alien, charlize theron, dariusz wolski, frankenstein, frankenweenie, logan marshall green, michael fassbender, noomi rapace, prometheus, ridley scott, science fiction
Grade: A- (SEE IT)
MY 3-D SCREENING of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” was preceded by a trailer for Tim Burton’s forthcoming “Frankenweenie,” due out this Halloween. The titles of both films openly borrow from the 1818 classic that more or less invented the mode we now know as science-fiction, that is, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. The rebellion myth involving Prometheus was nothing short of indispensible to the nineteenth-century English Romantics. Mary Shelley’s novel notwithstanding, husband Percy Shelley penned his own lyric drama Prometheus Unbound in 1819 while Lord Byron wrote his own short poem heroizing the Titan god, the fire-stealer who, in bringing fire to humanity, found himself eternally punished by Zeus, his liver pecked out by an eagle on a daily basis. “Like thee,” he wrote in 1816, “Man is in part divine,/A troubled stream from a pure source.” What obsessed the Romantics about the promethean narrative was is its faith in boundless human potential, in boundary-breaking, in playing with fire just as the gods do. Prometheus, as our ally, stands in for the human.
Accordingly, questions of origins permeate Scott’s “Prometheus,” which is the most intelligent, visually satisfying science-fiction film since “Avatar,” and similarly interested in corporate exploitation and the meaningful ways in which spacemen rage against the machine. Literally a machine, the excellent Michael Fassbender (“Shame”) plays a white-blooded robot named David who takes his cues for seeming human from Peter O’Toole in “Lawrence of Arabia.” A close second to David’s robotic rigidity is Charlize Theron as Miss Vickers, a bloodless corporate drone working for Weyland Corp. and overseeing a trillion-dollar mission aboard the vessel named Prometheus. The goal? Investigate the alien remains on a deserted planet, which gradually draws the shipmates into its abyss. The consequence? Bloodshed, lots of it. “Prometheus” looks in two directions at once: forward to the future world of 2090 when companies have colonized outer space and backward to the filmic past of “Alien” (1979), the first of Ridley’s Scott’s two sci-fi films – his equally influential “Blade Runner” followed three years later. “Prometheus” functions as a prequel to that first film. Proof that we are back in the world of “Alien” are the airlock doors and padded hallways of the spaceship, the pod-like sleep chambers and, of course, the threat of a foreign body bursting through one’s abdomen. It is hard to imagine a more terrifying scene on film this year than the self-administered C-section scene in “Prometheus” wherein an octopus-like fetus is gorily excised.
While Theron remains in the same deep freeze as her performance in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” she is offset by warmer, more human characters such as Elizabeth Shaw (played by Noomi Rapace) and her ill-fated husband Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green). The screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof foregrounds Dr. Shaw as a proto-Ripley heroine who demands some ethical accountability from her cruel captains of (space) industry. After surveying the alien planet that holds the key to humanity’s own origins, he declares: “This is just another tomb.” This is the eeriest aspect of Ripley’s masterpiece: space is a sepulcher, and with dim, brownish camerawork by Dariusz Wolski, we are plunged into a kind of puzzle. “Prometheus” isn’t just a top-shelf work of space-horror with the power to shock, even revolt, its viewer, but the work of a director wiser than the one who directed “Alien” thirty years ago. With its milky-way moments reminiscent of “2001: A Space Odyssey” and even Malick’s magnum opus, “The Tree of Life,” Scott’s film goes deeper, to the DNA level of human life and its precarious place in a mysterious and often cruel cosmos.
We shake out the same on the grade on this one, but I was disappointed by it still. It could have been so great if it had just polished up a few issues with its script. Could have been an all time level incredible.
Nice one Colin
Def deserves a rewatching, may even do so tonight in Boulder. Thanks for reading!
I have to admit I’m having trouble reviewing this one. I can’t put my finger on the plot completely and that troubles me.
It’s difficult, for sure; it works more in generalities like human verus alien, corporate versus ethical, etc.! Write about it!
I did. I even put in a good word for ya!
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Excellent review Colin. To the people who prefer more action and horror in their Alien type movies; which I’m sure is many your review explains better the reason for the meaning of life and search for god in the story. I thought that brought me in more rather than detracting. On the visual aspects I again found that 3D made little difference in the impact. The hologram projections were so cool but looked just as much so with the glaasses off. We loved the surveying balls, a smart useful invention. I’ve never seen the Alien movies so this was a good place to start.
Oh, the ALIEN franchise is a treat, esp. the firs three directed by Scott, Cameron, Fincher respectively. I somewhat agree about the 3-D aspect; at times, I raised my glasses and there wasn’t much difference. A bit gimmicky, but well worth it. Thanks for reading.
Ah, interesting connection to Tree of Life…Hadn’t considered that!
Great review! I kind of regret skipping the 3D
There were some touches of TREE OF LIFE with the panoramas and landscape sequences at the start. Dazzling, I thought. What are you reviewing next? What’s this weekend’s buzz?
Nice review Colin, and I find myself agreeing with just about everything you had to say about the film. I even think people should go and watch the film in IMAX and 3D if possible.
I did however, have alot of issues with the use of character stupidity as a plot device. I think my brother may have summed it up best when he described the crew of the Prometheus as the McHales Navy of outer space.
Hilarious. Pigs in space! Catching either BRAVE of Carrell end-of-world comedy this weekend? Look forward to your review.
nice review. i still refuse to see the movie though 😛
Why is that? It’s excellent; full of good vibrations! Write on
im hard headed. some movies i just decide to not watch. maybe some years down the road i will but it has been over promoted and i don’t want to deal with the disappointment.
Oh it’s worth it! What are you reviewing next?
ahh, i have a few major films i need to get done but have been putting them off. right now im waiting for vic de mare to get the responses from an interview i am doing with her. i am so glad she agreed! its more about how women are treated in the horror industry then anything. lots of plugs for her movie but i think this will be an interview that i will be very proud of.
today i might throw up a review
on cabin fever i think. had a long weekend and didn’t get any of the movies i wanted to watch done or any writing. need to get on that today.
ps. love your blog!
Thanks; not familiar with the actress you mention…exciting stuff though. Write on!