Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Prometheus Unbound by Basic Logic

Prometheus: written by John Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, based on characters and concepts created by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Walter Hill, and Ridley Scott; directed by Ridley Scott; starring Noomi Rapace (Liz Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Idris Elba (Janek), Guy Pearce (Weyland), and Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway) (2012): The prequel to Alien (but only Alien and not the sequels or attendant Predator prequels), Prometheus looks fantastic and moves beautifully. I wasn't bored, and I didn't look at my watch for the whole two hours. Admittedly, that had something to do with the extremely comfortable theatre seats, but still...

On the other hand, Prometheus is a hilarious mess when it comes to science, character motivation, and basic plot logic. Somehow, this enriches the experience. You'll have a lot to talk about when you're done. Boy, howdy.

Billions of years ago, aliens start life on Earth. Well, maybe they start animal life on Earth because there's definitely vegetable life on Earth in the scenes we see. In truth, what they do makes no evolutionary sense, so I'm instead going to say that billions of years ago, an alien visiting Earth got drunk, passed out, and fell into Niagara Falls. Billions of years later and thousands of years ago, giant aliens left star maps all over the world pointing to a particular solar system.

And in the year 2091, a nefarious trillionaire named Peter Weyland (yes, the Weyland corporation, as of 2091 not yet joined with Yutani) sends a mission on the starship Prometheus to that star system for his own sinister purposes. The archaeologist who figured out the whole star map thing, Liz Shaw (Noomi Rapace), goes along, as does her partner/life-partner, a bunch of cannon fodder, an annoying business woman (Charlize Theron), a curious robot (Michael Fassbender), and an accordion-playing captain (The Wire's Idris Elba).

And in case you're wondering, the planet (well, technically a moon) they land on is not the planet from Alien. This is LV-223; that was LV-426. I note this to save you a lot of time trying to figure out how things ended up like they did for the beginning of Alien on this planet. It's not the same planet. Though if you want to believe they are the same planets to simulate our confused discussion at the end of the film, you'll have a good time coming up with scenarios that put the fossilized, gut-busted Pilot back in that funky space chair surrounded by giant eggs.

In any case, the Prometheus arrives at LV-223. Rather than survey the entire planet, it lands at the first visible structure. Against the Captain's warnings that sundown is coming (a warning that really only makes a huge amount of sense if the Captain's last mission was to the Planet of the Vampires), the scientists proceed to rush into the structure. Needless to say, shenanigans ensue, many of them caused by the simple fact that this is the dumbest crew of any Alien movie, dumber even than the crew in the godawful Alien Resurrection.

The pacing and visual design really carry this movie. It looks great. It moves like a rollercoaster. And Rapace (Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Fassbender as curious robot David, and Elba as the Captain put in strong performances. Fassbender especially stands out, his character ultimately sympathetic despite the crappy things he does, or is ordered to do. There are clever character bits throughout related to David's fascination with Lawrence of Arabia and the Captain's interest in Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Theron is suitably icy playing, well, Paul Reiser in Aliens.

References and allusions are shovelled into the movie willynilly, and perhaps even higgily-piggily. Scott's own directorial efforts Alien (natch) and Blade Runner, Aliens, The Thing, several Doctor Who serials, the nightmarish Space: 1999 episode with the crazy-ass tentacle monster, David Cronenberg's The Fly, H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountains of Madness, Quatermass and the Pit...it goes on.

Does anyone connected with the writing of this movie show the faintest understanding of how evolution works and how DNA develops? Hell, no. But to paraphrase a line from another Ridley Scott movie, I was entertained. Recommended.

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