Saturday, June 9, 2012

Film Review: "Prometheus" (*1/2)

I've received a rather curious stigma regarding my reviews of blockbuster hits that people funnel out to see with such urgency. It's inevitably been one of dissapointment, that I didn't have exactly the same reaction to a film that they did. As if it's some fault against me that a film was unable to live up to my expectations. I'm frankly surprised by the ecstatic responses people I know give to nearly every single movie. Maybe my disagreement is a sign of difference, but it's not one that I too willingly take part in. If I see a film and hate it, there's really nothing more I can do about that. Damage dealt. It's for that reason I was rather confused by most reviews on "Prometheus".

It really feels like people can't make up their minds on this one, which is weird because there should always be a pretty definite decision on the quality of a movie. Furthermore, my surprise doesn't come from heightened expectations, since I haven't even seen the slightest bit of footage from the film until it was in its finished form. That shouldn't truly bear any greater significance than having high expectations, since the only real expectation you should have going into a film is that it will fulfill the money you spent to see it. And of course I wouldn't usually go on this long regarding expectations around a film if "Prometheus" had actually met them.

Now this has nothing to do with my recently announced tepid reaction to revisiting Ridley Scott's "Alien". That film remains solid, but in absolutely no terms a great film. Certainly not a masterpiece, and the fact that people claim it is confounds me. "Prometheus" really doesn't have to adhere to any degrees of the "Alien" mythology, and I quite honestly spent much of my time hoping it never would, save for the end. Unfortunately, the strands were made far too visible to be ignored, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but they're only made so plain to see because the main arc of the film simply isn't made to be compelling.

Set roughly 80 years into the future, we follow a crew of expendable personnel on a scientific mission to find an alien race responsible for creating us. Once they get there and explore their temple, shenanigans ensue. That really is the basic plot of the film, is that we go somewhere and things happen. The arcs of each character are largely pushed for by coincidences, accidents, rather than by definitive choices made by the characters in the film. That's not to say we're not motivated by anybody, since there are a few character who make decisions that effect the overall course of the film. However, they really amount to just three people, which leaves fourteen others who we really couldn't care less about.

It's interesting, given a complaint I lodged against "Alien" for its characters not being very motivating, and that we didn't really care too much when they died. Truth is, they aren't so actively irritating and pointlessly compelled as the characters in "Prometheus". The moment one of the crew members says, "I'm not here to be your friend. I'm her to make money," I knew we were in for a rather tedious haul of a film. I suppose the conceit is that if the character is unlikable before, the audience won't be too jarred when things turn south. It seems like it would have been so easy to make these characters more compelling, and I can only call the hack job of writing this film as weak.

There is such a preoccupation with answers in this film, and yet the problem isn't that we're not given any. It's that the answers that we do get are so ludicrous and irritating in the first place. The first scene in the film portrays one of the film's alien species creating life on Earth, and there's such an unintentional laugh that comes from the first sight of these creatures. White faced, perfect skinned, and pretty basically humanoid. Of course that's slightly explained in the film, but it seems like an excuse for just not being imaginative. If these creatures are where the DNA from all species on Earth comes from, they should look like more than just one creature.

Beyond that, the visual effect that goes to pull of these beings just make them look so, well there's not a better way to say this, derpy. The visual effects of the world around them are somewhat astounding, but in a way comparable to that of "Avatar" or "TRON: Legacy". Yes, they are gorgeous at times, but it just doesn't mesh with the characters meant to inhabit this world. It has too many ridiculous and frankly unbelievable moments and creatures to get away with the more intellectual questions the film poses, and that's a shame. After all, the dynamic stated by David, Michael Fassbender's android character, of the stigma between creation and creator, is actually rather interesting.

The most compelling characters in the film aren't the ones that allow themselves to be taken in by coincidences, accidents, but the ones that make decisions that effect the eventual outcome of the film. That is chiefly Michael Fassbender's character, who so deliciously sinks into a childlike quality for discovery at any means. The consequences don't truly occur to him, and that's what makes him such a powerful device in the storytelling, but he's the only one. In spite of Noomi Rapace's honest attempts to throw in some emotional shades to her character of Elizabeth Shaw, the character is simply too simple.

There are too many detours that our taken to tidy up situations, or else to simplify them, as if they were afraid these questions would be too much for our wee heads to comprehend. Or perhaps they just don't comprehend it at all themselves. They're not willing to go the extra distance to make things truly, deeply, press our buttons. They scratch the surface, which is nothing nobody's done before. In fact, "Prometheus" has few differences from your standard space horror flick, like "Pandorum". All the devices are shadelessly used manipulate characters, rather than give them definitive reasons to do things, perhaps that have something to do with their character?

I don't believe that I've ever before actively hated a Ridley Scott film, since he tends to be a generally solid director. Not a single brilliant one, since he is merely a storyteller. I wouldn't blame him for the gross and distracting mistakes made by this film. He's only telling the story. He's not so hands on in crafting it. The writers, Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, are more to blame, for taking the cliche route whenever possible, and never truly going beyond what's necessary. I kid you not, there is a zombie in this film, and it's the most ridiculous and pathetic thing I've seen come on screen this year. "Prometheus" is feat of extreme idiocy, all the more disappointing for what it could so easily have achieved.

1 comment:

  1. First of all, this isn't the worst written movie in theaters. That honor goes to Snow White and the Hunstan.

    Second, I get what you're saying. I was annoyed with the characters and a lot of cliches and stuff, but I ended up enjoying this movie. Flaws and all.