Last year I was at a movie, and I saw the first trailer for Prometheus. I am a HUGE fan of the Alien movies (except Resurection, because it was total crap on a plate with a side of utter garbage). Ridley Scott's name appeared on the screen, and then the self destruct siren from the first Alien movie starts blaring, and the vertical lines start appearing across the screen, forming into the title. Yes, that's right, I've seen Alien so many times that I knew exactly where that siren sound came from. For someone that is such a huge fan of the series, that was all I needed to know that this was another installment in one of my all time favorite movie series. That siren and the vertical lines are so iconic to me that I didn't even need the rest of the trailer to know that I was in store for the return, and hopeful redemption of one of the greatest sci-fi series out there.
This review contains minor spoilers.
Anyway, Prometheus is the first movie of a trilogy in which Ridley Scott, creater of the original Alien movie (but none of the others) has promised to give us the answers that we, the fans, have been asking for for over thirty years now. That would be WHERE IN THE FRICK DID THE ALIENS COME FROM!!! The eggs that result in all of the troubles in movies 1-3 came from a crashed alien ship, and Prometheus deals with a space exploration mission happening upon another of these ships. This ship seems to be carrying what looks like a biological weapon of some sort rather than alien eggs, and the horror ensues.
First of all, I don't normally say this about CG special effects, but holy crap, this movie had some GREAT CG effects (and one really, really awful one) The landscapes and the ship look spectacular and they blend really well with the actors. Usually a CG environment will look too clean, too fake, and too cartoony. They did a really good job of making it realistic. Second, the majority of the movie takes place on actual sets, rather than in blue rooms with CG backgrounds as more and more movies seem to be doing these days. The actors were all excellent, especially Michael Fassbender (Magnito from X-Men First Class) who completely steals every scene he's in. There's a shortage of talented young actors in the world, but he has been eceptionally good in everything I've seen him in.
Though this is a prequel to Alien, and incorporates many familliar things, such as the Company, the horseshoe shaped ship, the alien race that may have created the aliens from the Alien series, white blooded androids, and several other things, if you're expecting to see the aliens popping out of people's chests and ripping people to shreds, you're going to be disappointed. This is not that sort of movie. This one feels more like an sweeping epic than a claustrophobic horror movie, and it's obviously just the set up for a larger story. It is, quite enjoyable in itself, but it does leave quite a few questions to be answered in later installments. A pseudo-alien does make a brief appearance at the very end, but that's about all you'll get. You'll just have to content yourself with Ridley Scott fleshing out the other aspects of the Alien universe, and I, for one, was quite content.
There are only two things in this movie that bugged me, and they were really only minor things. In fact, they're really two sides of the same thing. First of all, it is VERY obvious that there are quite a few missing scenes that were cut for time. Several times things are referenced as if they had happened within the timeline of the movie and we never actually see them happen. The second thing is that the movie brings up a lot of philosophical questions about the existence of God, who made us, why are we here, etc, and then it does nothing with them. I think that in the scenes that were cut to make the movie short enough to show in theaters a lot of these questions are delved into in greater detail, but in the theatrical version that we got, they were virtually left out. I'll bet that when this movie is released on DVD it will have a special extended edition.
Though the philosophical and theological questions are not delved into very deeply, we do get a VERY clever use of a character's belief in God near the end of the movie that almost makes up for the lack of development on all of the questions that the movie asks. Shaw, a scientist, has believed in God since she was young, because of something her father told her. That you can choose whether or not you believe in God and he chooses to believe because he likes to think there's something more to life, something afterward. Through the entire movie her faith is tested as she helps to investigate ruins left by a race of aliens that may have actually created the human race, though this is left for the next two movies in the trilogy to flesh out. Horrible, horrible things keep happening to her and she refuses to give up her faith. And finally, when she's the only one left alive, stranded on a planet with a toxic atmosphere two years from earth with no ship, limited air, and no way to call home, she breaks down and just starts begging god to do something. And, basically, her prayer is answered. HOWEVER, and here's the clever part, it's answered in such a way that it is left to you to decide whether it was divine intervention or not. Some people might call it a cop out, but I think it's a really clever way for the filmmaker to say, "God may exist, or he may not, I'll let you decide." It's really not something you'd expect to see in a sci-fi movie, and I actually kind of liked it.
After the botched Alien Resurection, which basically murdered the entire franchise because of how incredibly awful it was, there is really only one way to breathe new life into this series, and I think Ridley Scott nailed it. Fleshing out the rest of the universe and the origins of the aliens, rather than giving us another lame alien outbreak. And it was done in such a way that it challenges our hearts and our imaginations. This movie, unlike so many others of late, actually respects the intelligence of the people watching it, and dares to delve into things that many filmmakers of late have either been too lazy to do, or had too low an opinion of the average moviegoer's intelligence to do. I really enjoy how Ridley Scott has always respected the people who watch his movies and gives us something a little deeper and more meaningful than just mindless action and characters we can't wait to see die.
As a Sci-fi movie, it was great. As a horror movie, it falls a little flat, though I don't think it was really intended to be much of a horror movie, it was only marketed as one because the other Alien movies are. As an Alien movie it really depends on what you were expecting. On one hand, it fills in a lot of gaps in the Alien mythos, and on the other, there aren't any aliens in it. So it really depends on your personal preference as to whether it succeeds as a part of the franchise or not. Ridley Scott has a very distinctive visual style to his movies, and he knows how to build a story and create tension, mystery and horror. He's one of the old school film makers that realizes that people are not complete retards like the current crop of filmmakers and makes a movie that challenges your imagination rather than simply dazzling you with special effects. In my opinion it was a great movie and I can't wait for the next installment in the trilogy. I highly recommend it.
Friday, June 8, 2012
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