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Midlands Movies Feature - In Defence of Prometheus

By midlandsmovies, Dec 29 2014 08:52AM

With a 73% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes I suppose with a bit of hindsight the film has not been quite as mauled to death as my Twitter feed would suggest but with such strong opinions and many a fan-boy claiming it to be a disaster of Queen-sized proportions I thought I would take another look at Ridley Scott’s polarising sci-fi film Prometheus.

Released in 2012 to a round of naysayers, I enjoyed the larger issues it tackled inside the “Alien” universe and it seemed that a lot of people went in expecting what Ridley Scott told them not to expect – i.e. a direct Alien prequel – and wondered why they were disappointed. His perfect summary that it contained the “D.N.A.” of the Alien story was a great description for his film that dared to do something new rather than an easy re-hashing of Alien’s scares or Aliens’ shooting thrills.

So what criticisms have been levelled against it? Well, as I’ve mentioned above, some felt that it was nothing like Alien or Aliens (the 2 most revered films in the franchise). Well, I’d argue that there is no need to have a strong connection or a repeat of themes and sequences we’ve all seen before. This is a good thing.

For example, have we all forgotten Lucas’ trilogy spoiling Star Wars prequels? Or even his return to Indiana Jones? Shoe-horning in Ripley’s “mother” or some relative of Hicks (or even Vasquez!) would have been cringe-worthy - see Chewbacca’s appearance in Sith – so Scott decided to introduce us to a whole new crew of characters who have an air of familiarity (Rapace’s hairdo and post-hypersleep sweat is all 70s Sigourney) but with subtle twists that help embellish the story. Fassbender’s robot is neither the violent Ian Holm or the pacifist Lance Henriksen but thankfully occupies a wholly new sociopathic (and subversive) corporate entity.

And the accusation of slow pace? Have you seen Alien or Alien 3? Scott avoids any Michael Bay-like histrionics in favour of a dark and foreboding atmosphere in which he tentatively assembles the story. Like the building blocks of life he’s so keen on analysing, his film begins with a measured and constructed set up referencing the past (or future, really) with nods to Weyland Corporation, the Space Jockey and aggressive creatures hosting within bodies.

Other huge positives for me was a genuinely great sequence involving a riff on the chest buster scene using an automated medical-pod which rips out a growing alien embryo from Rapace’s body in (another) shameless gore-fest based upon birth and gestation.

This body horror has continued in all the Alien films as has the use of technology to create human-cyborgs – in this instance, David, played by the previously mentioned and unbelievably good Michael Fassbender. Scott returns to the explorer nature of his first film and doesn’t skimp on the big money shots and his ambition and grand scale of vision is nothing short of breath-taking making Prometheus the best looking sci-fi film in a decade – maybe since the blue-hues of Spielberg’s Minority Report (another underrated classic in my books).

For me, I first saw Prometheus in Summer 2012 at Westminster’s IMAX and to this day it is still one of the best visually stunning films I have seen at the cinema (in the last few years it joins Inception and Gravity as one of the best looking films since 2010) and the gorgeous visuals including the planetoid surface filmed in Iceland and the glass front of the spaceship itself displaying the infinity of space, being a joy to watch. Filmed in “proper” 3-D, Scott pulls us into this world with the explorers, where we find things out along with them in this strange world.

The dazzling visuals compliment the weighty themes of scientific knowledge and religious faith that are questioned throughout, whilst some found that the unresolved plot elements and unanswered questions (which I’d argue are not that many – the main one being simply, who created these creators at the film’s end) were a distraction. I would argue simply providing an answer to these would take away from the film’s beauty and Kubrick hardly serves up a clear-cut message in 2001 so wonder why it was considered such a negative in this film.

Again, I think people had an “idea” of an Alien film in their heads which created a big (but imagined) promise of a film that wasn’t going to exist and then subsequently felt let down by the film they got. However, although I agree that the viral marketing was way over the top – it was the film that actually stopped me from watching TV spots and spin off clips from then on – your expectations are not the film’s fault. Another negative I am happy to acknowledge was the casting of Guy Pearce – one of my favourite actors in fact – but there was no need to artificially age him into a pensioner when a genuinely older actor could have simply portrayed the “search for youth” with more conviction.

The final criticism to tackle was said to be an inconsistent set of character motivations with some venom being specifically placed upon the scientist “poking” his hand at an unknown species in the cave. I never for once thought this was unrealistic for that character – maybe for you or I but we’re not the character – who came across as an inexperienced and foolish adventurer, exactly the type of selfish/inquisitive idiot Weyland would fill his ship with.

With Weyland’s ruthless god-complex, bringing along an unprepared scientist set up to become alien feed seemed exactly the kind of sick twisted (and morally repugnant) act he has developed as he clings on to life and allows others to be killed in his vain search for answers.

As a set of movies then, Alien’s horror made us think whilst Cameron’s Aliens pushed us into fully-fledged action territory before Alien 3 went back to philosophical themes before we finished on the B-movie action of Alien: Resurrection, which then seems entirely appropriate that a return to a thoughtful ambient piece (away from AvP films too) was the better choice for Scott to venture down.

In summary then, Prometheus was the prequel that refused to shoe-horn in parts of the previous film which in my book was a HUGE plus point yet with slightly more subtle nods to the franchise, this evolutionary sci-fi film was both a head-scratcher and face-hugger in one.

Midlands Movies Mike

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