Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Love: Prometheus

The instant the credits began rolling on Prometheus I was ready to run back home and rapidly type what likely would have been a dissertation-sized love note in filled with all caps ramblings, exclamation points, and non-ironically used ironic txt message declarations of enthusiasm and adoration: all the retainer-spittle gushy bits of your standard issue geekgasm.  I'll give you the short version now: I fucking loved Prometheus.  It is everything I could hope for in a film with Alien DNA.  It is all that I could ask for from Ridley Scott's first sci-fi outing in decades.  It is elegant, exacting, beautiful, and evokes a sort of cinematographical ecstasis.  In writing that sentence, I come dangerously close to teetering away from any sort of semi-sane tone into a deep dark pit of fan-kid glee. Yes. That's right. Space exploration gone horribly wrong makes me extremely extremely happy when done correctly. Prometheus has been done correctly.  I want to watch it again.  I want to watch it right now.  I'm not kidding.  How often do I say this?  Never.  Seriously. I will pay the $12 to go back and watch it in 3D again even though it's only been a matter of days.  That is the honest truth. And you're like..."Wait.  You're doing it.  You're doing that nerdy freak-out thing.  You're not telling me anything important."  You are right.  I apologize.
If you can, dismiss the question as to whether or not Prometheus is explicitly an Alien prequel.  While it is indeed a film set in the same universe as those films, and will likely be appreciated far more by those initiated into them at a young and tender age (yes, me), it manages to be an upstanding work of science fiction without the burden of that other story line to live up to.  In a cinematic landscape littered with sequels, remakes, board games, and first contacts designed solely to 'blow up real good', Prometheus is positively regal in its bearing.  When he bothers to make an effort, Ridley Scott is something of a visionary within the genre; Blade Runner, Alien, and Prometheus manage a aesthetic ingenuity rarely matched.  Scott's films are not CGI noisemakers tricked out to distract you from the absolute lack of plot.  They're atmospheric wonders in which familiar things become quite strange and the truly strange things (H.R. Giger catacombs, for example) haunt our memory as prototypes for what the genre looks like. They are monuments and monoliths: Blade Runner's visuals are the cyberpunk landscape, Alien is a reflection of our worst intergalactic fears, and Prometheus is the Tree of Life of standard issue sci-fi. It's brooding and philosophical, simple, yet packed with problems that possess no easy solutions.   Prometheus is all the more haunting because it is not contained within the austere decks, vents, and control rooms of the Nostromo.  Instead, it's entangled with images of a nature we recognize and the comforts of home.
In the prologue, we watch as a pallid demigod of a humanoid deconstructs in an apparent life-giving suicide. Cells proliferate, things break and decay, we reopen millions of years in the future where scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have made an archaeological discovery that suggests the key to understanding the origins of life may be far outside of our own solar system.  They want to meet their makers, and are sponsored on their costly outing by Weyland Corporation, a questionably intentioned company run by Guy Pearce in waxy, rather awful old-age makeup.  The film's title is, of course, based in a myth worth noting. Prometheus was a titan who dared to steal fire from the Gods.  In doing so, he sparked civilization as we know it though he himself suffered an endless, cyclical torment as a punishment.  Shaw and Holloway's thesis appears correct, they find what they're looking for right away, but the question is: who were these 'people'?  What benefit comes from knowing?  Are we inching too close to the fire, or did they?  Whatever the answer, the lead-up to the inevitable blood bath is positively dazzling.  
Among the grim band of pioneers is the icy, all-business Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) (a woman who acts like a robot) and David (Michael Fassbender) (a man who indeed is an android). Where Shaw and Holloway are painted as semi-sloppy humans with fleshy desires, emotions, and an inability to see the big picture in a moment of genuine excitement, Meredith and David are agents of control (though sometimes this means a controlled chaos).   While Prometheus is undoubtedly a visual marvel, its broad successes are due in no small amount to the quality of the actors on board.  Noomi Rapace has her breakout English-speaking role here, and it's all too easy to completely forget that she was every the steely, volcanic Lisbeth Salander.  Here, there's an naivete  about her, a keeping of the faith that resonates in her countenance and makes her a believable paradox: the god-fearing scientist.  We need Shaw in the game for us to care at all, and she's our link to the film's thesis and its shrunken, barely beating heart.  In direct opposition to her slapped-down optimism you will find Fassbender's spectacularly rendered David. David is a walking, talking Hal 9000 with an unsettling smirk, an obsession with Lawrence of Arabia, and the ability to respond to constant reminders of his status as "not a real boy" with passive aggressive remarks that you'd have to be a damn fool not to question.  While the question of a robot's agency may read as tiresome to certain viewers, David is a remarkable, highly memorable character portrayed by Fassbender with a freaky, uncanny valley amount of control.  He's menacing and alluring, scarier (in some ways) than the monsters lurking in the unknown. Man and machine have become as one, and the question of creation weighs heavy.  Like Shaw, David seems to be seeking his own truth.  Like Shaw, the lengths he's willing to go to only open up further room for debate.
Prometheus as a film is very much like David.  It's invitingly cold and seems to take a certain jolt of pleasure from curiously tampering with the lives of the mortals in its care. That means, too, that while it's an aesthetic improvement or technological advancement on an old idea, it's still a familiar trope at heart.  For those seeking a 'more' substantial amount of pure originality from a panic room bit of sci-fi: I wish you luck.  For those who don't particularly relish an added lump of grisly thought with their extraterrestrial explosions: please go about your business elsewhere.  For the true believers?  Oh yes. This is the one.  This right here?  This is the good shit.  The quality shit.  The shit that calls for a positive use of expletives because you need that raw gut punch of added genuine enthusiasm. It's not splendiferous. It's not sublime or an intoxicating concoction or an incandescent citadel of all that's good in the atrophied land of genre fiction.  It's just fucking awesome.








5 comments:

  1. Great to hear such passion for the film!

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    1. Ha, thanks. It seems like I'm in the minority on this. I seem to be left geeking out about it while everyone else is giving it a lukewarm meh IRL. Ah well...

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  2. Finally saw it last night and was baffled myself over the lukewarm response. It's everything I could have hoped an Alien prequel would be. I also couldn't help but notice its similarities to Blade Runner. It purposely raises questions about whether or not a certain characters is a robot/replicant and also pitches the relationship between a robot (or robots) and its creator as that of a parent and child.

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    1. Yes!! Glad to hear there are more people in this camp. The Blade Runner similarities are definitely present, and personally I don't really get tired of that theme. Hopefully more will see its merits as time goes on...?

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  3. The *meh* crowd is just an evidence in how many people go into the theater brainless and hope to be blatantly entertained. Most are going 'I didn't get it, the story was weird, the monsters were kinda 'been there'.....' The movie hit me like a cannon ball with issues that I cannot answer still and am going geek-nuts over the questions people post on forums. Dunno, I'm just harmlessly inspired by it into thinking about stuff. I've even bothered my doctor friend to explain why the Prometheus guy could pansperm the planet and I couldn't - why couldn't a human start life and he could? (In case you thought YOU were a science fiction fan:))))) Also, I have the lovely fortune of living in a town where they only played it for a week and am now unable to see it again unless I board a bus and go to a bigger city. The last time I did that was for the Brotherhood of the Wolf. :P

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