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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 06.08.12] scifi horror action



[Also be sure to check out projectcyclops' review]

The more time I spend mulling over Ridley Scott's Prometheus the more I wonder why this was ever written as part of the Alien franchise. I can see both sides of the argument: on the one hand the studio is banking on the excitement and willingness of the general public to take in another instalment into a generally well loved franchise but on the other, there is the heightened expectation of Scott's return to aforementioned franchise, one he kicked off decades ago in superb style, an expectation that any movie is unlikely to meet. The truth of the matter is that regardless of which argument is true, Prometheus only partially delivers the goods.

As is already clear from the ever present marketing push, the story focuses on a group of scientists who discover ancient cave art on earth that suggests we are not alone in the universe. Taking it as an invitation to find these advanced beings, scientists Shaw and Holloway, along with a number of other experts and the bankroll of Weyland Industries, head into the unknown depths of space in search of the "Engineers" and what they find isn't a warm welcome. But Prometheus isn't just about finding the mysterious creatures who visited earth thousands of years in the past and either did or did not create humanity. That would be too... pedestrian. Instead co-writers Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts raise all sorts of hefty philosophical questions (not to mention the plethora of moral dilemmas that plague the crew): did they create us and why? Why did they abandon us? Why do they have this huge army of deadly creatures and why were they planning to come to earth?


That last one doesn't fit and that's the problem. The story seems shoe horned into the Alien universe and the aspects we've come to expect from the franchise - deadly parasites, a sense of impending doom, alien queens with acid for blood - all seem squeezed into a space suit that doesn't quite fit, causing all sorts of story problems. I like the hefty questions and movies that encourage one to think but this one is very messy not to mention that most of the questions are left unanswered and the few answers provided don't fit the questions being asked.

With all of the script problems, it's a miracle Prometheus is as good a film as it is. Its success is in large part due to the acting talent involved. Charlize Theron is pitted with the thankless role of mission minder, an apparently heartless woman with more interest in watching out for the corporation's interests than the human collateral. Her character, though not integral to the story, is the only one that feels fully realized. She has her reasons for being there and though they're not fully revealed, there is enough presented that I wanted to know more. Michael Fassbender, though more subdued, chews the scenery wonderfully. The rest of the crew, from Idris Elba as the ship captain, to Sean Harris as the smart assed geologist, and everyone else in between are great. Noomi Rapace is one of only two exceptions, a problem considering she is integral to the story, and the problem isn't so much her performance as the way her character is written. She comes across as a teary eyed innocent and when forced into a situation that requires her to take the reins, I didn't buy it. The other problematic performance comes from the usually great Guy Pearce. Not only does his voice not match the feeble old man he's playing but I couldn't get past the distraction of the make-up every time he was on screen. Again this isn't a question of the performance itself but in this case, the casting. Last time I checked, we hadn't run out of old people in Hollywood and his casting in this particular role was a poor decision.

Scott's direction is good but some of the film's most memorable moments are directly lifted from Alien, most notably the crew wake-up scene and their first meal together which shares so many aspects with Alien, including the smoking (though in this case only one character lights up) that I could do little more than shake my head. It's impossible not to compare the two films when the similarities are so glaringly obvious.

Prometheus may not be great, but it's also not a bad movie. It looks and sounds amazing, the 3D, though not necessary, is effectively used, giving the images an added depth and though the story occasionally leaps and stumbles, sometimes even delving into preachy and eye rolling dialogue, it does bring up some interesting ideas and entertains in the process. I'll happily add it to the shelf alongside its counterparts. Just don't expect another sci-fi classic.


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wtf (6 years ago) Reply

come on, really? you really thought the movie would tell the whole story and reveal the "truth"? the spacesuit which does not fit belongs to a cow originally. a money cow.

