My previous post was a litany of complaints about movie theaters. Thus, I feel compelled to review the new Ridley Scott film “Prometheus”. Why? Because it falls into a web of sci-fi gimmickry that Scott assiduously avoided in “Alien” and “Bladerunner”. These were great films whose few faults were easily overlooked and absorbed as suspended disbelief by all but the most anal retentive among us.
“Prometheus” is not like that. It had some dumb stuff that was so dumb it reverberates with dumbness long after you leave the theater. Before I draw out the long knives, I’ll give the devil his due: the film made efforts to address bigger questions (a rarity in Hollywood) and was epic in sweep, featuring stunning cinematography and CGI stuff. In fact, the opening ground rush sequences were so breathtaking I’d have preferred two more hours of that rather than two hours of the sci-fi stuff.
Now, the problems: the script. This was either the death of a thousand edits or some really lazy work. Unlike previous films where Scott likes to portray his cast as gritty and human (with all the foibles that entails), this crew really are a bunch of morons. Gone is the street-smart, wisecracking crew of “Alien”, replaced with a bunch of genuine idiots. Only the captain seems to have marginal competence; the rest are a bunch of brooding assholes I wouldn’t hire for a day job at the cannery. Their interplay felt forced and stilted and their vocabulary was carefully limited to Disney audience levels.
And now, we descend into the truly irritating…
Hint: just because the air is OK in one area of a distant and potentially dangerous planet’s unknown atmosphere, that does NOT mean it’s OK to take off your helmet. This time-worn Hollywood staple of removing your helmet because “HEY! The air is OK!” is an idiotic and shallow excuse to allow the camera a better view of the Hollywood stars. Seriously, man: you’re going to remove your helmet and just leave it on the ground somewhere and walk all around an alien world that measured as poisonous just moments before? No. That’s some stupid shit.
Then there’s the the categorically dumb move of getting close to an alien monster and pretending it’s a puppy. And let’s not omit the fundamental cognitive disconnect of the film’s premise: that an alien species seeded Earth with the DNA that became humanity. Despite a childish CGI display that shows the DNA is a match, the question of how our DNA is nearly identical to chimpanzee DNA (as well as the other markers that show our obvious and indisputable location on the tree of Earth life) is debated for about 5 seconds in the film, then ignored. If I had to guess, the film’s producers didn’t want Christian fundamentalists leaving the theaters in droves because Darwinism was supported; instead, the film provides a few moments of cloying respect for the lead’s Christian faith in order to keep the Bible Belt goombah’s in their seats.
This whole “connection” to humans on Earth doesn’t even need to exist for the film to maintain its narrative. We could concoct ample other reasons to be drawn to that planet.
Finally: the cast. Michael Fassbender is so damn talented that he largely held this hole-filled film aloft. In portraying a monotone robot he had more depth than any other character in the movie. A tragically mis-cast Noomi Rapace has one look on her face – starry-eyed aloofness – that she maintains throughout. There is a nigh a furrowed brow in her oeuvre. I kept thinking that she could have been replaced by the equally aloof Audrey Tautou, if that’s what they were looking for. At least Tautou has more tools in her garage.
I’m not harshing on Rapace. I think she was selected for the “Girl With…” films specifically because of that aspect of her character and she was so good at it that no one can find fault with her portrayal. It was sublime. But we should face facts that she is not, and will not be, an epic sci-fi film heroine. Some reviewers have criticized her as weak sauce compared to Sigourney Weaver. This is unfair. Rapace has charms Weaver lacks; this was all a case of tragically bad casting, nothing more.
Which reminds me: Rapace grew up in Iceland and Sweden. Why is this film trying to pretend she’s British? Why name her “Elizabeth Shaw”? Every time she opens her mouth it’s obvious she’s Scandinavian. Why not just name her “Elisabet Lindholm”? Is that hard? Will audiences not understand that? And before I walk away from casting complaints: why did they include the very gifted actress Kate Dickie and then dispatch her to the background? Hell, she’d have made a better lead than Rapace, but I guess Kate’s nose is too big for American audiences. *sigh*
Finally, the whole thrust of the story and the cause of the frenetic last half hour is left unexplained. Normally, this would be OK; good sci-fi leaves conceptual elements open for interpretation and allows you to make cognitive leaps on your own. But since the rest of the film is written and paced like a Disney flick, why can’t we be told why our forebears suddenly want us destroyed? The answer may appear in the follow-up film, but I’m kinda watching THIS film right now and would like to know why our Creators suddenly turned on us.
One theory being bandied about is that our outer space forebears are purposefully seeding planets with humanity so the evil aliens have planets to exploit for reproduction, leaving our forebear’s planet alone in the process. But then why warn us with archeological hints? I dunno. I just get angry when I think about it. Fuck this movie. Suffice it to say my disbelief failed to be suspended. “Prometheus” had promise, but Scott let it run away from him. He shouldn’t have.