Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prometheus


PROMETHEUS: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron (124 min.)

Going into Prometheus expecting to see Alien is a mistake.  There are indeed direct links between Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece and his latest film, but as these two are held up in comparison, there is very little similar.  Alien aimed towards a calm, quiet, nerve-jangling tension and hit the mark with an eerie and seminal film.  Prometheus has the director pointing the other direction, aiming for bold and broad strokes of a science fiction epic with its eye on bigger questions.  It is a masterful opus where the ambition and energy of Ridley Scott returning to space can be felt in nearly every scene.  Ultimately, the philosophical picture may never come into focus.  Where it may aim high and miss at times regarding the dawn of man, Prometheus makes up in the pure power of spectacle, beauty, and ambition, and a nice mixture of talent.

Prometheus is the name of the ship carrying a seventeen-member crew across outer space to a faraway planet.  The year is 2093, and two Doctors, Elizabeth and Charlie, have discovered a code in cave paintings from around Earth.  They see the same pattern in each of the paintings between societies that would have never shared the same space.  It must be a message.  It could have answers as to where we came from as a human race, and it could give us insight in to who made us.  Thus, the symbol has led them to a star system in the far reaches of the universe where there may be a planet able to sustain life.  Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) is a "true believer" who wears a cross around her neck and chooses to believe in a higher power.  She is dating Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green), the second doctor, and a sceptic who supports Darwinism and cannot understand Elizabeth's beliefs.  "It's what I choose to believe," she says.

The crew of the Prometheus includes Meredith Vickers, the corporate representative behind the ship's company, Weyland.  Vickers is played by Charlize Theron, and she is cold and selfish, looking out for the company over the crew.  Idris Elba plays Janek, the streetwise pilot of the ship who has his moments in the film.  But the most intriguing crew member is David, a robot played by the increasingly impressive Michael Fassbender.  David is vital to the success of the ship, and subsequently the film itself.  He adores Lawrence of Arabia, fashions himself after the blond Peter O'Toole, and desperately wishes he were human.  Well, of course David is not given a soul so he cannot technically feel or want, but there is a yearning behind David' robotic eyes.  And that is the power of Fassbender in the role.

They find a structure clearly made by higher intelligence so they decide to land and explore, uncovering a detailed structure with an interesting statue.  Without giving anything away - and there are a great number of details and developments within the structure - I will say the crew runs into intelligent life in different forms, and things do not turn out to be what Elizabeth had hoped.  Events begin to spiral out of control as the crew discovers at every turn they are out of their element.  This is where the questions are put on hold in order for Scott to flex his muscle and do a little blood letting.  But he keeps his focus in these action sequences and keeps the intensity ramped up.  The creatures our crew runs into is like nothing I have seen in alien films, and is quite a daring species aesthetically... But I don't want to ruin it.  There are so many wonderful moments and scenes I could discuss, but they would spoil the film.  Let me just say its a good thing that automated self-surgery machine is on board.

Prometheus aims at the highest most intellectual levels of science fiction, which exists on more sturdy ground as a genre when there are ideas and questions being asked.  It asks questions, and doesn't quite answer them.  Which is fine, because an answer is not as important as getting the question out there.  There may be some threads dropped and a few logic and spatial distractions I had at times, but it is hard to pick on a film as creative and imaginative as this, a film that is hypnotizing in its beauty at times, and a film that begins with a bold and compelling opening scene and honestly and truly attempts to go bigger with every scene.  And the performances are right in line with the picture.  Perhaps Scott has uncovered a new Ripley in the strong and sharp performance from Rapace.  It is an energetic film with the audacity to aim high in a summer season where it would be much easier to aim lower.

A-