Thursday, June 14, 2012

Prometheus (2012) – Review

Review: Prometheus is both a fantastic piece of science fiction and a philosophical exploration of man’s need to find meaning. The film is about a space exploration to find the ‘engineers’ who created human life on Earth, after a series of cave paintings are found on Earth detailing their possible location in a faraway solar system. Director Ridley Scott (who also directed Alien, this taking place in the same film universe as and before the events in Alien) presents the film in such a magnificent scale that it is a wonder to behold. Visually, it is brilliant – vast landscapes, beautiful design work and great action set pieces (all elements that Scott has mastered in his previous work). However, even with the impressive visuals, which are the best aspect of the film, it would not work without strong characters and a compelling story. Here, Scott somewhat stumbles. For the most part the characters are well drawn, but there are enough cliché (if not cheesy) character moments to slightly diminish the overall power of the drama. Sadly, the characters may well be the weakest part of the film, as these few cliché moments pull the viewer out of the narrative (mostly involving Shaw and Vickers). Though, David, an android seemingly trying to find meaning for his own existence mirroring the crew’s motives, while also carrying out orders relayed to him by his human master(s), is a very intriguing character (and one of my favorite things in the film). However, Scott saves the film and redeems it in many ways both with his visuals and his narrative structure. Scott keeps the film moving forward and it never drags or feels overly long. He tells the story very efficiently, which is often what is needed, especially in action oriented films. For the most part, Prometheus is a sci-fi drama – exploring man’s desire to find meaning within his own life, which here pertains to the crew of the Prometheus seeking out their creators to ask them why (why they were created) – while still having the prerequisite number of action sequences (that are all well done). Sci-fi often lends itself to philosophical questions about man’s place in the universe, as they are often immense in scale and involve isolation and exploring undiscovered places. The film does a very good job posing questions regarding why was man created and now that he is created who is responsible for his actions. This is best done through the character of David (though Shaw plays a big part too). Getting back to the visuals, Scott has such an eye for design, scale and the great rag-tag sci-fi supporting characters that make the genre great. Prometheus, if nothing else, is a grand genre film and one of the better sci-fi films in the last few years (along the lines of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, Duncan Jones’s Moon and Joss Whedon’s Serenity), that just misses being amazing due to cliché character moments.

Technical, aesthetic & acting achievements: Ridley Scott has long been an exalted director of sci-fi (fans harkening back to Alien and Blade Runner, two of his early films – 1979 and 1982 respectively), and it is clear that he still knows how to expertly present the genre. I do not think he let his sci-fi fans down with Prometheus, as it is (as stated above) visually and atmospherically phenomenal, despite its shortcomings. The score is both wonderful and somewhat generic. Harry Gregson-Williams’s theme (here) is an inspiration, evoking wondrous feelings set against the visuals, while many of Marc Streitenfeld’s more action or thriller oriented pieces (while referencing Alien’s score) feel quite generic, maybe even cliché (example here). Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography is fantastic, and probably the best work I have seen so far in 2012. Arthur Max’s production design is also just as brilliant. Their work together builds a visual style to the world that is very dark (the film could almost be black and white) but also with an infusion of precise color to illuminate the atmosphere of the film (mostly oranges and reds – against the whites and blacks). The set design and costume design is spot on. The cast overall is very good (even with the cliché character moments). Sean Harris is just a prickly as ever in his small supporting role, while Guy Pierce brings a lot of weight to his. Logan Marshall-Green has somewhat of a breakthrough performance (playing sort of a cowboy scientist – or what we can call a typical Hollywood scientist since Indiana Jones). Idris Elba brings his inherent cool to the ship’s captain, while also upholding his moral high ground (which seems to be something that often finds its way into his characters – no matter what they do, they are cool and seem to have a higher morality that justifies their actions). Charlize Theron has a difficult character to play in the film (hiding much of who she is), but does play Vickers with an heir of entitlement and assumed power (while also being slightly insecure). Michael Fassbender’s David is probably the most interesting character in the film, and Fassbender plays him exceptionally well. He is an android, and yet he very much seems to be desperately seeking meaning for his existence. Noomi Rapace is good in the film (though, she is playing a British character who does not have a British accent, at least not a very good one, but that aside) in terms of playing the action, physicality and intensity of Shaw.

Summary & score: Tonally, atmospherically and visually, Prometheus is wonderful and should please sci-fi fans, but it is not without some glaring faults, mostly stemming from its writing. 7/10

No comments:

Post a Comment