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Friday, June 8, 2012

Prometheus - A Review

What is it about Prometheus that makes it so quixotic? It seems Ridley Scott has set out to create a future landscape that is indistinguishable from reality itself. Hello, my name is David...

Well actually its not really, but for a moment there I was absorbed by the extraordinary performance that Michael Fassbender portrays of the 8th generatoin Android of Wayland industries.

I've just got home from this fastidious feat of film and my mind is whirling with impressions, the first of which is the most basic. I liked it. It was certainly no Alien, but then was it ever meant to be? While incorporating elements of the classic Space Horror that Ridley helped to define, this is a more thoughtful film. Rather than trapping a bunch of random characters together in a tight space to be systematically and cheaply hunted down by a vicious blood thirsty thing with two mouths, Prometheus takes time to introduce an actual story with a history and characters who have deep motives for what they are trying to achieve - to make contact with their makers, or "engineers" as they call them.

In a very twisted way its a sort of Jurassic Park. Only we find ourselves to be the genetic experiment and the Geneticists themselves have fallen pray to their own meddling with the sacred building blocks of nature. Oh and we've arrived on the scene 2000 years too late.

Here's my synopsis. Spoilers will ensue.

The movie begins on an alien pre-historic Earth, a great big flying saucer thingy in the sky leaving our atmosphere and a tall Human like individual, whose nose starts in his forehead, is standing above the long crunch of a majestic waterfall. He drinks the "elixir of evolution" from a mystical container with a melting lid and while we admire his super muscular appearance it quickly deteriorates and flakes away as he falls into the raging rapids where on a microscopic level we witness his genes dispersing in the flow, to create life as we know it.

Its that ancient alien theory again. Ladies and gentlemen may I introduce the religion of tomorrow - Alien worship. It seems to be the gospel of Hollywood these days. Oh well, the Bible did say there would be a great delusion in the last days, so what can you do?

Fast forward an indeterminable amount of eons (I love how Ridley leaves us guessing even from the beginning by not giving a date), we find Liz Shaw (a reference to Doctor Who's lovely assistant from the Pertwee years perhaps?) an Archaeologist desperate to meet her creator along with her colleague (husband? boyfriend? Couldn't figure that one out) Charlie Holloway, who shares her religious zeal. They have discovered a cave with an ancient rock painting of 35,000 years hence depicting a tall Anunaki like deity pointing to a bunch of floating tennis balls.

Suddenly we're in space, a beautiful sequence of David the Android walking through the lonely halls of the Prometheus space craft while everyone else sleeps in chriogenic bliss. David creepily watches Elizabeth's dreams where we discover her religious background as her Father was perhaps some sort of Christian Missionary, albeit a rather liberal one.

I want to be as brief here as possible, because I hate ruining a movie. But the idealistic Liz and Charlie lead a team of knuckle heads (including a biological evolutionist) into what appears to be a weathered down pyramid where they discover a grizzly house of horrors and the faith crushing truth that our "makers" were no less ethically challenged as we are. The pyramid is a tomb of a grizzly operation gone grimly wrong, and as the story unfolds it becomes clear that the "engineers" agenda was to bombard the Earth with thousands of biological weapons of mass murder for reasons only they would know.

And that's the beautiful thing about this movie. It leaves a ton of unanswered questions. Ridley could have made a movie that explained everything down to the very last letter, bringing us to the exact point the Nostramu finds the downed spaceship in Alien - but he doesn't. In fact by the end of Prometheus you aren't exactly sure if the Engineer's space craft is even the one from Alien or whether the planet is even the same! For example, in Alien the Miner Astronauts discover a mountainous chair containing the remains of the Space Jockey with his chest burst open like a pinata. By the end of Prometheus the chair is utterly empty and the only living Engineer is lying on the floor of the Prometheus' "life raft" having goodness knows what ingested into his stomach, by the biggest face hugger you ever did see.

My advice to anyone yet to see this film is this - forget about Alien! This movie is more like a prequel of a prequel of a prequel. There is plenty of room to fit one or two more movies between this crew and Ripley's (please James Cameron, be very tempted!). If you can somehow divorce your expectations of this film to be anything life the fast paced space thriller you have acclimatised to, then perhaps you will be ready to slow down and take in this more epic and thought provoking plot. Which is more or less how I approached it from the beginning.

A couple of random things I enjoyed. If you look carefully there is a tribute to James Cameron's Aliens when a mutated geologist gets run over by one of the interplanetary vehicles, which resembles a very similar scene in the original sequel to Alien. Also the very noticeable lack of CGI in this move is applaudable and makes the realness of the creepy critters by no means less real. Where Ridley could get away without using CGI he certainly got away with it, which made for a visually stunning effort. Even more so in 3D. The absence of much colour just added to the effect also; lots of grey hues and dim lighting just helped to make the slime slimier and the blood bloodier.

As mentioned above, Fassbender's David was magnificently portrayed. Ridley and Michael have created a completely unethical and motivationally questionable anti-villain so likable that you can almost forget to judge him while he intentionally infects Charlie with some Alien DNA, just to see what happens, or goes out of his way to ensure Liz Shaw keeps her octopus baby safe and snug in her stomach. Even after all this you're still disappointed when the last living Engineer rips off his head.

Actually incorporating the David character was a stroke of genius on Ridley's part, and I suppose the screen writer's, as it provides the story with the perfect juxtaposition - the Engineers created us because they could, why should there be any deeper reason? In the same way we created Androids - because we could. We want to hate the Engineers for their vile deeds against Humanity and yet we are no different in the way we treat and enslave our own creations, as David himself is despised by Charlie and suffers from various derogatory jibes throughout the movie's dialogue.

Naturally I feel compelled to address the religious overtones of this movie, or rather the anti-religious overtones. There is a strong questioning of faith in the story and questioning of the logic in holding onto one's faith despite all evidence to the contrary. I've seen this all too much in recent episodes of Histories Ancient Aliens, or in Biology class as evolutionary theory is forced down my oesophagus. When the truth of the matter is Evolutionists, Ancient Alien Theorists and those of us who believe in God have exactly the same evidence as each other but each one of us interprets it according to their bias. I can hardly let this movie undermine my own faith. After all, it is just a movie... but then again it reflects, like I said before, a hint of a rising religion in a world where evolutionary thinking has left western man with a vacuum in his heart that Christianity once filled... so now we're turning to Science Fiction for the answers when frankly, its just easier to pray for them.

Finally, on a less philosophical note, I have to ask this question. How is it that after the Prometheus has thwarted the Engineers attempt at "Operation Wastify Earth" by self-sacrificially plunging itself into their ship, that David's decapitated head still happens to be perfectly placed next to his twitching body in the Engineer's cockpit, for him to guide Liz Shaw to safety over the intercom? Especially after such an epic and bone crunching crash landing?

Yet another unanswered question that Ridley (or James Cameron please) will have to answer in the sequelshould it finally arrive...

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