Friday, June 08, 2012

Ridley Scott's "Prometheus": a story that swallows "Alien(s)"

I have a special blog, “Films on Major Challenges to Freedom”, and I’ve reviewed a few post-apocalypse genre thrillers there.  I usually cover there movies that present threats that really could change our way of life (or end it) for good.

Stephen Hawking has warned us that our SETI self-broadcasts could, given enough time (relative to the speed of light) invite hostile aliens back who might toy with us as in the film “Independence Day” or the shows “V” or “Falling Skies”, or maybe even “The Event”.   But what if we went to a planet that had a beacon first? Is it really credible that our merely landing there, maybe on a Titan-like moon in a solar system 20 light years away, could invite destructive retaliation against us in a few decades?  (If it's going to happen, it probably will anyway, I think.)  Could a journey to the source of our beginnings lead to our end?

That’s the ultimate premise of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi thriller “Prometheus”, opening today, available in IMAX, 3D, or both.  It’s said to be a “prequel” for the “Alien” franchise (which Scott started in 1979 for the same studio, 20th Century Fox – when will that become 21st Century?)

On a certain level, Noomi Rapace replaces Sigourney Weaver, except that here Noomi is still Lizbeth (or Elizabeth) from the Dragon Tattoo series, not Ripley.  And the look of the Titan-like outpost (it is mountainous, arid with haboobs and intricate sheltered caves that nurture certain kinds of life, as might happen on Titan), somewhat recalls “Alien”, but there are differences.  For one thing – I hope this isn’t too much a spoiler – there are two sets of alien enemies.  The humanoids who seeded Earth to form us (opening scene) are still from somewhere else.  And the biological concepts resemble that of the original movie, but with more twists.  We get to see a robotic Caesarean, complete with staples, for one thing. 

David (Michael Fassbinder) seems like a likable  gay male human with very mild Asperger’s, and hardly has the personality of a robot, even if he stays alive when decapitated. Charlize Theron, as boss lady Meredith Vickers, will do anything for good of the company, but she has the same personality as the evil queen in “Snow White”.  We want a better fate for Dr. Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), but then again, the perils that the explorers find them in are not very survivable.  The arch corporate boss, a withered Peter Weyland (a made-up Guy Pearce), is pretty much another Stefano (from “Days of our Lives”).  But at least his power serves a purpose bigger than himself – to answer the ultimate question.  Peter never had any real kids, just David.

The orchestral music score (very properly British in mood) sounds like a cross between Holst and Alwyn, with a soaring theme with a melodic seventh note; the credits list the composer as Marc Streitenfeld.  A Chopin prelude (D-flat) is used.  When will film scorers discover Chopin’s curious last two nocturnes? Franz Liszt wrote a bombastic 20-minute tone poem named "Prometheus", but I didn't detect it. 

The official site is here (from Fox, Dune Entertainment and Scott-Free Films.  I saw this at the Regal in Ballston, Arlington today in 3-D; the left channel in auditorium 6 had trouble with acoustic feedback in heavy bass passages.

Some of the outdoor scenes were shot in Iceland.   The look of the film is always fascinating; one of the best scenes artistically is a ménage of holograms of solar systems made to look like biological cells.  The alien life forms seem to merge the living with artificial structure, in overpowering and dominating, dark sculptures. The studio work seems to be been done in the UK.

Regal today had about 20 minutes of previews (too many), plus a 5-minute 3-D short film extracted from Ang Lee’s upcoming “Life of Pi”, with a boy, a tiger, and lots of fish on a raft.

Wikipedia attribution link of NASA picture of Titan crater.

Update: February 8, 2013.

I purchased the Blue-Ray DVD at a Best Buy.  There is an expanded beginning (with other aliens) and end, with some clarification in the commentary about where "home" is.  About thirty minutes of expanded scenes from the film are offered. 

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