any kind of emotional range in their acting. The exceptions to this are ironically Michael Fassbender’s “David” who IS a robot and “Meredith Vickers”, played by Charlize Theron, and who is perceived so cold that she COULD be a robot. Both these characters show a range of emotions that no one in the cast could dream of.  Sadly enough Theron has very little to do in this movie (her part is quite pointless), and David feels like he has a few scenes missing to fully explain his logic and motivations. Him being the most interesting and well played character creates a natural desire to see and learn more about his background and personality.

Noomi Rapace’s “Elizabeth Shaw” is boring as hell, she is no Ellen Ripley. Furthermore the actress is really bad not even taking into account that she starts out with a rather forced English accent that she ends up losing towards the end of act 1. In the end you can pretty much hear her Swedish accent. Her facial expressions and acting qualities are just weird and weak. She lacks the screen presence of Sigourney Weaver and makes for a bad, uninteresting and very weak lead character.

So when people start to die you couldn’t care less, which is a huge problem because this robs the movie of any suspense. There are a couple of “gross scenes” that provide more of a homage to the previous Alien movies than anything else, but you are never concerned about the well being of the characters.  What’s more concerning is the lack of interest from the characters themselves about events that should be shocking and lead to a multitude of questions – instead everyone just goes about their business.

The movie really feels like its missing important scenes, characters start to act differently or irrational between scenes. Character development is pretty much nonexistent and all of a sudden one character has become convinced about something after a brief 14 second long scene? It feels like huge chunks of the story were cut away from the theatrical version.

The ending (which is pretty bad and the ultimate low point of the movie) hints at a possible sequel – and to be honest I’m not interested in seeing that.  The soundtrack is also sadly rather lackluster, no memorable theme songs or atmospheric music. The bit you hear in the trailer is basically all you get. A lot of hints and nods to the previous Alien movies can be seen throughout Prometheus, at times the movie relies heavily on references because there is very little going on in terms of a progressing story. It promises a lot on the outset, but ends up answering very few questions – and what you learn is not really that satisfying.

The good parts about the movie can be summed up as:

Decent 3D, though I’m not a fan of 3D since I think it breaks rather than enhances immersion. The use of 3D in Prometheus is not the gimmicky kind with stuff jumping at you but rather there to add depth to the images. Is it needed? No. Are there any cool scenes taking advantage of the 3D? Yes.

Charlize Theron and especially Michael Fassbender are great. Without those two this movie would be a complete letdown for me. Though I would not necessarily blame the other actors as the material they have to work with is rather weak. On the other hand Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender are ALWAYS great.

It has some very nice visuals

Final thoughts, Ridley Scott takes alien rape and phallic symbols to new heights with this one. If the previous "impregnation" scenes of past Alien movies tried to be somewhat subtle, this movie does not even try to pretend that it involves male genitalia raping people to the left and right. It even includes a very "on the nose" scene that sums up what the reactions of the first Alien movie which was being called portraying the "fear of motherhood".

As part of the Alien franchise I would rate is as the 3rd best movie. Alien and Aliens are still on top. Prometheus is better than Alien 3 and 4 no doubt, but it does not add anything which you could be without. And what it adds, it leaves hanging half explained in wait for a sequel. I think the movie would have been great if it explored Fassbender’s “David” character a lot more and perhaps focused on him. He had almost as much screen time and a lot more interesting scenes than Noomi Rapace. David was also the only character that really touched upon the themes of the movie and to whom you could relate. Compared to his emotional and curious journey the rest of the story was just background noise.  While not a complete disaster like Robin Hood, Ridley Scott has managed to make another Kingdom of Heaven. And as Kingdom of Heaven the theatrical version sucked- I hope the DVD version with the director’s cut will remedy that just like he KoH directors cut did.

Did I learn anything new on my second viewing or did the movie get better/worse? I did not see anything that I could have missed during my first viewing. I focused a bit more on Fassbender’s character, but nothing new was found out. It's not a movie I wanted to see again really and if anything a repeated viewing only enhanced my perception of its weaknesses.

My dad was close to “nerd rage” and was both disappointed and angry about the movie afterwards. He’s a fan of the first two Alien movies and thought this one had zero redeeming qualities.

I also wrote a post full of spoilers with my thoughts about certain aspects of the movie and what I think are plot holes/stupid moments. I wanted a separate post with all of this so that those who have seen the movie can chime in their 2cents without posting spoilers in the comments to the review. You can read that post HERE

I'm giving this movie (theatrical cut) a 6/10 mainly because Michael Fassbender alone saves this movie for me and is one of very few reasons to actually go and see it.

8 comments:

  1. Very disappointed to hear that. My son is home sick at the moment. I think tomorrow I should hunker him down with popcorn and introduce him to one of the best SF movies ever made: Aliens :-)

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  2. *High five's Paul for good parenting* :-D

    Both Alien and Aliens are so much better than Prometheus. Your son should love Aliens.

    Prometheus is to the Alien universe what Terminator 3 was to Terminator 2, what Indiana Jones 4 was to the Indiana Jones series and what the Star Wars prequels were to the Star Wars episode IV-VI.

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  3. I was stoked when I saw the first trailer... it seemed to really promise something special, yet after seeing the more recent 'extended trailer', I was left thinking 'Oh' and somewhat deflated. One for DVD then I think...

    Thanks for the review though!

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  4. @Jim, I had the exact same feeling as you. First trailer was great, second trailer killed any hype I could possibly have for this movie. It looked like an OK movie.

    Speaking of trailers, damn I want to see Snow White & The Huntsman, all trailers on TV and the cinema have been awesome and it looks like a great/more interesting movie (hope they have that epic soundtrack in the movie as well).

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  5. It's no secret though that this takes place in the Alien universe. Ridley Scott confirmed this about half a year ago. Disappointed to read that it has so many issues. I can take Rapace's stereotypical 'Swedish' acting but I can't accept non-existent character development or plot holes. I guess I'll just wait to see a Director's cut as well...

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  6. Ugh! I had high hopes for this movie! Oh well, we may still go, there is a cheap movie place near us that would not be painful to go watch it if it sucks...

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  7. No surprise that Theron is good, I think that she has a rare combination of extreme beauty, talent and dedication to her craft. If this film is as much of a letdown as you say, she probably still makes it worth watching (maybe as a rental).

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  8. It would be worth watching it for Theron, if she was in the movie more. Her role is rather pointless and quite small. The few scenes she's in she shines and out-acts everyone else except for Fassbender who is superb as the ships robot. Both of them are able to convey more emotion with subtle facial gestures than the others are able to by screaming and waving their arms around.

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