Wednesday, June 13, 2012

At the Mountains of Madness - in Space!

Prometheus is everything I'd hoped and more. Not just a welcome escape from the parade of geek-bait saturating the multiplex this summer, but a complex tale that draws on the best traditions of science fiction.

And it is really damn pretty.

I should talk about that first because Prometheus has the most gorgeous cinematography this side of Herzog. Long, sweeping views of primordial Earth at the start, followed by wide extraterrestrial planes and ancient ruins that manage to be both alien and familiar. Even at his worst Ridley Scott has one of the best visual sense in the business and it feels like he's been saving it for a decade just to do Prometheus right.

Hell, just gimme this on a loop and a bottle of absinthe...

So it's got the right look. That's important in a genre film, whatever else it may be going for. Prometheus goes for a lot and succeeds at it. Completely. Those reviews you see fussing over parts that don't make sense or whether or not it's a true Alien prequel? Written by idiots, the lot of 'em. Because it does make sense and Scott rightly does not care to make this a prequel. It's in the same universe as the previous film, nothing more.

Maybe all the critics have been watching meatheads in spandex for so long it's atrophied their brains. Prometheus is awash in big themes that are easy to spot - parents and children (with parallels to Man and God), meaning and absurdity, creation narratives and existential terror. The sort of heavy shit you find in novels by Philip K. Dick (or even Alastair Reynolds when he's not being a gizmo fetishizing git). And you don't get answers to these questions, which is the whole point. Jesus, I'm having to defend ambiguity in film? Has everyone been traumatized by the shallow attempts at this in "indie" films or are you all just that fucking stupid!?

No, that's a rant for another time. We're still on a happier topic here...


A film trying to present Big Ideas can fail hard - like said "indie" trash - but Prometheus makes it work thanks to a brilliant cast. There's not one actor wasted or character you want to see killed off. Even Charlize Theron as the bloodless corporate oligarch is multilayered and sympathetic. Noomi Rapace goes from cuddly scientist to iron-willed survivor believably and Idris Elba is fantastic as always even though he's not allowed to use his natural English accent. The studio was probably afraid Daniel Craig would be out of a job if he did. I think the world's ready for a black James Bond, don't you?

But the absolute best is Michael Fassbender as the android David. He steals the show and is so deserving of Best Actor you know it will never happen. He mixes a refined, intellectual maturity with the emotional immaturity of a repressed teenager - petulant, vengeful, and terrifying. The alien bioweapons are just doing their thing, like any other animal. David displays the real malice. And even then, he's not a villain. Fassbender plays him as almost a coming-of-age character - which fits back into the dynamics of parents and children as explored in the film. Explored ruthlessly and without easy answers, as it should be.

My God, I'm full of stars!

I haven't touched on the story, have I? It's a bunch of scientists going to check out a planet ancient people drew a map to. Bad shit happens. You could sum up Blade Runner just as briefly and it would also be leaving out all the really important parts. In fact, I'd argue Blade Runner is in the same universe too seeing as Scott explored similar concepts and the critics were similarly stupified because they're stupid. Roy Batty goes to meet his maker, as Peter Weyland, and the outcomes are similarly nasty for all involved. I'm trying not to spoil things for once because you should go see this. Hell, I'm going to see it again. In imax!

'Cause this right here is it. This is 2012 in film. The rest is noise.

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