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

Might be an idea to read the most recent interview with Lindelof.

http://www.heyuguys.co.uk/2012/06/07/prometheus-writer-damon-lindelof-talks-engineers-alien-family-tree-the-sequels-opening-scene/

The main problem of Prometheus is that because a) there was 20 years of built up anticipation and b) Fox + Ridley + Lindelof raised expectations even more through marketing and interviews the movie itself shot itself in the foot for getting stuck between all the presentation and the actual delivery. The movie is not bad, it is a good experience, but the lapses in logic for characters, the occurances of sloppy dialogue and the absence of about 30 minutes of important scenes (going by the art book released even the opening scene misses - for example - two older engineers present, one presenting the young one with the cup to drink and sacrifice himself) and the Lost & Inception like methods of jumps in story, it all becomes too apparent because it stands so far from what it was hyped to be.

At the end of the day, Prometheus was made from the ground up to attract a generic audience, and lay the groundwork for another movie - conditional on making enough money.

The moment you heard Lindelof taking over the script drafts is where you should have stopped expecting big questions, stopped expecting any answers whatsoever, and started to expect another movie with more allusions to answers.

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agentorange (6 years ago) Reply

This notion that a film that poses questions about where we come from and what it all means should reveal the answers concers me. It would be artistically misguided for any writer to assume they could or even should do this. These are questions that will plague humanity forever. Like Shaw, we will continue looking.

I have no doubt that histor will remember Lindelof as a great contributor to cinematic storytelling and Promethus will be considered a classic.

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Objectuve (6 years ago) Reply

Totally correct. This movie would have been 100% better without Lindelof. John Carter of Mars was better. At least it had a beginning, middle, and END.

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jjay (6 years ago) Reply

great movie,but as a Alien film its underwhelming. but as its own thing its great and i loved it.

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Marina (6 years ago) Reply

Thanks for the link macm. What I find particularly interesting is that Lindelof talks about no new ideas in scifi and how they infusing new ones when in fact they're just borrowing from classics of the genre.

What irks me most is that from everything I've read from Lindelof (I haven't heard/read a peep from the other writer) is that he doesn't seem to understand that there's a difference between asking big questions and leaving it up for discussion and then asking the big questions, answering them and then asking them again or asking them and then confusing them with other shit. That's what bothered me most - not so much that they're unanswered but that they hint and give answers and then backtrack. I felt like yelling at the screen: "Just make up your mind already!"

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Votre (6 years ago) Reply

Agree 100%. A good deal of that stems from not having sufficient faith in the story you're telling to tell a single story. My impression of Lindelof's work is that he always tries to keep all his options open and tends to resort to obscurity and contradictory story elements in the hopes it will be mistaken for profundity. But I suppose that's unavoidable when one of the avowed purposes of this script was to spawn a new "franchise" - which is Hollywood newspeak for "Let's milk this cash cow for all it's worth."
That said, it's an entertaining film. Sad that it could have been a truly great sci-fi epic if only the people responsible for bringing it to us had a bit more artistic integrity and a touch less concern about the future earnings statement.

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

That's the Lindelof method precisely though. Great for a weekly series, where you can keep people hooked by getting types of viewers to have their own audience proxy, but for movies with a year or so between them ... ? I have my doubts.

I'm getting a strong idea from the interviews since the release that Prometheus was not designed to be just a movie with the possibility of another movie, but as one movie designed to kickstart a new franchise with another movie designed in almost parallel.

Lindelof's recent interviews are pretty much just paving the way for him to be integral to any next project. The other writer produced 5 different drafts, but then Lindelof got to work and put his mark on things.

You have to admit though, Prometheus does make you want to know more. The risk at this point is whether people will pick apart the puzzle, or pick apart just the movie. Because expectations were hyped instead of anticipation (which was already primed anyway) and because - unfortunately - Prometheus does suffer from strange gaps in logic as well as dialogue.

We know from another interview with Ridley that Fox pushed the cutting of about 30 minutes or so from the movie. That too is something you can feel having an impact.

Combined, it's left us with an entertaining movie which makes you want more, but which does risk people digging more into the composition of the movie than the potential franchise.

