Friday, June 15, 2012

Movie Review: Prometheus

Michael Fassbender 
Prometheus (2012)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce

In one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2012, Ridley Scott introduces viewers to a new kind of origin story -- an ambitious attempt from a well-established director who made a name for himself with 1979's classic, Alien.

The film opens on a high note, with an eerily human-like alien sacrificing himself for the "greater good" during the early stages of Earth's existence. The scene than jumps to 2089 where we meet archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) as they uncover strange star markings on Scotland's Isle of Skye -- the very same markings that have appeared in multiple locations around the world. They eagerly interpret this as an invitation to explore the dark, unknown recesses of space in an attempt to come in contact with the "Engineers" (a name which they use to refer to the alien race that appears in the carvings). With the help of an ageing benefactor named Peter Weyland  (a barely-recognizable Guy Pearce, buried under latex), Elizabeth and Charlie have a crew assembled on the corporate spacecraft, Prometheus, for a two year voyage. They awake from their long slumber on a dormant-looking planet and are introduced to the crew: Captain Janek (Idris Elba), sergeant Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and android David (Michael Fassbender), who bases his imitations of human behaviour after Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. 

Prometheus raises interesting questions about mankinds origins and the very foundations of our faith, yet stops short of answering any of its own queries. The film starts strong, making great use of its arresting visuals and two excellent performances from Rapace and Fassbender. However, by the halfway point the narrative begins to unravel, leaving dozens of loose threads behind. For what started out as such an ambitious and thought-provoking script, why stop short of putting the audiences mind at ease with answers to some of the bigger questions? Just who are these Engineers and what made them suddenly turn their back on humanity? With an obvious lack of motivation, the Engineers simply come off as exceptional-looking CGI creatures that add little to the overall plot.

The erratic pacing comes to a head in the second act as it becomes clear that Scott and his screenwriters, Damon Lindelof (he of Lost fame) and Jon Spaihts, are not entirely committed to tying up its loose ends. The film will likely leave most viewers somewhat confused -- and not in the brilliant way that Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey weighs on the mind. It's lack of character development (and sometimes startling, out-of-left-field revelations about certain characters' backstories) and often incoherent narrative make for an uneven film.

Yet, despite its flaws Prometheus still manages to tell a mostly entertaining sci-fi story that is boosted by the very presence of the lovely Rapace and the coldly captivating Fassbender. If not quite the prequel we all had in mind back when Scott first announced he was returning to the Alien franchise, it's still the rare summer flick that generates heated and in-depth discussions from both its fans and its detractors. It's one of those films that is bound to divide audiences and disappoint hardcore Alien devotees -- but the performances of its two leads and its strong first hour still make it a worthwhile venture.