Monday, December 24, 2012

Prometheus Review

So I've finally seen Prometheus, the sort of but not really at all Alien prequel, after managing avoiding spoilers (telling people to shut the hell up when they mention the movie) and even though it's been half a year since its theatrical release the timing seems apt.

I received the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set as an early Christmas present and its excellent presentation of the original film is still fresh in my mind.  Also as it turns out, Prometheus is a Christmas movie!  Sort of, but not really at all...

Though I kept clear of any plot details or even the vaguest of notions of what the movie is about I did ask everyone who'd seen it if they thought it was any good or not.  I received complicated and varied answers.

"Yeah, it's really cool, really freakin' out there."

"Oh god, don't watch it, you'll just be pissed off."

I do know that some negative reviews were fueled by the fact that this isn't Alien Zero.  I'm genuinely shocked that the powers-that-be allowed this film to happen.  The original plan was a Ridley Scott produced pair of prequels starring the Xenomorphs famous from the four Alien movies and their two cinematic skirmishes against fellow intergalactic badasses the Predators.  The studios insisted Scott take over the director's chair and Scott insisted they let him make a different movie.  So in a surprising turn of hands-offed-ness, Ridley Scott was left to his own devices to craft a movie that fleshes out the Alien universe with a few cinematic send-ups to the movie that started it all.  For fans of the original one of the biggest questions has always been, "Just what the hell is that thing in the chair?" and Prometheus set out to clear some of the mystery from the Space Jockey.

The monstrous, fossilized creature's last act is the whole catalyst of the film.  His distress beacon leads the crew of the Nostromo to its presence.  The film's classic villain, the eight foot "perfect organism" that seems specifically engineered to ensure its own survival is shown to have emerged from this mysterious being's abdomen.

But to think of Prometheus as a film meant to answer questions would only cause headaches.  More questions are brought up then answered, most of them philosophical rather than addressing series canon.  Where did we come from?  Why?  What are we meant for?

We set out far from earth to find these answers.  The response?  Well, it's confusing, disturbing and kind of cruel in a senseless way.  I can see why a lot of viewers would be upset that the movie never fully explains the questions it presents but I consider it one of the film's strengths.  Confusing, disturbing, cruel, senseless... I'd imagine this is exactly what an alien world could potentially be like.  Even in the most imaginative science fiction we like to think of other beings in terms of how they relate to us.  Martians are just green men, a Predator is a physically superior specimen to us with reptillian features.  We want the aliens to play on our terms.  But why would these Engineers (as the film re-christens them from Space Jockey) care to answer our questions?  How could they?

Delving further would go into spoiler territory but if you're the kind of person that doesn't mind asking questions after the credits roll then Prometheus is a ship worth boarding.  The pacing might be a little rickety in parts, the science could be nitpicked forever and with a crew of 17 a lot of characters aren't fleshed out.

I can't wait to see more of this universe and I'll be seeing Prometheus II (a speculative title I doubt will stick) in theaters.

Prometheus: totally a Christmas movie

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