Tuesday, May 28, 2013

REVIEW: Prometheus

Director: Ridley Scott
Year 2012

Prometheus is an outstandingly epic science fiction film that delves into the unknown as it attempts to answer that unanswerable question which so rightfully plagues mankind, what is the purpose of our existence. Exceptionally thought-provoking and atmospherically presented, the movie relishes in an unsettling tone that glosses over the entire production in a sense of dread and despair. Helmed by legendary director Ridley Scott and birthed as a prequel to his acclaimed science fiction masterpiece Alien, Prometheus touches upon the aspects of his 1979 work yet veers off in order to tell a broader and completely unique tale. One that is dark, disturbing, and wholly engaging.

The film follows a team of diverse scientists in the year 2093 on board the ship Prometheus, as they embark on a perilous mission to the darkest corners of the universe in search of their makers, the Engineers. Led by archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, and funded by the Weyland Corporation, the team sets off for the planet LV-223, an uncharted world with a mysterious past. Once there the team comes to the startling realization that a race of beings could have possibly had a hand in their creation and ultimately has the ability to bring about their doom. Confronted with the notion that they are on the very brink of answering man's greatest of quandaries, the team pushes on into the unknown, facing hell and high water in order to answer that age old question. Why are we here?

Noomi Rapace takes on the role of Elizabeth Shaw, the god-fearing archaeologist who discovers that ancient cave paintings may depict a race of ancient astronauts and their possible invitation to communicate with mankind. Rapace plays the hopeful archaeologist with a sense of wonder, injecting just the right amount of intrepid nature into her character to help propel us into this grand journey and place us in her shoes. Her presence in this film is essential, not only because the story arch of the film revolves around her, but because she is a virtually unknown actress. Her unfamiliarity helps to immerse us into the film, allowing us to be swept up alongside her as her character comes to understand the true nature of mankind's creation. I also enjoyed the growth that her character goes through, as she begins the film quite timid, slowly morphing into a woman driven by the desire to understand her origins and purpose for being.

Logan Marshall-Green tackles the character of archaeologist Charlie Holloway, professional partner and lover of Elizabeth Shaw. Much like Shaw's determined drive, Holloway yearns to learn from the creators, yet underneath his ambition is a darker more brooding side. Sometimes arrogant, and often outspoken, Green gives the role an energized kick that often reflects his character's spontaneous tendencies. His performance is strange and engaging, because Green's character often straddles a fine line between compassionate and cruel. This is displayed perfectly as he interacts with one of the artificial intelligence in the form of David, an android, often mocking him for being created by man and, in a sense, implying that Holloway is in some way shape or form his god. It's a concept that runs throughout the film and one that Ridley Scott was most certainly weaving within the narrative for a specific purpose.

Aside from the Adam and Eve conceptualized characters of Shaw and Holloway, Michael Fassbender brings his A game to take on the role of David, the multifaceted android who appears to have more human traits than first meets the eye. Shaded in mystery and illusive intention, Fassbender hones in a mesmerizing performance as the, now standard, artificial intelligence. Ever since Ridley's Alien, the franchise has made it a tradition in adding within the cast of characters an android and this entry is no different. What is different though, is the level of ambiguity that hovers around this character of David. Similar to Holloway, David is able to show a great deal of compassion towards his human crew members and even a sensible cruel calm when deducing a situation. He has a sinister and methodical mindset, which gives his persona a fabulously diverse range and an important place within the story's frame. It is this humanistic characteristic that really makes David for compelling viewing and it is through these contextual functions that Ridley Scott is able to pull parallels between creators and their creations. Needless to say, Fassbender nails it and his presence in the film is truly essential.

Emphasizing the similar parallels of creators and creations is Charlize Theron's character, Meredith Vickers. As captain of the ship Prometheus and a scorned daughter of a larger than life father, Theron's performance is able to add onto the already compelling comparison that creations often detest their makers and vice versa. Being lost in the shadow of her father, Vickers seems to loath the position that his empire has placed her in and there are hints that her underlying wish is to see him fall and for her to reign in his place. The same can be said with her father, as he appears to have nothing but contempt for the thing that he has brought into the world, almost as if Vickers didn't live up to his expectations. It is an interesting concept, and one that is mirrored in the bigger picture of the story with the engineers and their human creations. One could even say that it's the human's dangerous nature that threatens and ultimately forces the creators to rethink their previous actions in creating life on Earth. Be that as it may, Theron gives an intense performance that really underlines the severity of the situation and the cruel nature of the world they live in.