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Marina (6 years ago) Reply

Exactly! Right now people seem more interested in picking apart the movie but I think in time, once things settle and we all get over the shock, there's lots to look at there. I think the discussions will be more interesting once the DVD/Blu-Ray comes out - hopefully with that additional footage which I hope will clean things up a little.

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

I hope so, but I get the impression that release is scheduled for the 10/11/12 date that popped up in one of the puzzles on the weyland marketing site.

What I fear a bit is that the road till then and till the next movie will require an ongoing marketing effort. Reaching in to things like webisodes and such, to seed more clues / information to stop people losing the hook with the movie and just core audiences keeping themselves busy picking the composition of the movie apart.

And that is a bit of a trap. Raising anticipation for Prometheus was not hard. It was already there, built up from 20 years long. So it worked out as raising expectations, and there the movie with Lindelof's methods and Fox's cutting simply did not deliver the mythos as Ridley had it in mind. The divide was too obvious.

There is an elaborate review going on in the Prometheus section of the prometheusforum.net site, if you're interested. It shows a lot of concept and recorded scene art, which does provide insight into a lot of things cut, or dialed down in the revised script by Lindelof.

http://www.prometheusforum.net/discussion/1646/high-quality-scans-from-prometheus-the-art-of-the-film-updated#Item_76

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

Btw, the secrets behind Prometheus (taking place on LV-223 .. Leviticus 2:23) are starting to surface. Quite an excellent essay on it here:

http://www.prometheusforum.net/discussion/1699/mythic-resonance-and-themes-in-prometheus

Don't read if you have not watched the movie yet, obviously.

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uncleB (6 years ago) Reply

Marina must not have seen the same movie I saw. It was everything I was expecting and I really enjoyed it. Ridley Scott is back as far as I'm concerned. If you havent saw it and was wanting to, dont let this review change your mind.

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Digger (6 years ago) Reply

I saw it, it was dreck. The characters acted like idiots, just to keep the plot moving.
Terible story. Too many questions where the answers given don't make sense, or parts of the plot just don't mesh. Save your money.

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brettlv5506 (6 years ago) Reply

Exactly, I have never seen characters serve plot devices more than this film. If there is a head shaking "why on earth would they do something that stupid moment," you can guarantee it was because a big plot device requires them to be acting like fools.

SPOILERS

Why do they remove their helmets? If they didn't David wouldn't be able to contaminate them as easily and not be noticed. Why does Vickers have a medi machine? So Shaw can use it later. Why is the geologist smoking weed? So he can't remember his way out of a cave that has already been mapped out for him with outside support. My biggest question is how in the hell did David's head stay put in the ship after it took off from underground, got rammed, and then crashed after rolling around. Also, Charlize, turn left.

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agentorange (6 years ago) Reply

The film is stellar in my book. The script is rimming with ideas and characters that resonate.

I sort of agree with Marina that it feels like its own (amazing) story "shoe horned" into the Alien world. On the other hand, using the franchise this way is brilliant, because it gives the experience this whole other level of significance just based on the fact that we know the mythology so well. I can't wait to see it again.

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j.j. (6 years ago) Reply

"characters that resonate. " oh, dear.

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Cletus (6 years ago) Reply

As a set-up for a Prometheus 2, it was brilliant. Otherwise, it was trash: bad acting, ridiculous script... well, it was visually impressive...

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Charles Widmore (6 years ago) Reply

