Friday, 8 June 2012

Prometheus (2012). Ridley Scott

I have been a lifelong fan of Ridley Scott, and I have just seen his latest movie 'Prometheus', so thusly it falls upon me to review this movie. What do I think?

The answer—good, I enjoyed it, entertaining, but if any reader is sensing any hesitation in my answer, you are correct. While it was a good SF movie, with all of the expected twists and turns, and a few not so expected, it lacked originality. Admittedly, it is hard to be original in a prequel, and certainly a prequel to a franchise with so many different episodes as this, but, even so, it was just a little bit of a let down—so much hype to live up to...

The movie was billed as something that would discuss the origins of humanity. Well, it did not. There were some unexplained scenes in the movie that hinted at this, certainly the opening scene where one of the aliens drinks/eats something, his body/DNA dissolves, and he falls into a waterfall (presumably on Earth—but are there not less deadly ways to spread DNA?), a few half-hearted references to god (the xian god). The closest to a direct response to this question is a finding that the deceased (not entirely) human-like aliens are 2,000 years old, "give or take", but that is hardly far enough in our past to count as the human origin. Lets just say that there are lots of loose ends in the story, loose ends that no one even attempts to tie up.

I will add to this that sitting in a cinema in Thailand, watching this movie, made me confront (again) the ethnocentrism of Hollywood. The crew of the ship was a geek cross section of US culture (but no Mexicans). The aliens 'engineers' were all tall, space-out caucasians. If nothing else this does reflect a lack of imagination on the part of the movie makers, their audiences, or both.

A second problem I have with the movie is the technology. It is both too advanced and too primitive. First, the advanced. It is the end of the 21st century, and humans have mastered interstellar travel. Ummm. No specifics, but two years of suspended animation carried the crew to a "distant" solar system. Strangely, I am reminded of the opening of the first 'Planet of the Apes' movie. Ok, way to go to the unnamed scientific genius, who figured that one out. Hope you got a Nobel and much more. The primitive is the other tech seen on the ship. It is not advanced enough. Many little things. For example, the 'glass' space helmets reflect light, whereas it would not be too much to expect these helmets to not be covered with glossy, distracting reflections, and no smart materials, sliding doors which make a sound, and where are the google glasses? Most of the tech looks like stuff from today and tomorrow, not a lifetime from now, however, I will mention one pleasing bit of hardware. The explorers used remote sensors, laser emitting flying balls, to scan and map the "creepy, underground caverns" they were walking through. For the first time in "Alien" history the crew of an advanced ship used tech to map areas of extreme danger, rather than just wander in.

Having said of all this, I was entertained by the movie. There were numerous, well crafted minor references to the previous movies. The Earth ship gave me a 2001 memory in a few scenes. Dr Shaw's self-medicated abortion will go down in movie history (that woman has balls). The android David is played supremely well. I perceived a strong HAL9000 vibe here. He is neither a mere copy of previous "Alien" androids nor a stock figure, he is the character for this movie and his role.

The criticisms I have made here I do admit are extreme, it is a movie, not a documentary, and certainly not an attempt to paint a picture of life in the last decade of this century. However, I am clearly becoming more demanding of my entertainment as I grow older. I expect it to be better (did someone say "Limitless" (2011) ?), not merely more of the same. The big question, the measure of my opinion of a movie: would I go and see it again? The answer, at this time—I am not sure.

And, while I am here, the movie was in 3D, which, as always, disappoints, me. The 3D effect was not overly pronounced and did not add a great deal to the visual effect. What is did do was darken the movie, making it just a little too dark. I am not a fan of 3D, and I see no reason to change my mind.

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