Prometheus – Review

Prometheus (2012) – 

Director: Ridley Scott. Starring: Noomi RapaceMichael FassbenderCharlize TheronIdris ElbaGuy PearceLogan Marshall-GreenSean HarrisRafe SpallEmun Elliott.

After 33 years, Prometheus has finally landed!

For any fan out there (including me) the hype surrounding this film has been almost unbearable to cope with, as the viral marketing campaign was one of the most intriguing and well thought-out of the last decade, matching even the one for the Avengers in its intensity and capacity to tease, without giving away too much.

For months and months we’ve been spoon-fed little tiny bits of information about the mysteriously titled Prometheus. All we knew is that it was possibly a prequel (or at least it had some connections) to 1979’s masterpieces Alien and it would probably answer some of those open questions which have been left hanging ever since.

We had all reasons to be excited, especially when you think that Ridley Scott is the director who essentially single-handedly redefined this sci-fi genre (not just with Alien, but with Blade Runner as well): this is his first return sci-fi in 30 years and the first Alien film since the disappointing Alien Resurrection back in 1997 (no, I’m not even counting those AVP movies, and nor should you!).

Needless to say when the expectations are so high, the questions are so many and the fans are so eager, disappointment is inevitable. No film will ever be able to satisfy a 33 years old hunger. And it’s a shame, because Prometheus is actually not a bad film, it’s just not as ground-breaking as we all hoped and it’s a victim of its own hype. It is also best enjoyed if you know very little about it, so if you haven’t seen it, do stop reading now!

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

Its promising start, in a typically Ridley Scott ‘s fashion,is rather moody and slow it takes at least an hour for the first “shock”, but it’s also some of the best part. Scott plays with his audience creating a certain feeling of deja-vu while still trying to add new elements to the mix: it’s comfortable and intriguing at the same time. Simple and complex. Meaningful and trashy. And inevitably, we are constantly trying to figure out how does it all fit in the Alien mythology until the very last scene, which is rather gratuitous and yet incredibly satisfying for any fans of Alien (and also hinting at some possible sequels).

Unfortunately what starts out as a thoughtful take on Darwinians versus theologists will soon turn into a more conventional monster movie and that feeling of deja-vu will become its undoing.

In a way some of the beauty of the original Alien was its bare simplicity and its minimal approach. Tension was coming from those long silences and those sudden burst of violence and horror. Scott seems almost afraid of that simplicity here, and opts for a much larger canvas: everything on Prometheus is on a grander scale, from its themes and questions about the origin of mankind, to its great vistas (He even gets down to quote David Lean’ Lawrence Of Arabia in a non-very subtle way) and the epic music (which I found absolutely dreadful. Has Ridley Scott really sold out to conventional Hollywood smaltzy intrusive soundtrack during every single scene ?!). It’s all enhanced by being on 3D. This for once works very well when filming those great landscapes but it’s not as effective when trying to create tension in those crammed familiar corridors and instead of adding an extra dimension  to where danger could be coming from, it just becomes rather forgettable. It can’t even be a funny cheap gimmick (I am almost ashamed to admit it, but I would have loved a face-hugger coming towards camera, and the audience).

Everything else here is then crammed with details which instead of making the film more interesting, inevitably distance it from its original predecessor. For example where is all that technology coming from? In Alien they seemed to have very simple computers, and techno-gear in general. And yet that film was supposed to be later in the future, wasn’t it? Oh well, I’m picking needles here.

I know the constant comparison with Alien is unfair, but ultimately it is also unavoidable as it is also the film’s main hook on people.

Don’t take me wrong, there are some great things about Prometheus which I really liked, but unfortunately it just doesn’t deliver on all its promises and it ends up being rather derivative sci-fi.

I loved its ambitiousness, Noomi Rapace, David the Robot (Possibly the film’s best creation), the spotless special effects, the  cinematography and look of it and some of the idea it’s playing with, but I did missed that sense of fear and dread that Alien still gives me every time I watch it. There were very few surprises throughout  and most crucially very little tension (especially considering the film it’s trying to emulate, which is the KING of tension) and after a while it saddened me to see it switching on auto-pilot and becoming rather conventional and feeling very rushed in the last part.

There were too many undeveloped, two-dimensional, bland characters populating the film (even Charlize Theron, who I usually love, could have easily been written out and it would not have made any difference) and in the end it all contributed to make me emotionally detached from it all.