As with the characters of Prometheus, the world that the crew inhabits is also rather cold and detached, yet painstakingly genuine. The interiors of the ship to the barren landscapes of planet LV-223, the world that the filmmakers bring to life is authentically portrayed and dangerously vivid. Awash of color and cruel to the visual touch, it is a future ruled by corporations, greed, and ambition, and Ridley uses his Alien franchise to help bolster this conceptual view of this future Earth society. We know the rundown of the previous films and we know that this story takes place earlier in their timeline, so we already have a preconceived notion of what to expect from this time period in the scheme of things. Using the history of the other films, Ridley dives right in to the thick of it as we mingle with the cast of characters and come to realize that this is a society of scientific cowboys more or less, often going against protocol to quench their own ego. There is a strange whimsical nature to their choices, which has taken some viewers out of the picture, but for me it is a reflection on how off-kilter this god-like society has gotten. They are arrogant in their successes and view their ability to create life, in the form of androids like David, as a sign that they are equal to their makers. It may be over the top and out of context in our eyes, but I view it as an arrogant and ignorant society reacting to a situation that they deem within their control. Far fetched maybe, but I feel the shoe fits.

Again on the visual side of things, the film looks absolutely stunning and the effects work and computer wizardry on display is nothing short of breathtaking. From the planet's surface, to the sleek design of the ship, to the ancient appearance of the pyramidal alien mound, to the out of this world alien tech, the film has a succinct structure that benefits greatly in its overall conceptualization. I especially found the general look of the alien race, the Engineers, to be quite simplistic but highly effective. Almost like angelic beings, the Engineers with their huge presence and incandescent skin, make for one hell of an impressive movie creation and the concept is without a question unique. Even their very intentions are kept secret to us within the film, as we are forced to wonder who they truly are. It is this kind of secrecy that drenches Prometheus like a smoldering blanket, sophisticating it under its mysterious weight yet leaving enough air and answers to slip through as to push us along in search of the truth.

When looking over the entire concept of Prometheus from the visual splendor, to the unsettling future world, to the wonderful alien designs, and the metaphorical allegories that bring it all together, you really have to admire Ridley and crew for taking on such an ambitious narrative. To try to answer the meaning of life, if even within the context of a fictional story, makes for quite a bold undertaking. Not only that, but to lay it all out on the line, answering with vague mysterious hints, provides for an even more brash notion, but I believe they did right. Bold as it may be, I find that this sort of approach is a genuinely intriguing way to go. There is an aura that hangs over this production, which makes it more substantial than a run of the mill, by the numbers, kind of affair. Like the crew of the Prometheus, we are placed into a world that we do not quite understand. Lost in the unfamiliar, we are given bits and pieces of the puzzle, but never given the overall picture of what we are dealing with. We know the players, we know the stakes, but we can't see the endgame. Even when the story begins to open up, we are still left dreaming of the bigger picture and all that it means for the validity of mankind. I for one enjoyed the open-ended quality of the film, even if it means we are in the same place as we started, because truthfully our species' creation will always be a thesis, an idea, a dream. A concept that will always be sought after, but never obtained. Prometheus captures this beautifully and to me that is the impossible.

Prometheus is without a doubt a movie that will divide its audience, and with great fervor. Always shrouded in mystery and continually opening up new questions to ponder over, the film is a conceptual beast that continues to grow and morph as it moves along. Lost in its own mythology, the filmmakers opted to allow the visual cues and metaphorical connections to tell the story, resulting in a contemplative film that I believe makes for a more compelling watch. Held together by an outstanding cast, able to step out of their physical confines and societal trappings, and just delve headlong into a realm that is unlike anything they've ever known, is quite a leap of faith. Sometimes irrational from our point of view, but always engaging, this unorthodox science fiction movie goes above and beyond the norm to bring us a more philosophical view on the Panspermia theory. One that genuinely takes people a little off guard, and with good reason, but ultimately succeeds in what it aims to do.

Prometheus is a film for dreamers. The ones that want to know their purposes in life, but don't want the adventurous qualities of not knowing to end. This film provides that, though at possibly an irritating price, but just as the crew of the Prometheus struggled and hoped for future enlightenment, so shall the audience. In my opinion, not knowing is not so bad. It gives us something to hope for, to strive for, and hopefully this is just the beginning of a grander adventure. What I wanted to see when taking on this film, was a world unlike anything I've ever witnessed before, which tackled issues that have seldom been touched upon on the cinema front. That is exactly what I got with Prometheus and if you are willing to set aside your preconceived notions of what a true Alien prequel would be like and realize that this is the start of a whole now epic beast, then you should be quite entertained with the wonders that Ridley Scott and crew throw at you. Prometheus is.....

Just chillin.... Just chillin.

Yep.... David is a real creep.

Hey you bobble-headed freaks! Get off my front porch!

It's still rude to fart even if everyone is wearing oxygen masks.

Alien Examination Staring Contest...... GO!

Blue Room Staring Contest..... GO!

A Germaphobe's worst nightmare.

Don't pet that thing you stupid shit!

You talking to me? You talking to me?

I sure hope for David's sake that this isn't Phantasm.

When Charlize Theron has a flamethrower.... listen to her. Seriously.

Looking good buddy..... Barf.

That will teach you to stay up all night drinking you naughty Archaeologist you.

Look I can see my planet from here.

Who's that handsome alien?

Let's ride!

Just turn! Just fucking turn!

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