Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #239
Number of Views: One
Release Date: June 1, 2012 (United Kingdom), June 8, 2012 (North America)
Country of Origin: United Kingdom, United States
Budget : $120,000,000
Box Office: $403,300,000
Running time: 124 minutes
Director: Ridley Scott
Producers: Ridley Scott, David Giler, Walter Hill
Screenplay: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Effects: Plowman Craven, The Visual Effects Company, Centroid Motion Capture, Halon Entertainment, Destroy All Monsters, Moving Picture Company, Weta Digital, Fuel VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Hammerhead Productions, Invisible Effects, Prologue Films, Lola Visual Effects
Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski
Score: Marc Streitenfeld
Editing: Pietro Scalia
Studios: Scott Free Productions, Brandywine Productions, Dune Entertainment
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Emun Elliott, Benedict Wong , Kate Dickie, Branwell Donaghey, Vladimir ‘Furdo’ Furdik, C.C. Smiff, Shane Steyn, Ian Whyte, John Lebar, Daniel James, Patrick Wilson, Lucy Hutchinson, Giannina Facio, Anil Biltoo
Suggested Audio Candy
Charlie Spring “The Beginning of Our End”
The weight of expectation can be a quite formidable burden. When news filtered through that Ridley Scott was to bring us what was understood at the time as the prequel to one of the greatest masterpieces of science fiction cinema the reaction was understandably one of great excitement laced with trepidation and rightly so. Alien is such a beloved moniker, one so utterly ingrained in our very being that attempting to tackle the subject matter again well over thirty years on was deemed dicey in the extreme. Scott is still largely producing quality work and his credentials were really never in question but this was such a gargantuan undertaking that even the most hopeful among us raised understandable concerns about.
Instead of pulling the wool over our eyes and leading us towards his new dawn blinkered, he made it clear from the offset that xenomorphs would not be the primary focus and would actually barely feature in his new incarnation. had he not done so then purists would’ve been up in arms but he made no attempt to conceal that this would be an entirely different feature from his seminal original. Once the initial disappointment had subsided the whole free world accepted that this would be a different creature entirely from its source material and began to collectively salivate over the prospect of another venture into the universe he created back in 1978. This was aided by an effective viral marketing campaign and news that the cast would include such big hitters as Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and the majestic Michael Fassbender. Needless to say, my palms were downright sweaty at the prospect.
When Prometheus eventually emerged from its cocoon it did so to generally favorable reviews and box office receipts in excess of $400m, not at all bad considering the word Alien didn’t figure in its title. However, for any franchise as adored as the one Scott inaugurated, there are always going to be the knockers. For some, nothing it could have done would have sufficed and certain fanboys came down hard on Scott for tinkering with their beloved formula. As is often the case, these opinions were grounded in ignorance and/or an inability to evolve past the haunted house styling of the original. This irks me greatly as this is an epic fable which barely puts a foot wrong.
As humans it is in our nature to question the bigger picture. How did our species get here? Who created us? Will it ultimately destroy us for emulating God? Are we getting too big for our breaches? We have all asked these posers, often after a skinful of beer or mind-altering narcotics. Are there any answers? Negative, we can but speculate. Prometheus was criticized for asking many questions but not providing the ultimate insight and this is beyond preposterous. Expecting the mystery of the multiverse to be solved in just over two hours is a little unrealistic an expectation. Yet these puritans still leveled criticism at Scott for not providing the answers and therefore leaving it open for discussion. It’s its ambiguity which makes the question still worth asking and his decision to spark after-film debate is an astute one. Not everyone liked Matrix Reloaded but that didn’t stop it being the hot topic for weeks after primary viewing. If you set a film-maker up to fail then fail they invariably will, even a dab-hand like Ridley Scott.
The story centers around archaeologists Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) who believe they have pinpointed the origin of mankind’s Engineers on moon LV-223. They join the personnel on vessel Prometheus to explore the coordinates, bankrolled by the Weyland Corporation. The ship’s affable captain Janek (Idris Elba) and aloof corporation bigwig Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron who was originally intended to play Elizabeth but schedule conflicts prevented this) take the reins and a select team sets off for reconnaissance. Naturally they receive more than they bargained for and unleash something ominous enough to pose direct threat to the security of their home planet and the future of mankind. That’s all you’re getting from Keeper as this is not the movie to watch with a full deck of cards in your hands and the rewards of waiting for the flop are infinite.
Another wholly misinformed gripe is that the film is too meandering in its execution. Again this couldn’t be less accurate. There is a significant difference between a film being slow-moving and purposely patient and Prometheus never lets you out of its sight for a picosecond. There wasn’t a solitary moment during the 124 minute running time where I wasn’t utterly transfixed and there has never been a truer mark of quality than that. Dariusz Wolski’s ambitious cinematography is dazzling and the script by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof provides ample meat in the sandwich. Maybe characterization isn’t on par with Alien or its sequel but this was never the intention with this vision of grandeur. There’s a bigger picture being presented and one which takes priority to any fleshing out of tertiary characters.
One astonishing performance comes from the ridiculously endowed Fassbender. His David has some pretty hefty shoes to fill as both Ian Holm and, more critically, Lance Henriksen have long been our androids of choice. He goes one better, providing primary intelligence to his team and overseeing their welfare whilst showing not a flicker of emotion. He is quick-witted and insightful in equal measure and styles himself on Laurence of Arabia, giving him all the depth necessitated. He’s also hugely likeable, despite his obvious wiring and lack of tactile approach. Fassbender is always an absolute joy to watch but here gives one of his finest performances to date. Truly astounding in fact.
Sean Harris’ Fifield and Rafe Spall’s Millburn spark off one another admirably while Rapace also gives a supremely investable turn as Elizabeth and exhibits the kind of mettle that Ripley would tip her cap to. She is, without question, the strongest mortal character and her christian beliefs are severely tested pitting her at odds with herself, something which Rapace exemplifies with ease. Considering the Swedish actress required a dialect coach on-set, her performance is nigh-on perfect. Scott had been so impressed by her in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that he snapped her up in a second and, on this evidence, his decision is totally vindicated.
There are few motion pictures which look as consistently purty as Prometheus yet it is evident that Scott has reflected on advice given him by Douglas Trumbull on the set of Blade Runner: “If you can do it live, do it live.” He takes this on board by choosing to keep CGI at a premium but, when it is called for, Prometheus is no slouch. The colossal pyramid, full of monolithic statues and cylindrical artifacts, is something of wondrous marvel and the late H R Giger was brought in to collaborate on reverse-engineering the design template of the aliens which shows in every last sophisticated creation.
Here is a remarkable piece of science fiction, slickly produced and lovingly crafted from the ground up while courageous enough to forge its own path. Scott’s task was always going to be an unenviable one and pleasing all of the people all of the time is never a realistic goal anyhoots. When new light is shed on a much-loved universe such as the one he crafted with Alien thirty plus years after the fact, folk have had time to catch up and form their own hypothesis. They think they know best but Prometheus is living proof that they’re often full of hot dead air.
“Brought to you by Weyland Corporation – Building better worlds. Since 10/11/12”
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 9/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers: There are a number of ingenious set pieces littered throughout which I have purposely negated to mention until now. I shall remain purse-lipped as they need to be experienced rather than relayed but I will say that the opener is simply astonishing and fans of the infamous chest burster scene will be compensated with a totally unique take which is no less queasying.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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