Saturday, 9 June 2012

Big Things Have Small Beginnings

I'll try and avoid spoilers but be careful, just in case.

I'd been super duper excited to see Prometheus since it was announced Ridley Scott was making another Alien (ish) movie.

The story was being kept secret. It wasn't to be a prequel but it was to retain some of Alien's DNA. This could only be a good thing. Alien is one of my favourite films. I could happily watch it on a loop, recite the script but still flinch when John Hurt's chest gives way and give up hope when Ripley can't get Mother to cooperate.

So, eventually Prometheus got a release date.

I'd tried to avoid any leaked storylines although I'd happily immersed myself in the viral marketing designed by Fox under the guise of the insidious Weyland Industries.  A corporation seemingly so benevolent, yet perversely evil.  We know more about this fictional company's selfishly evil future than it's past

The natural want is to compare Prometheus with Alien. I'll try to resist because Alien was dark, tense and claustrophobic whereas Prometheus is grandiose, epic in it's proportions. Entirely different in approach.

Essentially, Prometheus is about man doing what man does best. Exploring in a hope of answering our Ultimate Questions but biting off more than we can chew.  The film opens with sweeping landscapes that would put Peter Jackson to shame. Indeed, the beginning feels very Lord of the Rings as we are brought over vast mountains and crashing waterfalls before focusing on an 'Engineer'.  Before long we are transported to the less than glamorous Isle of Skye where we meet Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace).

True to form it is clear that Shaw is to be our main protagonist. Strong and determined yet vulnerable and inquisitive with just a little hint of Bjork. Shaw has reached into our ancestral history to find an invitation to our future. A map to the stars.......

Our first taste of space is a clever and poignant montage of the android David occupying himself whilst his colleagues are in hypersleep. Micheal Fassbender's portrayal of David echoes David Bowie's The Man Who Fell To Earth.  There's a measured intensity to Fassbender as he effortlessly acts everyone else off the screen. Deeper motives of the android are hinted at with a look or an innocent question.

This in itself is symptomatic of one of Prometheus' main problems. There are a great many hints dropped, questions stated that are not adequately explained or answered. Prometheus is no longer a stand alone film but the entry level to a new franchise.  This leads to Prometheus' other problem; awful pacing. This is a two hour film. The first hour sees tension explored and built subtly before, quite literally, all Hell breaks loose in a black oily mess.

There is a feeling that there is almost too much going on in the second half of the film.  There are parts which are painfully predictable.  Having said that, it's not as bad as George Lucas cramming three films worth of story into the last 40 minutes of Revenge of the Sith but you get the idea.  There are too many crew members on board Prometheus and it's hard to see many of them as anything more than cannon fodder. Although you're pleased to be relieved of an atrocious Scottish accent. Even Charlize Theron is wasted to a certain extent, her character, Meredith Vickers, begins to develop but then is simply overshadowed.  We hurtle toward conclusion and two scenes that are so disappointingly blatant in their set up of a sequel via some amazing set pieces and visual effects.

Prometheus is sumptuous, visually fantastic. The depth of the world Scott generates is more than impressive and for once not belittled by the now omnipresent 3D.  Costume and set design feel like they have been reverse engineered from Alien yet expanded and immersing.  Despite this there's a nagging doubt at the back of your mind. Was this really the film Ridley Scott wanted to make?  How much of it was cut to make it a neat two hours in length.

I enjoyed Prometheus, I enjoyed it a lot but then I was preprogrammed too as I've enjoyed practically all of Scott's past work and the Alien franchise as a whole. As a result I wanted more. Rather than be disappointed I'm now looking forward to the director's cut (there HAS to be one) and, hopefully, the sequel, where we'll get some real answers.  Let's just hope we don't end up in Zeta II Reticuli too soon.