Thursday, June 7, 2012

Prometheus (2012) movie review

Overall verdict: 9.5/10

The Good: Gripping tone of mystery and suspense, exceptional visual effects, delves into deep philosophical questions, metaphorically heavy yet easily appreciated on all levels, impeccable cast chemistry and top notch performances, curious sequel set up

The Bad: Not scary at all despite being advertised as Sci/fi horror, plot twists become predictable,

According to Greek myth, Prometheus the titan molded man from clay and stole fire from the God's; a fire which can nurture life as much as destroy it when misused. For his actions, Prometheus is punished to suffer eternally. After the discovery of ancient star maps across several ancient civilisation ruins, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Halloway postulate that extraterrestrial beings were somehow the progenitors of the human race; the star maps reveal other planets that the so called alien "Engineers" may have visited . They are tasked by the Weyland Corporation, under supervision from the cold calculating Merdith Vickers, to lead a team to a distant world in order to discover the mystery of humanity's origin. Yet some among them would follow in the mythical Prometheus' footsteps and dare to plunder the secrets of these alien "gods" for their own gain.

Big ideas and double metaphors abound in Ridley Scott's spiritual successor and very loose prequel to his 1979 "Alien" masterpiece. Though set in the same universe, Prometheus has less in common with Alien's chilling, shock horror genre and more in common with the contemplative 2001: A Space Odyssey; yet it's marketing campaign leads us to believe otherwise. Thankfully, a lack of scares does not mean a lack of suspense. Questions are slowly unraveled through the course of the film while maintaining palpable tension and a sense of "something is not quite right".

The well paced mystery plot is complemented by some fine performance, most notably Michael Fassbender as the android David and Charlize Theron as Vickers. One a creation embracing his creator's traits, the other a woman burying her humanity. Similarly, most of the characters exist as mirror opposites of each other that break the typical stereotypes for such familiar characters in a science fiction movie; the faithful Shaw and the skeptical Holloway, the overly cautious hot headed Fifield and the overly curious Milburn. Even Captain Janek, whom the scientists originally think of as merely a dumb space jockey (pun pun), breaks the stereotypical "tough black guy" mold. If it were not for their terrific chemistry and realistic portrayal of their characters, the dialogue heavy nature of the film would have weighed it down.

Where Alien's look was dark, claustrophobic and eerie, Prometheus is generally bright, wide and grand though still equally unsettling. Weta, the company behind the special effects of James Cameron's AVATAR have once again brought their best efforts to the table giving Prometheus much visual splendor. From the intricately designed vehicles to the surreal alien constructions, every effects shot is a work of art in itself. The film score by Marc Streitenfeld and Harry Gregson Williams keeps this feel of grandeur; the kind of wondrous uplifting theme that invokes images of explorers braving uncharted frontiers in search of the unknown. It is a positive theme, which makes its coupling with the unsettling tone of the film so much more disturbing.

But what is there to set this apart from your typical space exploration, extraterrestrial encounter movie? It is how this movie challenges the audience to think. Within Prometheus' many philosophical touches runs a cautionary tale of mankind's increasing hubris. When analysing the DNA of a dead alien Engineer, Dr Shaw exclaims, "It's us". Thus, the metaphor is complete: the Engineers represent humanity's dark future. Like their extraterrestrial creators, humans have created life in their own image, personified in the uncannily human "David" android. They seek to transcend mortality, they seek to create, to conquer; their greatest pride is the creation of their greatest weapons. Should their creations not satisfy, they have no qualms about eradicating their "mistake". In the process of self advancement, they lose their fundamental humanity, becoming cold, distant, inhuman. Alien. But in seeking to become like Gods themselves, their greatest pride will one day become their undoing.

Aside from a predictable final 5 minutes, Prometheus is almost perfect in every way. Overall, the film might not be the Alien prequel some were expecting. But it manages to be Science Fiction at it's finest with something for everyone to enjoy. Hardcore science dudes would have a thrill picking apart the metaphors and throwing out wild predictions on the various mysteries presented.For fans of the Alien franchise, be on the look out for the numerous references to previous titles and a delicious little teaser. For the casual crowd, there is enough eye candy here with great performances set against a  gripping suspense tale. Only adrenaline pumped action junkies may be a little disappointed by the lack of said action. Like Alien before it, Prometheus seems set up to open a whole new universe of sequel possibilities.

*****************************Review End******************

Go For it: if you have grown tired of loud but intellectually empty summer blockbusters and would like to see a true science fiction movie that never panders to it's audience; one that will keep you guessing long after the film is over
Avoid it: if you were mislead into expecting a nail biting space horror in the vein of the original Alien or if you prefer your "all boom and no brain" summer blockbuster

Entertainment: A
Story: A-
Acting: A
Characters: A-
Music: A
Replay value: A
"Brains": A-

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