Sunday, 3 June 2012

Prometheus Review

Director: Ridley Scott
Year: 2012
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender 
Country: USA
Language: English
Runtime: 124 minutes

Earlier in 2012, people were buzzing with anticipation for releases such as The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers, myself included. But ever since its trailer was released, one film caught my eye and filled me up with excitement - Prometheus. Prometheus follows the story of a group of scientists - led by Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) - who discover a star map on the Isle of Skye, which leads them to the moon LV-233. They arrive here aboard their ship Prometheus in 2093, hoping to discover the origins of the human race: the "Engineers" who created us, and why they did it. Piloting the ship is Janek (Idris Elba), and also aboard is Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), a Weyland Corporation employee sent to monitor the mission. The founder of this Corporation, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), funds the creation of the vessel, but he is apparently dead by the time the mission is activated. Eager to explore, the group - which includes the android David (Michael Fassbender) and an array of other scientists - heads out to an alien structure near where Prometheus has landed. They discover many alien artifacts, a colossal statue of a a human head and the body of a giant alien, believed to be one of the "Engineers". An approaching storm cuts the expedition short, but two scientists are left behind. The rest of the crew manage to return to the ship safely, with the head of the Engineer. However, the mission begins to go awry when the two scientists are killed by snake-like creatures in the night.

Prometheus is as beautiful as it is disturbing, as challenging as it is fascinating, and as powerful as it is resonant. The story builds wonderfully, bracing the audience with a slow start, building up suspense as things start to go wrong. The scenery is absolutely mind-blowing - from the very first frame I was engrossed by the panoramic landscapes and the detailed settings. Ridley Scott uses CGI among other special effects to create a brooding, effective atmosphere, rather than just for flash. There isn't any overuse of violence here, we are given just the right amount that prevents there being too little or too much. Ridley Scott obviously knew exactly what audiences wanted from Prometheus: a film that is effective and entertaining, but challenges the viewer at the same time. It will leave you asking many a question, perhaps wanting answers, but what's important is that Ridley Scott does this craftily and without ramming anything down our throats. Comparisons to the Alien franchise are unfortunately inevitable, as they are set in the same universe, but all in all, Prometheus really doesn't have much to do with the Alien films. It is a different story that stands on its own two feet, so referencing any of those films in this review would be completely unnecessary. 

The acting in Prometheus is top-notch. Noomi Rapace gives a career-defining performance as Elizabeth Shaw, displaying the character's capriciousness with great effect, going from excited, to eager, fascinated, distraught, desperate and hopeful, among many other emotions. Her line delivery is spot-on: during the latter stages of the film, some of the the lines that she comes out with are truly heartbreaking, and leave the viewer begging for her survival. Michael Fassbender is phenomenal as the android David. I was entirely convinced throughout by his performance. I cannot begin to fathom how difficult it must have been for him to turn himself into an android, but he did it successfully, and made his character suitably eerie and fascinating. Also giving another great performance is Charlize Theron, who transforms her character from a simple crew member into a cold, vicious, merciless woman. All other supporting performances are above average, including Guy Pearce, who tranforms so much I barely even recognised him. It's a shame that Prometheus probably won't get much attention around Oscar-time, but the acting truly is wonderful. Every main character was unique and had enough meat for me to care about them, thanks to brilliant character development and powerful acting.

Another thing that contributed to my love of Prometheus was the philosophy that came with it. As the story advances, the film will ask more and more metaphysical questions: how did the human race come to be? Who created us? Why did they create us? Where did they come from? The film will answer these questions within its own fictional universe, but it will also leave you asking these questions for our universe. Prometheus' interpretation of these questions is gripping, cleverly done and interesting enough to keep the viewer hooked. Another element that makes this film work is the soundtrack - the songs vary from uplifting to dark, to set the tone appropriately - crafted skillfully by Marc Streitenfeld. All of these aspects - the atmosphere, the acting, the character development, the plot, the direction, the philosophy, the music - are perfectly great on their own, but when they all come together in this film, it is simply out of this world. There isn't a dull moment in sight in this film, thanks to Ridley Scott's masterful direction and all who were involved in making this excellent feature. 

In conclusion, I would recommend this film to pretty much everyone. An exception would be people who are going to do nothing but criticise the film based on the Alien franchise. The two are barely alike, so making these comparisons would do nothing but spoil the experience for you. I think most people, including fans of the Alien films, will enjoy Prometheus, a satisfying, powerful and resonant film that will please anyone who loves intelligent sci-fi. I don't know if I could have wanted anything more from Prometheus, a top-line, engaging, eerie, visually mesmerising, gripping, atmospheric, riveting metaphysical study. It is without a doubt the best film I have seen this year thus far. It has set a high standard for the summer releases of 2012, and perhaps even the later releases.