Monday, June 11, 2012

Review: PROMETHEUS: Big doin's in Toy Town

What are you DOING, Dave?
Here's my problem with Prometheus: a character I'll call Victor does something very nasty to another character I'll call Victim. Victim started out in the film as a confident and likeable figure but soon undercuts his own appeal, largely through his constant baiting of Victor. At the climax of their antipathy there is only one person who emotes for Victim and they are not sitting in the auditorium.

This lack of empathy between the screen and its audience isn't always a problem; an action movie really only needs a drop of this so that the stress of the action can reach out. It is a problem here because the film sets out to show big questions pursued by small people. This isn't irony. They're serious. But put it all together and you get a quest for meaning carried out by spoiled brats.

My lack of religion does not prevent me from comprehending religious feeling in characters. I don't need to believe in demons to enjoy The Exorcist. When Michael Fassbender's character David is verbally separated from the rest of the team on the good spaceship Prometheus on the grounds that he does not have a soul he is visibly affected. The others note the difference, too. That's all fine for the narrative if it's used to make something. The most it amounts to at the end is a question of a single character's state of belief. The answer given is unsurprising and by that stage all but irrelevant to the promise of a new quest. It's not as though the religion is affirmed nor even seriously questioned. It's just there as it would be in a Mormon cooking program.

The reason I'm going on about this rather than talking about the plot or the performances is that I don't think either of those elements are given much weight against the confused scioreligion rendered so half-arsed by the always impressive action sequences and great CGI.  Michael Fassbender continues to demonstrate why he is on our big screens so much of late. Noomi Rapace is as good here as she was in the Dragon Tattoo films, if less interesting. Charlize Theron impresses in a tighly drawn and thankless role. Everyone else is all but monster fodder. Some early attempts at imputing life into them are good but dispensed with early and summarily. Game over. Well, that's what it feels like.

I'm not really a fanboy of anything anymore. I haven't needed to replace that with some blustery old notion of qualitah cinema, either. But watching the splendid blu-ray of Alien just after seeing this at the cinema brought something forward: after seeing Alien for the first time in 1980 I had a dark and stressful nightmare which included my guarding of a haunted house whose windows opened up like the alien's mouths; after seeing Prometheus I went and had a drink with my cinecompanion, chatted a little about the movie and moved on to other conversation.

This is Ridley Scott's world and he can do what he likes with it. He's planning a number of sequels to close the gap between this and Alien (oh, one thing: why does this story, set decades before Alien, feature superior technology?) which will either fulfil the promise made at the end of Prometheus (and render Alien nonsensical) or will fail at its quest and render itself pointless. I find this idea interesting while I type this sentence but probably won't as I start my next one.

Again, that's my beef with this piece: great action with beautifully imagined new toys and ingrained with a big question but I just couldn't care less about it.

1 comment:

  1. I was certain that I was going to suffer those post-apocalyptic nightmare that both Alien and Aliens gave me; but no. Definitely a little underwhelming. I watched Alien the morning before heading off to this and found the lack of the sinister darkness to be the most obvious omission. To some degree Prometheus almost might as well have been a Michael Bay film. Seems the the golden age of sci-fi can't be artificially resuscitated by even the most convincingly fastidious cybernetic life forms.