Review: PROMETHEUS IMAX 3D Brings Fire Down From The Heavens

UPDATE: Beware of spoilers in the comments below the review!!!

I don't know what Brian was smoking before he saw this, but it might very well be my brand (this is a link)...

Thanks to the wonder of the Internet there sure is no shortage of opinions on Ridley Scott's new science fiction film "Prometheus", and the consensus seems to be that while the film has some very impressive eyecandy in it it's a staggering disappointment with regard to the script.

Or is it? Flip-floppers and dissenters are vocal as well and the arguments already are getting quite heated. If nothing else, at least "Prometheus" sure gets tongues wagging about itself.

My personal opinion as written down here will not do anything to change the current debate, also because the shouting match I want to start will have to include spoilers and minute details. It's early and many people want to see "Prometheus" with at least SOME surprises left in it so I'll have to keep the film somewhat vague. Less so my opinion though: I love the film and while it is not flawless, the good far outweighs the bad. Read on! I'll be as spoiler-free as possible...


The Story:

At the end of this century, scientists discover evidence that the human race may have been created by an extraterrestrial species and even manage to pinpoint a location in deep space where these creators probably still exist.
Soon after, the spaceship Prometheus goes on an expedition to see if contact can be established.

But the crew of the Prometheus only encounter huge old, abandoned buildings. Well... seemingly abandoned. And while the visit does answer some of the expedition's questions, what they find is not especially welcoming towards visitors whether they be offspring or not...


The Movie:

Expectations can be a bitch sometimes and, to quote the marketing campaign for "Alien 3", THE BITCH IS BACK!
Probably not since George Lucas made "The Phantom Menace", a prequel for HIS franchise, have expectations been so stressed. After all "Prometheus" is the film which reunites Ridley Scott (like Lucas before him) with the title which made him a worldwide superstar. And like Lucas it reunites Scott with the science fiction genre for which he created his most seminal movies, the masterpieces which were endlessly copied, followed, and cherished.

Prometheus-IMAX3D-ext1.jpg"Alien" and "Blade Runner" have been influential to the point where they went beyond the meaning of that word. These films literally changed the genre of science fiction films but they also did more, spreading their effect into books, video games, art and general design. People wondering why so many people still consider Ridley Scott to be relevant as a director, well... there is your reason. Whatever you may think about his cinematic output of the last 30 years (and I am nowhere near as negative about that as many), his two SF-films have changed the universe of popular fiction forever.

So big question number one: will "Prometheus" have a similar impact as "Blade Runner" and "Alien"? Well... the whole masterpiece label sort of happened to those two movies, struggling upwards from an underdog position. In contrast "Prometheus" starts at the top, with an audience expecting, no DEMANDING a masterpiece. It's from the same guy right? Only this time he had nearly unlimited resources so it's GOT to be better.

I went into my screening with seriously diminished expectations, based on all the hoopla on the Internet of the past few days. I fully expected to be disappointed to the core of my being, like I had been with "Alien 3" and (to a lesser extent) with "Alien Resurrection". It didn't happen. "Prometheus" is too masterfully made and delivered so much of what it promised that I wasn't disappointed at all. Oh, I get much of the criticism. The focus is indeed not so much on resolving the storyline or fleshening out its characters. But do not believe the horror stories either, or at least don't believe them too much.

"Alien" got scathing reviews back in 1979, serious reviewers complained that its cast was a bunch of one-dimensional cutouts who filled their stereotype and nothing more. With amusement I've read the exact same thing over and over again for "Prometheus". Time will tell I guess. None of these characters can compete yet with the ones we've known for the past 30 years or so. Well, with the exception of Noomi Rapace's Ellie and Michael Fassbender's David because they knock their roles straight out of the park. And worth noting: Ellie is not a Ripley (or a "Ripley Light") but her own character and I really liked her in the film.

