Friday, June 8, 2012

The Cynic Reviews: Prometheus

In 1979, Ridley Scott made what is, in my opinion, the greatest horror movie of all time, as well as one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time. But even in the hands of talented directors, the series went downhill after the first two masterful enstallments; the series never again reached those heights. Now, 33 years after that first classic, Ridley Scott takes back the helm to try to return to the franchise's glory days with Prometheus.

First off, I'm not going to go into detail about the plot, as I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone. The basic skeleton is that two scientists in the tail end of the 21st Century find a series of artifacts suggesting that mankind was visited by a race of people from a very distant star system, and that these people may have been our creators. And then shit gets real.

It's tough for any movie to live up to the hype and expectations heaped on Prometheus's lofty shoulders, and it's difficult to look past this hype and look at it as a standalone film (or as the ending would have you believe, a stadalone franchise), which is what Scott clearly wanted it to be. While much of this film's imagery informs what is seen in it, this is not a direct prequel to Alien. This works very much in its favor. It's tough making new scares when the audience knows where everything is going, so making a world where the iconic facehuggers and Xenomorphs are in early, primitive stages alongside very different, more advanced creatures helps keep things interesting. Still, it's impossible to not to compare it to Alien. Don't do this too much; it will make Prometheus seem much more disappointing than it really is. I started off doing this, and it made my opinion of the first twenty minutes or so sink. Once I forgot that, and just sat back to enjoy the ride, I liked the movie. A lot.

There's a lot to recommend Prometheus. Unsurprisingly for a Ridley Scott film, the movie looks fantastic. It's worth shelling over your nine bucks just to marvel at the scenery. It's beautiful, mysterious, unsettling, and terrifying all at once. While Alien was small and claustrophobic, it's clear the Scott made this film to be an epic, and it takes great advantage of that scope. I chose not to watch it in 3D, as I think that 3D is a dumb gimmick made by greedy executives to drive up ticket prices that needs to hurry up and die for a second time. But like all good movies, Prometheus is still great in two dimensions. Good sets and cinematography are still good sets and cinematography regardless of whether they're flying at your face. The acting is very good all across the board, but the show is stolen by Michael Fassbender as the android David 8. He's marvelous, and needs recognition come Oscar night. Seriously; he's that good. Not to anger any Bishop fanboys out there, but he's the best android the franchise has had since Ian Holm. The special effects are also top notch, though there was a bit of an over reliance on CGI. Still, it's some damn fine CGI.

But it's not perfect. The script sometimes fails Scott and his cast, with pieces of clunky dialogue that didn't need to be there. Some of the characters aren't well defined enough, most notably Charlize Theron, who tries her best despite being given next to nothing to work with. And much as I love Guy Pearce as an actor, they should have actually cast an elderly actor as the ancient CEO of Weyland Enterprises. Pearce, as always, does a fine job, but he's undone by laughable CGI aging. I hate to break it to Hollywood, but special effects aren't that good yet. There other things that let me down or made me scratch my head, but due to spoilers I won't talk about them here.

It's not Alien, which was flawless, nor is it James Cameron's sequel, which was very nearly flawless. Prometheus is far from perfect, but there's still a lot to recommend it. It may not be Alien, but it's still good enough to be worthy of its proximity to it. There's very clear sequel bait at the end, and I eagerly await that next installment, hoping it answers the many questions that Prometheus left. Still, it gives the audience a lot to talk about. Grade: B+

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