Sunday 22 May 2016

Movie Review: Prometheus (2012)

A deep-space science fiction horror adventure, Prometheus builds up towards some tense moments with a space crew searching for superior alien beings who may have created humanity. But despite a glossy production, the film's lofty themes are not matched by shoddy characterizations and perfunctory expositions.

In the year 2089, scientists and lovers Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover ancient caves in Scotland denoting alien shapes and a star map. The imagery matches others found throughout the world, leading Shaw and Holloway to conclude that aliens, dubbed The Engineers, created humankind. Aging billionaire tycoon Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), seeking the secret to eternal life, is enthralled enough to fund an expedition to make contact with humanity's creators.

By 2093, the Weyland-funded spaceship Prometheus arrives near the destination planet. Shaw and Holloway lead the scientific expedition and are accompanied by a motley crew of other experts and explorers. The icy cold Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) commands the mission with authoritative zeal, and the vessel is captained by the more laid back Janek (Idris Elba). The robot-in-charge is David (Michael Fassbender), and he keeps the ship functioning until the crew awakens. They land and start to explore the planet's surface, finding dome-shaped installations seemingly built by the Engineers. But there are also signs that the Engineers themselves ran into trouble, and the Prometheus crew is soon threatened by internal strife as well as a horrific external menace.

Directed by Ridley Scott, Prometheus is a prequel-of-sorts to Alien, but with a more philosophical focus. The film never quite decides what it wants to be, and ends up as an uneven mishmash of origins-of-life philosophy, creature-versus-human battles for survival, and petty human conflicts. The aesthetics are gorgeous on the alien planet surface, and there are moments of effective and yucky-gooey horror, but the film is sold short by a script that truncates thoughtfulness in a rush to create conflict.

The film introduces concepts related to no less than the creation of humanity and the relationship between the creator and the created. But lacking proper courage to delve into its own themes, the conversation is limited to ancient scrawls on cave walls, and a few dialogue exchanges that barely go beyond the superficial. The extent of explaining the entire thesis behind a superior race creating humanity resides with interpretations of ancient carvings, a quite dubious premise on which to launch a trillion dollar expedition.

Instead of exploring big ideas with conviction, the script (by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof) hurriedly seeks villains with an agenda, and populates the crew with excitable and cursory characters lacking in depth and context rushing to betray one another and unleash predictable surprises.

The year may be 2093, but scientific rigour and on-board procedures have taken many steps backwards. The Prometheus crew is made up of unconvincing scientists, technicians and assorted victims-to-be. Discipline is the first casualty even before any threats appear, and the slipshod trampling over dangerous artifacts and mishandling of potentially deadly foreign matter denotes a script rushing to set-pieces and leaving large plot holes in its wake. And when they arrive, many of the highlights appear to mimic the better moments from Alien.

Shaw gets a sketched-in background story, and Noomi Rapace is effective as the most empathetic of the characters, often holding the film together. She also enjoys the most memorable moment, an impromptu self-administered emergency surgery. Michael Fassbender is also good as David the robot-in-human-form, but his secretive machinations are derivative and occasionally cross the line into ludicrous mad-scientist villainy.

Prometheus is one third interesting science, one third questionable ideology, and one third character interaction balderdash.

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