Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Prometheus review


    I was considering reviewing Aliens: Colonial Marines to finish off Alien week (which is more like Aliens two-weeks but hey, it's a blog I do for fun) but having purchased it, I determined it is one of the worst games ever made and decided to not give it any more undeserved publicity. Instead, I'm going to cap our series off with an analysis of a movie which really should be a modern-day classic but just...isn't. I, of course, mean the Alien-movie which isn't an Alien movie: Prometheus a.k.a the dumbest smart movie since The Day After Tomorrow.

    The premise of the film is something I'm already inclined to like because it's a not-so-subtle reworking of the immortal H.P. Lovecraft classic At the Mountains of Madness. Unfortunately, even this is somewhat tainted as Prometheus' creation actually sank a Guillermo Del Toro directed and produced adaptation of that story.

Who is this dude? The Creator of Life on Earth? Why is he doing it? No idea.
    The premise of that story, if you're unfamiliar with it, is a group of scientists journey to
Antarctica where they discover an ancient city of near-extinct alien who turn out to have been mankind's engineers. Unfortunately, said race was destroyed by an incredibly dangerous and virulent species which still inhabits the city. Which, I suppose, would make the xenomorphs into shoggoths and that's a comparison I can get behind.

    Prometheus takes the same basic story and transplants into a future setting. Rather than journeying into the antarctic, a group of scientists are assembled to go to another planet in search of humanity's creators. The primary differences are while the scientists of the original story stumble upon the secret of humanity's origins, the ones in Prometheus already believe this is where humanity's creators are located. Likewise, they've made the scientists much-much dumber.

Noomi Rapace's Shaw almost saves the movie through sheer adorability.
    No, seriously, Prometheus has some of the most idiotic protagonists in a horror movie since Jason Takes Manhattan. This isn't necessarily bad if you're okay with being entertained at a bunch of idiots getting killed on-screen but if you're here for science being treated remotely serious then no, you will be annoyed.

    How dumb are they? A biologist finds an alien corpse and his reaction is fear rather than fascination, two get lost with GPS before getting high in alien ruins, the leader of the expedition decides proof of alien life is not worth investigating, one of the scientists seeking humanity's creators feels like he's failed even though he's made the greatest discovery since fire, and a pair of supposed geniuses in an open field can't figure out how to run sideways from a gigantic rolling doughnut.

    These people are idiots.

The worst scientists ever.
    It's not that they're not entertaining, don't get me wrong, but they're the wrong kind of entertaining. The behavior of the Prometheus' crew is doubly galling because part of what made Alien and Aliens so entertaining was everyone reacted reasonably intelligently. When Dallas and Ash break quarantine to try and save Kane they do so for very good in-story reasons. Here? Well, they're just a bunch of goofballs on a hundred billion dollar expedition to Gilligan's Planet.

    All I can say is Ridley Scott should thank his patron deity for Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender as they're a joy to watch onscreen. Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) isn't the most practical or pragmatic of characters but her idealism gives an in-story justification for her relatively few stupid decisions. David (Fassbender), by contrast, is one of the great Alien characters and deservedly belongs up there with Ash and Bishop. Indeed, re-watching the movie, I can't help but think how much better a movie starring Doctor Shaw and David alone would be.

David is a great character. Nuff said.
    I particularly like the ambiguity of David as the world's first android. He's cold, emotionally stunted, ruthless, and corrupt but there's very good evidence this is a result of his upbringing rather than the way he was made. The movie allows him more moments of humanity than its actual human characters with my favorite being where he gives a wonderful retort to Doctor Holloway about his quest to find humanity's creators.

    Charlie Holloway: What we hoped to achieve was to meet our makers. To get answers. Why they even made us in the first place.
 

    David: Why do you think your people made me?
 

    Charlie Holloway: We made you because we could.
 

    David: Can you imagine how disappointing it would be for you to hear the same thing from your creator?
 

    Charlie Holloway: Then I guess it's a good thing you can't feel disappointment.

    Yeah, I'd screw over Charlie too.

A likable character she is not but quite entertaining.
    Charlize Theron and Idris Elba both give memorable performances as well which, if the movie focused more on them, might make the film live up its potential. Sadly, their characters are relative bit players compared to what their roles could have been. Also, Charlize's Meredith Vickers has a plotline which never really goes anywhere.

    This is at least a pretty movie and the special effects are awesome. It's doubly-impressive since so much of the movie takes place in a bunch of empty caves. The absence of xenomorphs isn't really a strike against the film as the Alien movies are more about theme than specific monsters. I will, however, condemn the movies for their plot holes. About half of the questions raised by the movies never get addressed and those that do are addressed incompletely. These range from minor issues to huge ones.

The monster pregnancy scene is the best one since Alien.
    For example, it doesn't require you to have it explained why the Engineers created the human race. It does, however, require you to explain why they may have changed their opinion on our race. It doesn't require you to explain why they created the xenomorphs but maybe you should explain what the end-purpose is. It also would do nice to know what David says to an Engineer at one point which inspires it to rage. That's not getting into why certain characters do certain actions even though they're counter-intuitive other than plot. That one, at least, can be explained as, "the script writer though it'd be dramatic."

     In conclusion, Prometheus is a silly-silly movie which has a lot of flaws but is overall an enjoyable movie. It's just an enjoyable dumb movie. The performances are entertaining but flawed, the world building is imprecise but beautiful, and the set-up incomplete. Still, I've got to say its damned pretty.

7/10

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