Tuesday, June 12, 2012

REVIEW: Prometheus

Yes, it's a prequel to Alien. And no, that's not a spoiler. But Ridley Scott's long-awaited return to the franchise is something much more important: it's the second great film of the year (after The Avengers).

There has been a lot of confusing double-talk about whether this film was a prequel to Scott's 1979 classic. All one has to do is look at the producing credits that show David Giler and Walter Hill's names. They had a hand in producing the first three Alien movies, so that's a giveaway right there.

But while Prometheus both follows in and anticipates the footsteps of Alien, it accomplishes something that's been a hallmark of this series: It isn't quite like any of the other films.

Although this is the first time in this series that a director has repeated, Prometheus is a very different animal from Alien. That was a horror film; Prometheus is not. It's telling that one of the very first images of the film is a DNA stand mutating.

This movie has some scary moments, to be sure, but it's also not mainly an action film like Aliens or a philosophical prison drama like Alien 3, or the strange art house creature feature of Alien: Resurrection. Prometheus is the most pure sci-fi film of the lot, because it dares to ponder not only why we're here, but how we got here. That may disapoint viewers looking looking only for action and horror. The movie throws in some slimy little buggers besides, but it's got a lot more on its plate, and that's all to the good.

It's no surprise that the film looks great. That's true of every Ridley Scott film, including the bad ones, and his use of 3D is a wondrous must-see. But it's most invigorating to see the director truly swing for the fences when he has recently turned out such forgettable fare as Body of Lies and most recently, Robin Hood. This is the first film of the Alien franchise, and Scott's first film since Blade Runner, that truly inspired a sense of wonder in me. A sense of awe, even.

The film is certainly not the equal of Alien or Blade Runner. Prometheus bites off a little more than it should chew, featuring too many characters that makes the focus diffuse at times. Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce aren't used especially well, but that's mitigated by fierce work from Noomi Rapace, and a spellbinding performance by Michael Fassbender as the requisite robot. The model for his performance is inspired. I don't want to give it away, but I'll tell you this - it isn't Ian Holm or Lance Henriksen.

Endless arguements have sprung up about how well the film's logic holds up - or doesn't. But it's important to remember that most sci-fi films worth their salt ask more question than they answer. In an age when Hollywood usually wants to wow only our eyes, it's refreshing to see a movie like Prometheus that wows the mind as well.



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