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Review – Prometheus (2012)

04 Jun

I wasn’t keeping up with all the advertising for Prometheus that arrived before its release. I saw a trailer for it at cinema once, and a friend insisted that I just had to see this one clip of Guy Pearce giving a speech. Neither told me a whole lot. I skipped the rest of all the viral marketing stuff, for the usual reasons. I went in knowing precious little about this movie, and having now seen it, I’m convinced this was the right course of action. There is nothing to be gained by having knowledge of a film where the lack of knowledge plays such an integral part.

Comparisons between Prometheus and Alien are inevitable. Prometheus was first conceived to be a prequel installment in the Alien saga, but then reports came in that no, it wouldn’t be, but it would be like an “embryo” to Alien. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is between those two phrasings, but whatever. Even so, Prometheus is indeed a sci-fi movie made by Alien director Ridley Scott. It isn’t Alien, but there are times where it’s certainly trying to be. Not even counting certain broad strokes in the plot department, there are enough blatant references and callbacks throughout the film that anyone who has seen Alien before will be reminded of it, even if they have no prior knowledge of who directed it.

Set in the end of the 21st century, a science expedition from Earth searching for the origin of mankind arrives at a distant planet. Then stuff happens. How’s that for a spoiler-free plot synopsis? No, you don’t want to know anything more.

There is a lot of things I like about Prometheus, and the part that has really stuck with me these 1.5 days since I saw it is the acting. Two performances in particular stand out. The most immediately striking is that of Michael Fassbender in the role of the android David. Mannered, polite, efficient, and with movements that are just a tad off for a human being. And yet there are depths to the character, both of intent and of emotion. The other strong performance is that of Noomi Rapace, of Millenium trilogy fame. I had been a bit concerned about the Swedish actress’ transition to Hollywood; she did okay in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but her character was so flat and unnecessary that she might as well not have been in it at all. Not the kind of thing to jump-start a new phase in one’s career. Her Prometheus performance is just what the doctor ordered, however. She plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archaeologist whose religious beliefs gives her added incentive to take part in the expedition. Particularly in the second half of the movie, Rapace shows a great affinity for the action genre with teriffic sustained power. Here is where her performance rivals her star-making one as Lisbeth Salander, and if this doesn’t lead to more big roles for her, I don’t know what will. That she does this without her character coming off as merely Ellen Ripley 2.0 is all the more impressive.

Without going into spoiler-y specifics, there are scenes in this film that I found almost spellbinding in their own ways. Some parts are pure visual spectacle to ooh and aah at. Others made me clench my teeth in suspense. Above all else, however, it’s the mysterious nature of everything that really got to me. There are times where Prometheus feels really nightmarish in a way, where you’re tossed from one situation to the next and aren’t sure what’s really going on at all. Highly effective stuff, and this is where I’m glad I stayed away from most of the promotional material. It felt like anything could happen. The film also doesn’t shy away from presenting some interesting thematic questions. Why is there this need for these people to find out who their creators are? What does the human-created android think about this? It all adds further weight to the more visceral moments of the movie.

Prometheus isn’t flawless, however. The first third or so of the film is a bit lacking. A movie like this needs a set-up phase to explain some of its key concepts and introduce its characters, but this one doesn’t quite keep things as interesting as one might hope. Compare this to Alien, where a similar portion keeps piling on a sense of foreboding dread more effectively. Another issues I had was with some of the dialogue, which feels stilted and awkward. I’m not ruling out that this was intentional – something to show the difference between our time and the future – but it’s still more distracting than immersive.

The dialogue problem is reasonably easy to look past. But had its first act been stronger, I wouldn’t hesitate to put Prometheus up there with the original Alien film in terms of personal enjoyment. As it is, it doesn’t quite measure up. The atmosphere isn’t quite as thick, and while the plot engages the mind to a better extent, it lacks something of Alien’s sheer gutsiness.

That said, it puts in a more than admirable effort. After all, “not as good as Alien” doesn’t say a whole lot considering what a great film that one is, and I wouldn’t even be comparing the two if Scott didn’t make it clear that he wanted there to be connection between the two. Standing on its own to legs, Prometheus is a thrilling and captivating sci-fi flick, and one well worth seeing in theater to get the full scope of what it wants to show you.

Score: 4/5

A closing note on the 3D: Don’t bother with it. There is a scene or two where it really adds something to the movie, but for the most part, it’s neither here nor there. I wouldn’t shell out the extra cash for it.

