Saturday, December 15, 2012

Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott                                 Writers: Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof
Film Score: Marc Streitenfeld                     Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
Starring: Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender

One of the interesting things about a prequel to a popular film series are the anachronisms that necessarily sneak in. With the Alien franchise having begun in 1979, that’s difficult not to do. As wonderfully steampunk as the Nostromo is, it lacks technology as simple as the computer pads and holographic scanners that are taken as a given on the Prometheus. And even though the Prometheus predates the Nostromo by thirty years--in the story chronology--the earlier ship has far more modern technology. Ok, so the Nostromo was just a mining ship, the space equivalent of a pickup truck, but there still could have been a bit more homage paid to the original in the same way as the remake/prequel to The Thing. But that’s really nitpicking. Prometheus is a great film.

Both a prequel and a genesis story, the film begins with the very von Daniken-like search for the original aliens that populated the earth and evidently communed with ancient civilizations. Like the original series this flight is also financed by a private corporation with ulterior motives, this time for a somewhat misguided search for the fountain of youth for the company’s aging founder; unfortunately these aren’t the aliens from Cocoon. The investigation of a mound on a moon of a Saturn-like planet circling a distant star reveals a race of large humanoid beings that are the descendants of the space jockey from the first Alien. The ingenious way that Ridley Scott is able to spend the remainder of the film before finally bringing forth the first proto-alien is what really makes the film a pleasure to watch. Unlike The Thing prequel, in which the Norwegian scientists essentially deal with alien in a similar fashion as the original, Prometheus attempts to be original to the point of almost being obtuse. Ironically, it seems to work because of that.

Other than a couple of big names, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce, the cast is made up of relative newcomers. Swedish actress Noomi Rapace is the new Ripley, and she does a tremendous job; the scene in which she operates on herself to remove the alien in her uterus is incredibly tense. Logan Marshall-Green plays her scientist boyfriend and does a great job as the first one infected. And the opening scene, with German actor Michael Fassbender as the robot David, is like something straight out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And there are nods, perhaps unintentional, to other science-fiction films as well. Either that, or they’re all beginning to blend together. Special effects are good, seamless CGI and believable makeup, though the score by Marc Streitenfeld is rather generic, not quite up to his work on Robin Hood or The Grey. It’s certainly possible that on first viewing the film will fail to meet expectations: how could it not? The Alien series is a powerful set of films and spin-offs. But given time and repeated viewing, I think Prometheus will become one of the great films in the series.

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