Apparently Hollywood, not even Ridley Scott, seems capable of making an intelligent science fiction film anymore. Prometheus has many nods to the Alien franchise, and displays some excellent special effects, but it is the singularly worst genre film I have seen in years. There seems to be a new standard now in sci-fi movies. Corporate employees are completely devoid of morality, driven solely by greed and self-interest, but with no awareness that there may be consequences. Scientists are wildly irresponsible, lacking even basic common sense, with no adherence to scientific procedure. Military and technical personnel are either sniveling cowards bent on self destruction, or gung ho mercenaries willing to kill anything or anyone. Androids ignore the three laws of robotics while often displaying psychotic behaviour. And aliens are malevolent, mutating, indestructible horrors. Prometheus is rife with these and other cliches. Someone is secretly related to another key figure. Someone has to sacrifice themselves to save the day. Someone is used as a guinea pig. Someone is able to perform unbelievable physical feats after suffering great injury. Someone appears dead but is not. Someone is able to make huge leaps in logic and understanding without any frame of reference. The laws of physics are routinely ignored during action sequences. Genetic changes are almost instantaneous and nonfatal. And a contrived plot device is used to quickly and lazily advance the story. Add to all of this a pedestrian plot lacking any semblance of logic, pedantic dialogue uttered by two dimensional characters, boring action and horror sequences, and editing that obviously left a lot on the cutting room floor. I find it hard to reconcile the fact that the director of the original Alien is responsible for this complete train wreck.

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agentorange (6 years ago) Reply

"There seems to be a new standard now in sci-fi movies. Corporate employees are completely devoid of morality, driven solely by greed and self-interest, but with no awareness that there may be consequences. Scientists are wildly irresponsible, lacking even basic common sense, with no adherence to scientific procedure."

That sounds like a pretty boring movie.

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Charles Widmore (6 years ago) Reply

And yet that's what Prometheus was, boring, cliched and unbelievable.

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j.j (6 years ago) Reply

Damn straight.

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highlandfool (6 years ago) Reply

Well done Mr. Widmore for nailing this pig to the wall. I've been astounded at the love being dumped on this film. I can't understand how anyone could have read this script and pushed the green light. I am very afraid to see how R.S. will screw-up "Blade Runner" now. Is Scott the new Lucas?

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agentorange (6 years ago) Reply

What love? Where? All I see are logic police ruining high art. I seem to be the only person who saw the film for what it was. Complete and utter genius.

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Charles Widmore (6 years ago) Reply

Visually beautiful yes, but like the landscape, lifeless and eventually tedious.

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

High art?

Shiny does not a story make.

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Charles Widmore (6 years ago) Reply

Let's hope for the best.

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j.j (6 years ago) Reply

SPOLIER LINK!!!

This analysis asks some very interesting questions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-x1YuvUQFJ0

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Beppe (6 years ago) Reply

Why so many people want to see prometheus?

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Koolz (6 years ago) Reply

Marina Antunes did you even get the movie maybe you need to see twice.
Ok Prometheus is really really good! After seeing it twice you will realize there are no plot wholes, everything works, and that The Myth Prometheus is the center of the film.
It's show beautifully. I also see that people that say it's crap really are just pointing out there own stupidity at not finding all the details of the film. It's a film that should be seeing twice.

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macm (6 years ago) Reply

Sorry Koolz, there's plenty plotholes, even faulty plot devices. Sure, a few things are influenced by scenes cut, but that ties to symbology rather than plot.

Let's throw up one. The engineers want to destroy us over something that happened to them 2000 years ago. The ship they sent with weapons of a kind on board did not arrive. Drama. But the movie shows they only missed one visit, as they came back twice after that presumed drama case and we're still here.

Or another one. Fifield and the other scientist get lost in spite of being in contact with the ship and them having created a realtime fancy 3D map of the complex. It isn't until after the storm that they figure out they are lost, even though they were headed out of the complex well before the ones that stayed behind who get out in barely 2 minutes.

Don't get me wrong, it is a movie that gives an amazing visual experience. And it works better if you watch it a second time without the raised anticipation from waiting 20+ years since Alien and being influenced by all the Big Question talk from Scott and Lindelof and the heavy marketing from Fox.
But it is not a cohesive story, the characters are shallow, there are too few connections made for a movie (it is after all a movie, and not a series), and there is no mythology created through the movie at all.

The movie is a puzzle. But more so because of the marketing and interviews than of the movie featuring a deep and complex story where questions are asked and answers have to be pieced together in the movie. Any answers are not in the movie, they are at best in a next movie. It's like Lost episodes really.

Trouble is, even after watching it twice, the story fails the movie. It has so much potential, but it just misses the beat. What keeps us with it is our anticipation still.


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