Monday, 30 April 2012

Prometheus - You Can Never Go Home Again

Right let's have a look at this.

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I know folks are awfully excited about the purported prequel to Alien, as well as it representing the return of Ridley Scott to science fiction film-making. Which is all well and good. I can understand the enthusiasm and high expectations. 

It has to be said the marketing for Prometheus has done an excellent job of teasing audiences in the run-up to the film's release. There were the confusing denials of this film having any connection to Scott's 1979 picture, memorably described once as a "haunted house in space" story. Yet with each set photo the aesthetic influence of conceptual artist H.R. Giger who worked on the original picture seemed intact. Then there's the casting of Lisbeth Salander herself, Noomi Rapace, now synonymous with the latest iteration of the kick-arse heroine, held in a similar high regard as Sigourney Weaver's Ripley was years ago. Let's not forget man of the moment, and the unforgivable snubbee at the hands of the 2012 nominating committee for the Oscars, Michael Fassbender here playing an android that follows in the footsteps of Ian Holm and Lance Henriksen.

Prometheus poster


So many points of similarity, and yet Scott and the marketers from Fox Pictures continue to insist that this is a very different beast. 

It may well be tangential, but familiarity breeds contempt - and there is too much that is familiar here. An ambitious attempt at misdirection is being made - sell the picture on associations with previously successful pictures, but try to avoid getting bogged down in the pedestrian mess that Fox has left their Alien franchise in.  What was the tagline of Alien vs. Predator again? "Whoever wins...we lose." How bitterly prophetic! It seems clear that instead of there being some mystery behind these strange denials, what is really happening is that Fox are aware they screwed the pooch with the Alien franchise and are attempting here to bring it back to life.

Prometheus Noomi Rapace


So no, Sir Scott is not and likely cannot return to LV-426. That former glory of his film C.V. has been spoiled. But what about his own ambit of quality film-making? How many excited persons waiting to see Prometheus threw down their shekels to see Robin Hood? Or A Good Year? Kingdom of Heaven felt like it was intended to be a worthy corrective to the misuse of the historical Crusades in political propaganda at that time, but was ultimately overlong and limp. 

These are not terrible films - I do not think Scott is capable of making terrible films, there is always some aspect of his approach to film-making that is evidently driven by passion, or a singular force of will. Still that same passion is not communicated through these pictures terribly well and this makes them uninteresting.  

Prometheus Not a facehugger

Prometheus teases with past associations, ominous glimpses of horror and crew members seemingly infected by some new alien affliction - but what if this is all just so much musical chairs being played with audience expectations, as opposed to a genuine work of suspense and thrills? What about Scott's own contention that the mystery of the so-called Space-Jockey, the corpse discovered by the crew of the Nostromo in the first film, needs to be resolved? Why should it be resolved? Half the horror of Alien came from the characters, and the audience, being completely taken by surprise by a threat beyond their understanding. Whether the xenomorph was a sentient species or a biological weapon did not matter - it was out to kill everything on that ship. Where is the mystery in that?

Prometheus Space Jockey?


If I am honest, there is one reason I am interested in seeing this movie - and that is to check out another performance from Sean Harris (who appears in the trailer as the lone sceptical voice of reason). His portrayal of Ian Curtis in 24 Hour Party People was amazing. In a film that brought the Madchester scene to life, courtesy of the fervidly creative Michael Winterbottom, it was Harris who impressed the most. I was delighted to see he had a role in Prometheus and I hope it leads to even greater things for him. I love how the snatch of dialogue presented in the trailer - 

Prometheus Sean Harris


Fifield: We're all here because of a map you two kids found in a cave?
Elizabeth Shaw: Not a map. An invitation.
Fifield: From whom?

Feels almost like an internalised autocritique. 'No seriously - why are we doing this again!'

In fact, rather than leave you with more pseudo-xenomorphs and would-be Ripleys running around in her whites, how about a scene from 24 Hour Party People? So it goes.

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3 comments:

  1. I have a feeling this is going to be a disappointment.

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  2. Don't get me wrong, I am not one of those people who would be happy to see it fail! It's just a feeling I have had that the franchise is not something worth returning to at this point.

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  3. I don't know about this. I am holding off watching it because I have a sweet nostalgia for the originals, in particular the first, which was a great film for its time but also for now. I don't think it needs to be explained. In fact I don't think it should be! I especially don't want the answer to be '...because God did it', or worse, '...because we killed Jesus', as has been suggested.

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