Monday, June 11, 2012

Reel To Reel: Prometheus

In space, nobody can hear you say, "Don't go there!"

Going Rate: Worth matinee price admission in 3D
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green
Rated: R
Red Flags: Gross aliens, gross alien violence, mild language

Prometheus is a prequel to Alien, the 1979 sci-fi classic that effectively blended horror and science fiction. But as my Queen Mother points out, knowing it's a prequel dilutes its effectiveness. Indeed, Prometheus feels like an Alien remake at times. Both films even come from the same director, Ridley Scott. So why see this movie? It's nice to see the same director remixing his own material.

The film follows a team of explorers led by Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Peter Weyland (Pearce) on a journey to a distant planet to find a lifeform supposedly connected to early civilizations on Earth. There goes that theory of evolution. They wake up from a long hibernation and get down to the grunt work of exploring a desolate rock with an unbreathable atmosphere. Their commanders, more or less, are starchy corporate liason Meredith (Theron) and a souless android David (Fassbender). The Royal Father noted David reminded him of HAL 9000 in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I kept expecting David to unplug somebody's sleep chamber.

Now on a wasteland of a planet, you can expect whatever these explorers find to be up to no good. This alien race has somehow created its own sustainable atmosphere, but it has run into something that has also killed it off. None of this seems to matter much to Shaw, who's consumed with answering that basic question: "Where did we come from?" She wears a cross around her next, so I gather she knows part of the answer. But she wants to know more.

The team she leads runs into trouble as they walk deeper into an underground shaft. The alien race they find has left them warnings and clues, but are they hostile or friendly? I dunno, what do you think?

Prometheus wants to be broader than just another sci-fi action horror film where aliens eat people. Yes, they do that here. I can also tell you we see an alien come out from somebody's stomach, but at least the way it's handled here is a bit more creative. The film makes a stab at questions of faith and creation, but it doesn't spend much time on them. It also doesn't spend much time on charazterization, either, beyond Shaw, Weyland, and their two supervisors. We know Shaw's faith and tenatiousness drive her forward. Still, when ghouly aliens are killing your crew off, shouldn't your overriding desire be getting the heck off the planet?

The movie is scary and gross in the places I expected it to be, although I still had a few seat-jumping moments. "Definitely not for children," as my Queen Mother observed. It works well in 3D, with copious holographic computer display images. It would work even better if the film seemed fresher, but stale it's not.

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