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Overall Rating
3.11

Awesome: 21.43%
Worth A Look: 10.71%
Average41.07%
Pretty Bad: 10.71%
Total Crap: 16.07%

5 reviews, 26 user ratings


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Prometheus
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Relax, It Is Awesome. . ."
5 stars

From the moment it first began production, "Prometheus" has been one of the most eagerly anticipated films to come along in recent memory. Part of this is because it marks the return of director Ridley Scott to the sci-fi genre that he revolutionized with his landmark classics "Alien" (1979) and "Blade Runner" (1982) before abandoning in order to touch on practically every other type of filmmaking outside of the singing cowboy movie. Part of this was due to rumors that the film was actually going to be the long-awaited prequel to "Alien" that Scott has alluded to wanting to do in interviews many times over the years. Combine that with no firm confirmation or denial about an "Alien"-"Prometheus" connection from anyone involved with its production and a series of trailers that suggested a link without formally admitting as such and the end result was a film with an air of genuine anticipation from critics and fanboys alike that was practically electric. And yet, after "Prometheus" was finally unleashed for its press screenings, the Internet was practically humming for hours with people offering their oblique (so as to avoid violating any review embargoes, of course) murmurs of discontent/disappointment with what they had just seen--even those who have recently given passing grades to such multiplex meatballs as "Men in Black III" and "Snow White" were muttering about how the film just didn't work for them to such a degree that one might have thought that George Lucas had directed it instead of Ridley Scott.

In general, I am loathe to spend any time in my reviews picking apart the comments of my critical brethren or attempting to subscribe motives to opinions that I personally find to be bizarre--after all, I have offered up plenty of singular views over the years and I certainly would like it if any of them did that to me. (However, in the spirit of compromise, I am perfectly willing to mock Rex Reed at the drop of a hat--did you see that gibberish he wrote about "Moonrise Kingdom"?) In the case of "Prometheus," all I can do is assume that the combination of Scott returning to science-fiction and the possibility of doing so within the context of the "Alien" universe" jacked up expectations to such gigantic proportions that anything other than an instant, unambiguous masterpiece would be considered a failure in their eyes. At least that is my fervent hope because the alternate--that a film as crazily ambitious and audacious as this can be rejected despite its obvious qualities simply because it doesn't play out in the expected ways or follow all the rules of contemporary blockbuster filmmaking--is too depressing to contemplate. (From this point on, I will try to keep the divulging of plot elements to an absolute minimum but those of you hoping to go into the film completely spoiler-free might consider stepping away from the review at this point.)

Following a prologue that I will not speak of except to note that you should really be sure to be in your seat when the film starts, the story launches forward to the year 2089 as archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a cave in the Scottish highlands containing drawings that appear to indicate that beings from another world once visited our planet and a map showing where they can be found in return. This is amazing enough but it turns out that similar findings have been made throughout the world in the ruins of ancient cultures that couldn't have possibly known about each other or traded such information. Theorizing that these beings, whom they dub "Engineers," are our actual creators, Shaw (who is interested in them in both a scientific and spiritual sense) and Holloway (who is all about the science and nothing more) inspire aging and incredibly wealthy industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) to fund the construction of a mammoth ship, dubbed Prometheus, that will take them and a team of scientists on a journey to where the Engineers supposedly reside in order to see if they still exist and, if so, to legitimately meet their maker.

Four years later, the ship arrives at the planet, dubbed LV-233, and the crew, after awakening from cryogenic sleep, learn the details of their mission and also discover that Weyland has passed away in the interim. Representing the company on board is human-looking android David (Michael Fassbender), who has passed the time controlling the ship's functions, practicing his basketball shots and watching "Lawrence of Arabia," and the cold-as-space-itself corporate stooge Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) She makes it perfectly clear from the get-go that she considers the mission a complete waste of time and that if they do happen to encounter the Engineers, none of the Prometheus crew are to engage them in any way. Eventually, they touch down on the planet near a mysterious structure and a group of them disembark in order to investigate it and discover the corpse of a being presumed to be an Engineer, a giant statue of a humanoid head and numerous stone cylinders. When more bodies are discovered, the crew assumes that the Engineers are now extinct but when a dangerous storm suddenly brews up, most of them make it back to the ship in time while a couple are forced to stay behind in the structure until the next morning. What no one notices in the confusion is that David has grabbed one of the cylinders to take back to the ship and the others are now beginning to leak an icky black fluid. As you can probably surmise, there is much that happens from this point on and little of it is very good for most of the people involved.