It’s almost as if Ridley Scott could not decide which film he wanted to tell: a sci-fi about the beginning to the universe, his own version of 2001, a monster movie, an Alien prequel… I guess in the end there is something for everyone (except pregnant women, who should stay WELL AWAY from this as the most gruesome and most memorable scene has an intensity which they will not be able to take). In fact there is a lot to digest in just one viewing (I wonder if there might even be an extended cut which will probably surface on Blu-ray in a year or so), but ultimately this is a handsomely film for any sci-fi lover (and an intriguing appetizer for any Alien fan) and it’s a film with ideas more than just loud bangs and explosions.

7.5/10

RECENT ADDITION from the 8th of June 2012

All the recent negative reactions to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus say more about the counter-productive effect of a marketing campaign which was just too big and eventually just imploded on itself, than it says about the actual film.

The expectations were just too high, and the hunger for it too big.

The film was supposed to answer questions which have been hanging for 33 years since the first Alien was first released. And of course Ridley Scott was the man who single-handedly redefined the sci-fi genre (not just with Alien, but with Blade Runner as well) and this was his first return to space in 3 decades.

Disappointment was inevitable and the film became a victim of its own hype.

On the first viewing very few people judged it for its own merits, while everyone else (including me) compared it to a film which had been made in a time when there was nothing like that.

Prometheus may not be the prequel fans wanted (not quite sure what that would have been anyway), it may not be as ground-breaking as some had hoped, but it’s not a bad film…

I do wonder… if Prometheus had been directed by some unknown newcomer or had it not been trumpeted by endless trailers and teasers, would we have been able to judge it differently? Interestingly, critical reaction to the first Alien was initially pretty negative too. Famously Time Out called it an “empty bag of tricks whose production values and expensive trickery cannot disguise imaginative poverty”

Should the marketing campaign have been handled differently? Probably not. The box office speaks pretty clearly and at the end of the day in Hollywood money talks louder than a few disappointed reviewers and bloggers. In fact, not one, but sequels are already in the pipeline.

Thor – Review

Thor (2011)   6.5

Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Starring Chris HemsworthNatalie PortmanTom HiddlestonAnthony HopkinsStellan Skarsgård

I must confess I was never really a huge fan of the comic Thor (but then again, are there really many Thor fans out there?) so I went into this not only with the lowest of expectations, but also with pretty much zero knowledge of this viking-looking superhero. And maybe because of that I came out pleasantly surprised and I actually liked a lot more than I thought I would.

In a time of heavy-handed and preposterously dark movie adaptations of comic book heroes, full of calculated allegories and deep symbolism, it is actually quite refreshing to find a film that knows exactly its boundaries and never really takes itself too seriously: I mean, after all we are talking about Thor!

This will probably not find a permanent place in cinema history, but as a pre-summer blockbuster, it was plain fun! And while it worked as a stand-alone adventure, it also paved the way for the eagerly expected (well, among comic book fans at least) “Avengers“, a film which has been in the pipeline for a long time and it’s going to re-unite Thor, Iron Man, Captain America (to be released in July 2011), the Incredible Hulk and other Marvel heroes in what promises to be one of the biggest comic book adaptation yet. In a very calculated marketing campaign, there are plenty of references, in-jokes to other marvel heroes and several hints towards the forthcoming “Avengers” peppered throughout this film, including a semi-hidden sequence right after the end-credits which made even a non-believer like me looking forward to the summer of 2012 when the actual film will finally be released.

This is probably film-making by committee, thought of  by marketing campaigners and executive producers with big fat cigars, but mercifully Kenneth Brannagh has been able to inject it all with enough mischief and fun. In the end it might not work as well as the first Iron Man, and it certainly doesn’t have the invention or heart of the first couple of Spiderman movies but it’s polished,  fast and short enough to get away with it.

The Aussie actor Chris Hemsworth, most famous until yesterday for playing in the TV soap Home and Away, looks like he was born to play this role. he not only fits the part perfectly but somehow he manages to make the potentially dull Thor into a likable and sympathetic character.

The film does look great too: production design, costumes, photography and special effects are of very high standards. Unfortunately the conversion to 3D, once again, is not among the best. Generally speaking it is quite unnecessary and aside from a couple of instances becomes fairly forgettable pretty soon and in the end it just serves to make the film a little bit duller in colors… (I’m seriously wondering how long this 3D-mania is going to last for as it seems to be fading out already. But this is a subject too long to be taken here).

I saw this film almost a month ago and I’ve already forgotten about Natalie Portman‘s performance in all this. That should tell you all you need to know about her role in “Thor”. But then again, if she had been really bad I would have probably remembered it…

Finally you’ve got high calibre actors like Anthony Hopkins and Stellan Skarsgård to give it more credibility.

If you asked me in another couple of month to tell you about any sequence in Thor I would probably not be able to remember much of anything, but while I was with it I’m sure I never looked at my watch and I had more fun than I was ready for.

6.5/10

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