Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Prometheus (Ridley Scott)

The monolith head.

It's not a highly intelligent science fiction film or a purely imaginative Ridley Scott creation. But what makes "Prometheus" a picture that is worthy of all the hype that it has amassed throughout its promotional phase is one word that Ridley Scott was able to strongly uphold: audacity. 

Even now, I can't say if "Prometheus" is really necessary because however original this companion piece may be, the first "Alien" film will always stand on its own strong feet as an untouchable and seminal science fiction work that dared the darker mysteries of outer space like never before and, probably, never again. 

Being announced as an indirect prelude to the events in "Alien", it's given that "Prometheus" will hand out some answers to things that the said sci-fi horror classic have left quite ambiguous for so many years. And with its trailers leaving an impression that this will certainly be a film of significant magnitude, it's also given that this will also expand the "Alien" universe even more. 

The result is certainly not the greatest prequel or Ridley Scott film that we'll ever see, but it is, nonetheless, a brave piece of filmmaking that clarifies as much as it raises new questions and is also a science fiction film that balances the scares with some far-reaching concepts of human creation. 

It stars Noomi Rapace of the "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" fame as the perfect actress to channel Sigourney Weaver's intense portrayal of bravery and claustrophobic fear in the "Alien" films as Ellen Ripley. Here, Rapace plays Elizabeth Shaw, an archeologist who, along with a ragtag crew with the same intent for discovery, was commissioned by the mysterious Weyland Corporation (look for a geriatric Guy Pearce) to brave the far reaches of the outer space and land on a distant planet to unearth a key that may or may not hold the answer to our deepest inquiries about the origin of the human race, or its annihilation. 

Aided by a humanoid named David (Michael Fassbender), who's greatly fascinated with Peter O'Toole's turn as T.E. Lawrence in "Lawrence of Arabia", and watched upon by an antagonistic Weyland Corporation representative named Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), the team set on to do what they were tasked to do, but not without some magnified mishaps or two. 

For a science fiction film dealing with the typical 'mission gone wrong', 'not knowing what we're dealing with here' theme, "Prometheus" is strictly a standard venture. But despite of that, it's still a high concept film that may surely be flawed at some point, but is nevertheless thought-provoking both as a prequel and as a stand-alone film. 

Opening with a highly unusual scene of a muscular, Dr. Manhattan-like creature that looks more like a character taken from a 'sword and sorcery' film rather than from the world of hard science fiction, "Prometheus" introduces itself as a tall cinematic mythology. And with this type of prologue of sorts, Ridley Scott is evidently on to something here that's bigger in conceptual scope compared to the first "Alien" film. 

But with such expansive ambition is a most critical issue of whether or not it can really deliver the promised goods. Like 2011's sleeper hit "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", "Prometheus" is a film that is burdened with the pressure of conveying a very interesting story that can hold its own ground but can also pull off a great feat of patching up questions of origin. 

For some veteran directors armed with such films as "Alien" and "Blade Runner" in their resumes, it's not that unusual at this point in their lives to be highly contented with what they have contributed to the film industry. Look at George Lucas and his countless re-releases of "Star Wars" and you'll know what I'm talking about. However, for Mr. Scott, it seems as if he's veering away from what Mr. Lucas, right now, is doing. 

Instead of squeezing dry a highly lucrative franchise like "Alien", and with that I mean desperately pitting an aged Sigourney Weaver once more with the wretched Xenomorph in a most ill-advised "Alien 5", Ridley Scott, nearing the twilight of his career, is brave and still confident enough not to do that but has instead created something that merely revisits the franchise but whose main intent is to refresh it. 

The result may be imperfect, but what I adore most about "Prometheus" is not much about the very execution itself, although it has great merits of its own (particularly the strong performances by Rapace, Theron and Fassbender), but the sheer bravery of touching and expanding "Alien's" cinematic universe while also maintaining the integrity of narrative originality.

Surely, fans may be infuriated by how, in some ways, "Prometheus" has ruined the simplistic mystery and horror of 1979's "Alien" by way of its exposition. Though that can surely be a case in point, I admire how the film took a more mythological approach to counter "Alien's" style of silent, straightforward terror. 

"Prometheus", as a prequel, gave enough answers regarding how one of the most despised movie creatures of all time came to be. But with that, the film has also left fresh new questions to ponder about. Not since "Blade Runner" have I ever been more satisfied with how Ridley Scott has left some things open.


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