Obviously, the question on everyone''s mind in regards to "Prometheus" is about whether it does serve as a prequel to "Alien" or not and the answer is "sort of but not really." It clearly does take place within the same universe as the "Alien" films and there are the occasional off-hand references to names and locations that will resonate with the hard-core fans of the series. Towards the end, the connections become a little more overt and for the most part, these are the parts of the film that are the least successful because they almost seem designed as a sop to satisfy viewers who might be pissed off that they spent their $12 on--gasp!--an original film and not a long-running series now on either its fifth or seventh installment, depending on whether you count the "Alien vs. Predator" movies or not (and you most certainly should not.) For the most part, however, it is not a literal prequel to the films that we have already seen--instead of ending in a way that directly leads into "Alien," it charts its own distinct narrative that can co-exist with the other films without contradicting them. Where it is most like the original "Alien" is in the way that Scott approaches the material. Instead of flinging monsters and goo at viewers from the outset, as one might expect, he has instead chosen to replicate the structure of the original in that he keeps a lid on the overt shocks and scares in order to slowly build up a sense of tension and dread while at the same time acknowledging the fact that his audience has a better working idea of what the characters can possibly expect to discover and playing around with those very expectations as well. This is a risky move to take--if it goes wrong, the film runs the risk of spinning its wheels for an hour while everyone grows increasingly impatient--and I was surprised to find myself once again completely caught up in the proceedings and dreading the possibilities lurking around each and every darkened corner.

However, unlike last year's unnecessary and fairly misbegotten "The Thing," a film that couldn't decide if it wanted to be a remake or a prequel of John Carpenter's 1982 cult favorite and instead wound up being nothing more than an expensive piece of fan fiction, "Prometheus" is more than able to stand on its own and in fact, it is at his best when Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof are exploring both the new universe they have created and the intriguing metaphysical questions that they raise in their screenplay. Throughout his career, Scott has become an expert at providing viewers with lavishly detailed worlds to frame his narratives (which may be one reason why such frankly contemporary works like "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "Matchstick Men" tend to be somewhat wanting) and "Prometheus" is no exception--this is one of those films where everything is designed in such an imaginatively detailed manner that I can easily see people pausing the Blu-Ray simply just to investigate the visuals in further detail. (Scott even manages to wrestle our old enemy 3-D into submission with a deployment of the format that is, for once, worth shelling out the extra money to experience.) The storyline is also fascinating in the way that, like "Blade Runner," it uses what could have simply been a straightforward genre exercise as a way of grappling with heady metaphysical questions. For example, if we had the chance to actually meet our maker, would we want to actually do it? If so, what would we say to them, especially if we already know that they are not looking too favorably upon us at the moment. Admittedly, the film never quite answers all the questions that it raises but in a funny way, I didn't mind that so much, partly because it seems silly to expect a movie to fully answer the basic questions of existence that have haunted mankind throughout its existence and partly because it forces the viewer to engage with what is going on in a more direct manner rather than having everything spoon-fed to them. Besides, by leaving things open-ended, the film leaves the door open for future installments that further grapple with the concepts it raises.

That said, I don't want to give the impression that "Prometheus" is just an extended meditation on the existence of mankind and its relationship to the universe--something like "Tree of Life" with spacesuits--because once the film starts going for the more overtly horrific in the second half, it works perfectly well on those terms and then some. Veering effortlessly between jumbo-sized action beats and smaller moments in which we are never quite sure what is out there in the darkness, Scott keeps the excitement and tension going throughout in ways that strike an interesting balance between the haunted house thrills of "Alien" and the hardware-heavy action beats of James Cameron's "Aliens." There is one crackerjack sequence--I won't reveal any of the details but you will know it when you see it--that imaginatively mixes up action and tension along with our knowledge of what the alien creatures are capable of doing, tosses in a nifty new bit of hardware to complicate things and the end result is a bit of pure filmmaking of such a bravura nature that even the film's naysayers will have to grudgingly admit that it works on every possible level. Also helping to drive along the excitement is the strong and muscular lead performance from Noomi Rapace as Shaw. Happily, while the character is no mere Ripley clone--she has her own unique backstory and quirks to play with--she does share an intelligence and fierce determination that is rarely found in female sci-fi characters and Rapace, like Sigourney Weaver before her, is just the right actress to bring those elements out while still coming across like a real person. Her performances in the "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" movies may have made her an international sensation but this film confirms once and for all that she is indeed a star.

