Thursday, June 9, 2016

Prometheus Review

15 years after the disaster that was Alien: Resurrection, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise he created in the sort of prequel, Prometheus. Reviews were favorable at first, but appreciation seems to have decreased as time has gone on. But is it deserving of that or just misunderstood? Click the jump see my thoughts on the film.

In the year 2089, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find evidence that seems to lead to humanity's origins. Who created us? Why are we here? Questions that may very soon be answered. But when they travel to the distant planet on a mission led by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and funded by Peter Weyland (Guy Pierce), they find much more than they bargained for.

So let's talk about that premise. I honestly think it's one of the weaker points of the film. I feel like all Alien fans wanted to know is... stuff about Alien. Where did it come from? Why was it on that ship? Instead, Prometheus attempts to answer philosophical questions about life itself. And while I admire that it takes those big steps, it's an answer to a question no Alien fan was asking. It does tell us about the Space Jockey from Alien, which I like, but I feel like even that ended up being an underwhelming, or maybe even overwhelming answer.

There is, however, a lot to like in this film. For one thing, it looks amazing. It uses a lot of practical sets, the CGI is top notch, and Ridley is better than anyone at creating detailed, nuanced, and grand environments on a huge scale. This film is no exception to that. Visually, it's stunning and even haunting. And it feels like Alien for the first time since James Cameron's addition to the franchise in 1986.

It also delivers quite a few scares. It brings much of the uneasiness and tension that was so wonderful in Alien, and in my humble opinion, I think a few scares in this film are even more effective. There's one in particular that notoriously had people passing out in the theater, but I won't spoil that here. You'll know it when you see it. But, of course, nothing beats the Chestburster.

The performances are also top notch. The two most notable performances are Michael Fassbender as the curious android, David, and Noomi Rapace as Shaw. Fassbender was simply fascinating to watch, and it's really impressive how much he was able to convey while playing an emotionless robot. I'd say he was even the highlight of the film. Rapace was stellar, though. Again, much like Alien, her reactions seem really authentic. When she goes through some very... excruciating circumstances, she completely sells it. And even in the more subtle moments, she's really able to convey a lot of emotion. She was a delight to watch, and I think she really needs more work.

And unlike the previous two films, there actually are a few interesting characters to be found here. Most of the crew seems somewhat disposable until the very end, but Shaw was fairly compelling. Mostly in that you come to really root for her in her quest. You feel for her character and want her to succeed. But, to be fair, I think that's less the character as written and more about Rapace's performance. David is just fascinating. You never have any idea what his motivations are or what he's going to do next. He's a real wildcard, and I found that very enjoyable.

There's also Vickers, who's a stereotypical tough-as-nails, no nonsense leader. Theron gives a fine performance, but there's not much substantial about the character. However, one of my favorite characters was Janek, the pilot, played by Idris Elba. Elba turns in a great performance, of course, but he also has some of the best and funniest lines of the film, in my opinion. He didn't have a lot of screen time, but I think he was a real stand out in the movie.

Also, Guy Pierce plays a very aged Peter Weyland in the film. And while his performance was fine, his age makeup looked awful. I mean, he looked like a figure in a wax museum. It was almost laughable. I'm no expert on makeup, so I don't know how they could have done better, I just know that I've seen it done much more effectively and believably.

The writing was pretty mediocre as well. There were a few really great lines spread throughout the movie, but there were also quite a few that fell flat or were near cringe worthy. Most of it was decent enough, but it never did much more than drive the plot along. It never reached the level of character interaction from the first two films, which is really one of the best things about the franchise.

This movie also had a pretty severe pacing problem. Some parts of it were quite slow, and pretty boring, while other parts really had you on the edge of your seat. But it never really felt like it knew which it wanted to be. Sometimes it seemed like it wanted to build tension slowly, but then it would jump the shark with a very out of place action sequence. Made the film somewhat frustrating at times.

And I know I touched on it earlier, but a big problem with the film is that its reach exceeds its narrative grasp. It wants to touch on big themes like humanity and our origins, but instead gives us answers that just don't amount to anything interesting. It does have little nods to Alien, which are nice, and it seems like it starts to play at answering our questions about the species, but never fully commits. It does leave plenty of room for speculation, which is nice. And I feel like we should remember that Prometheus was never intended to answer all our questions all at once. It's the first of a series, and I think we should somewhat reserve judgement for the following films. That doesn't change the fact that you end up leaving more confused than entertained. I just don't think this film found the right balance.

So despite poor pacing, a mediocre script and a plot that's more confusing than anything, Prometheus is still an entertaining sci-fi film that offers great performances, a fantastic aesthetic, and a return to the universe Scott himself brought to life nearly 40 years ago.

Final Score: 3/5

It's kind of underwhelming, but not bad at all. I think if you're an Alien fan, you'll have a decent time with this movie. So what did you think of it? Do the spectacular visuals captivate you, or does the narrative drag it down too much? Let me know down in the comments, and I'll see you next time for my final review in the Alien franchise right here at ComicBookMovieNerd.com.

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