Sunday, June 10, 2012

Just Seen: Prometheus in 2D

I had read that the 3D was quite good on this show, but it seemed like a distraction. The Alien films (the bland-looking Alien3 being a possible exception) are about stellar art direction and cool sci-fi gadgetry, and 3D seemed like an unneeded distraction. Saw it at the Alameda theatre, a wonderful old movie palace converted into a multiplex (by adding screens next door on both sides, leaving the grand main auditorium intact).

This Alien series prequel is designed to work on several levels: Sci-fi versus horror, spiritual versus scientific exploration, corporate needs versus spiritual needs. These multi-layered conflicts are all explored, to varying levels of completion and coherence.

But the REAL lesson of Prometheus indeed works on two levels, but ones I don't think Ridley Scott intended. The scientists and crew of the good ship Prometheus (unfortunate name choice, IMO) travel to a harsh planet light-years away seeking the answer to the ultimate truth: to find the creators of the human race and the purpose of our existence. I'm definitely not spoiling things to say that what they discover is something of a disappointment-- and a bloodthirsty one at that. As a filmgoer, I was seeking that same sort of old-school, slam-bang, wait-in-line catharsis: the amazing hype for Prometheus got many people I know panting like it was 1979 again ("please don't suck, please don't suck…" is a refrain I saw on more than one Facebook status). Ultimately, It ended up being just another sci-fi film-- better, more mature and original than average, but weighed down by a disconnected, overly busy plot.

Our Dad.
The film begins on a magnificent note: shots of desolate mountains and fjords (shot in Iceland) that culminate with a gigantic bone-white alien-- heroically proportioned and featured, looking like he stepped off an Art Deco mural-- standing at a thundering waterfall. He drinks a catalyst which causes him to disintegrate, his DNA seeding the bleak world, becoming our common genetic ancestor.

There are many awe-inspiring scenes like this in Prometheus, and the last 40 or so minutes is tremendously exciting. but in-between there are dead ends, questions asked and left unanswered, and strangely motivated, "things characters do in a horror film to get themselves killed" action. Noomi Rapace was amazing, ready to take over the series from Sigourney Weaver because A) she has an amazing action-film presence, and B) she looks great in her underwear (Sorry, it's a requirement). Charlize Theron, as the expedition's corporate supervisor, rounds out her "I'm an Awful Human Being" (Young Adult, Snow White and The Huntsman) trilogy. Michael Fassbender steals every scene he's in as David, the ship's android, basically HAL 9000 with a nice haircut.

Don't get me wrong, though-- for all my quibbling, I was still very entertained by Prometheus. It may not be as amazing as Alien was, but it's definitely worth seeing!

Perhaps the most interesting reaction to Prometheus was observed at dinner with our movie companions after the late-afternoon screening. Conversation turned to cocktails, and the fact that beer is rarely used as a mixer. I pointed out that one of the ways you could get a beer in traditional bars is with an egg in it. This drew horrified reactions from those present-- which prompted my wife to point out that egg in your beer drew a stronger reaction than the most extended, graphic, and gory scene (no spoilers!) we had just witnessed on the big screen. Like I said, it works on several levels.

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