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13 Comments

Posted by on 4 June, 2012 in Reviews

 

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13 responses to “Review – Prometheus (2012)

  1. Jessica

    4 June, 2012 at 16:34

    Yay!
    I’ve seen so much negativism about it that I’m glad whenever someone writes about it with enthusiasm. I think it deserves it. It’s not a classic, but it’s a good sci-fi movie, and that’s not something we get everyday.

    I have to admit I thought Guy Pearce looked ridiculous in the make-up and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just cast an old actor. But perhaps I’ll think differently if I see that video.

     
    • Emil

      4 June, 2012 at 17:00

      In the clip I saw (it was a TED Talk style one), he looked his normal self, so I was a bit surprised when he showed up in the film with all that make-up on. I don’t really get that casting decision either to be honest, though I think the actor did all he could with the part.

       
      • Tannen

        5 June, 2012 at 01:43

        The viral video with Guy Pearce (TED 2023) took place “in the year of our lord 2023” whereas the movie played out much later and the intention was too give us a better insight to the reasons why Weyland was aboard the ship, his ambitions and intentions. Quoting himself. “I will settle for nothing, short of greatness. Or die trying.”
        To me, Weyland was a very interesting character although I agree with the make-up being bad.

        The viral videos were not supposed to be understood or give you any information about the movie until you the actual movie itself.

        Personally I am very happy that I did watch them a couple of times before watching prometheus. For me it made the movie better as a whole.

        Great flick in my opinion, lived up to all my expectations and They were sky-high, Emil can confirm that I think.

         
        • Emil

          5 June, 2012 at 08:55

          Truth be told, I don’t really remember much about what Pearce said in the TED one. I mostly remember his cool accent. It might be fun for me to go back and check out all the clips and stuff now that I’ve seen the film, actually. I might just have to do that.

          Yeah, you were pretty hyped for this film. Not 300-hyped, but close. :P Good thing the film lived up to expectations. It certainly did for me too.

          Thank you for the comment, Tannen!

           
  2. sati

    5 June, 2012 at 01:39

    So glad you liked the film! Great review, nice to know both Fassbender and Rapace deliver strong performances.

     
    • Emil

      5 June, 2012 at 08:56

      Thank you! I hope you enjoy the film as well when you get around to seeing it, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about it.

       
  3. Nostra

    6 June, 2012 at 16:40

    I did the same thing, didn’t watch any trailers so went in blind and loved it when I saw it yesterday. Fassbender was stunning indeed. I like Rapace as well and the operation was memorable. I thought some characters just didn’t have enough screen time to be interesting enough (like Theron and Elba), but as a whole it came very close to being a classic (although it isn’t)

     
    • Emil

      6 June, 2012 at 18:21

      Yeah, some of the supporting characters didn’t feel very fleshed out. Theron and Elba play fairly one-note characters, but they serve their purpose to the plot well enough.

      I don’t see this one earning any classic-status in the future. For all its qualities, it’ll still be remembered mostly as Ridley Scott paying tribute to himself. Which isn’t altogether fair, but it’s understandable.

       
  4. Movies - Noir

    8 June, 2012 at 02:59

    I’ve just seen it and I wasn’t too impressed, unfortunately. I thought it took a while to get going, became better during the middle part, but couldn’t get the ball in the basket, so to speak, during the third and final part. The main problem as I see it was the screenplay. I didn’t like the giant albino thing, or the “where did we come from” theme. It had potential and was well made, but in the end, I couldn’t give Prometheus more than 3/5. Fassbender is without a doubt the best thing about the movie, at least acting-wise. Noomi Rapace did a good job, but her accent became a problem for me, especially since she’s supposed to be British. I also felt Idris Elba was solid as the captain.

     
    • Emil

      8 June, 2012 at 08:17

      Too bad you didn’t like it, MN. I can’t say I had any problems with Rapace’s dialect. I just figured her character might have not been purely British, or maybe dialects have changed in the future, or something like that.

       
      • Movies - Noir

        8 June, 2012 at 14:57

        True, it shouldn’t be a problem, but after a while I couldn’t stop thinking about it ;) I did like the movie for the most part, but the last third didn’t really do it for me.

         
  5. CMrok93

    9 June, 2012 at 06:14

    The promotion for this film made it look freakin’ awesome but also, a lot like Alien and I think that’s the big problem with the film. It’s pretty much the same formula used over again and even though Scott tries his hardest to get our heads past that, it’s too obvious, too quick. Good review Emil.

     
    • Emil

      9 June, 2012 at 08:18

      Thank you!

      There is a lot of things similar to Alien in terms of the plot, agreed. It’s almost as though Scott came up with all these questions about “the origin of man” and wanted a familiar platform from which to ask them. The end result is still really good. It helps that Scott has been away from the franchise and the genre for so long.

       

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