"Prometheus" is not without its flaws--I wish that Charlize Theron's character could have had a little more to do, I wish that some of the expository dialogue delivered by the ship's captain (Idris Elba) could have been a little less on the nose and I wish that a certain participant's name could have been eliminated from the opening credits for reasons that you will understand after seeing the film. However, when a film comes around that takes as many risks as this one--both in terms of its own narrative and its place in the entire "Alien" franchise--and pulls off most of them to boot, those stumbles are easy to overlook. (Who knows, maybe Scott will rethink them in some future cut of the film as he has done some times before in the past.) As for the hostile reaction from some of the early reviews, there is some small comfort to be had in the fact that neither the original "Alien" nor "Blade Runner" received universal critical acclaim when they were first released (and the latter was a notorious non-starter at the box-office as well) and only became canonized as classics a few years down the line. While I wouldn't presume to elevate "Prometheus" to their level quite yet, there is an excellent chance that history may repeat itself again because for all its admitted flaws, this is the kind of bold filmmaking destined to stand the test of time when memories of most of its competitors have faded from memory--even I find myself liking it more and more as I get a little more distance from it to savor its glories. Why wait 20-odd years to figure this out when you can go out and discover it for yourselves right now?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23147&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/08/12 00:03:50
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User Comments

10/30/16 morris campbell flawed but interesting gets better with repeat viewings 4 stars
4/02/16 David Hollingsworth Incoherent, misguided and pointless 1 stars
10/29/13 Charles Tatum Worthy, awesome prequel 5 stars
8/16/13 Mr. Appa Visually stunning, worst old man makeup, worst dialog, worst acting 2 stars
8/12/13 herbert excellent--can't wait 4 the sequel 5 stars
7/21/13 Ronin My expectations were too high. The Android is most interesting thing there 3 stars
1/29/13 M. Broxtermann Classic, intelligent SF, with a touch of horror. 5 stars
11/09/12 Eric Stevens EYE-EYE-EYE SEE you Hollywood tricksters- remaking much better films- Shame on you! 2 stars
11/02/12 JP Ward *sigh* 3 stars
10/22/12 mr.mike Intriguing and demands a second viewing. 4 stars
10/21/12 mwilde horrrible 1 stars
9/12/12 Langano Critics are giving it too much credit, lacks substance. 2 stars
7/13/12 Man Out Six Bucks Hell at least it's not a reboot 4 stars
6/20/12 Dr. Isaksson Brett, your review was stunning. I am right with u on all of it. 4 stars
6/18/12 Jiz An empty film more about the scenery than the narrative. Decent, but third act was dull. 3 stars
6/17/12 tooktheredpill wow, bad script and idiotically stupid in parts. 2 stars
6/17/12 Bob Dog A dumb horror movie. 1 stars
6/15/12 Davo Brilliant, just go and see it ! 5 stars
6/15/12 Flipsider This movie will make you think... about how dumb the script is. 2 stars
6/14/12 drdanny Gorgeous to look at, but unsatisfying. 3 stars
6/12/12 action movie fan well cfrafted but dull film alien 1979 was far better in every way 2 stars
6/11/12 KingNeutron Good sci-fi movie; some plot holes, but it should make you think 4 stars
6/11/12 GLC Awesome. A tremendous movie. You can think about it or just enjoy it. 5 stars
6/10/12 K. Sear Fun but not a piece of genius. Worth a look. 4 stars
6/08/12 radium56 Hell yeah! I find the movie perfectly fits Sobczynski's review IMHO. Go&see&have fun! 5 stars
6/08/12 PAUL SHORTT GOOD-LOOKING QUASI-PREQUEL TO ALIEN, WITH GOOD PERFORMANCES 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  08-Jun-2012 (R)
  DVD: 09-Oct-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  08-Jun-2012
  DVD: 09-Oct-2012




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