Prometheus-IMAX3D-ext2.jpgWhen we get to the visual aspect there is no contesting that "Prometheus" rules this summer. Like George Lucas, Ridley Scott opened his new digital toolbox with relish, to endlessly tinker with it. Unlike George Lucas, Ridley Scott has done something pretty damn awesome with it. Seeing this in 3D IMAX has delivered me some of my finest moments in cinema this year, and people fearing that the 3D would be used to have facehuggers jump at the camera, no, that's not what happens. Instead the technology is used to point at nuggets of beauty in the alien chaos. It embraces the splendid art direction and lifts the visuals to a great height. I want to see it again. Right now.

So is this the film of the year? My epiphany in the cinema? No, because "Prometheus" is not exactly flawless. There are some crazy stupid moments in the film. You, know, like someone showing you the best compass ever made and then not using it, getting inexplicably lost. That sort of thing. But normally stuff like that would sink the film for me and in this case it didn't. I was too enthralled by the whole experience I guess, but clunkers like that can never be entirely ignored either. Maybe there will be a twenty minute longer cut later on, explaining away goofs like that? I can only hope.

Many people will be no doubt disappointed that many big questions are juggled here, yet precious few get any sort of big answer. If the rumors about a sequel are true, rest assured there is PLENTY LEFT TO DISCUSS in it. I was disappointed too, but not much. Storywise I was actually a little impressed because the second half played out so different from what I expected. I've read an online story version based on all the trailer material out there, and it was quite wrong on many counts. Oh, you will guess one or two big moments from the finale right but not what happens before or after it, sequences which are far more important to the story. I'd say the best few scenes have not been spoiled yet, and one of them is recordbreakingly gruesome and harrowing to watch.

Prometheus-IMAX3D-ext2a.jpgCount that to be my biggest surprise: "Prometheus" is unrelentingly icky. You know early on that things are more screwed than the characters realize, but it escalates in some surprising and disgusting ways. Some of Giger's most insane artwork gets better nods here than in any of the earlier films, even "Alien" itself! Particularly for such an expensive film such dedication to making the audience hurt and gag is impressive.

So go check this out for yourself. Masterpiece or not, "Prometheus" is surely masterfully made in most of its aspects. I cannot predict if you'll fall into the yaysayers or the naysayers, but treat yourself to the chance of finding out.

Preferably in a 3D IMAX, because DAMN...


Conclusion:

Swinging between science fiction, (body) horror and existential drama, many people will be alienated (haha) by all the wondering what the focus of "Prometheus" exactly is. For those just wanting to see pretty pictures, this film will deliver so much more. Definitely flawed, "Prometheus" still gave me some of the biggest kicks in a cinema in years. And I love the film for it. Masterpiece or not, my guess is this sure will be a classic.


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Around the Internet:
  • Clinic

    You said "...when a big, penis shaped tendril pops up out of some sludge right in front of him? "

    I say ... when something that clearly resembles one of the most recognizable species on Earth - a Snake , now lets got further. Not just any snake, but one that looks like one of the most dangerous ones - a Cobra .

    He decides a keen interest wanting to pet it... Enough said.

  • Dejan

    While I understand and somewhat agree with Ard's willingness to forgive and readiness to enjoy PROMETHEUS, I'm much closer to Todd's disappointment and even anger at unforgivable stupidities, inconsistencies and the like in the script that Scott chose to shoot. I listed the GOOD and the BAD of this film in my entirely non-spoiler review, here: http://templeofghoul.blogspot.com/2012/06/prometheus-2012.html

  • bewarethemoon

    I have to agree with Ard and Todd, there are issues with 1) character development b) annoying/bizzare character reactions,

    I wonder at the decision, for a film that is trying to be an epic in scope and scale, why it's only 2hrs long? in this day and age, Lord of The Rings proved, that you could release a 3hr genre movie without it impacting revenue, and considering Scott's penchant for directors cuts, why didn't he give us the movie he wanted, instead of the studio? I'm sure the directors cut will address some of the character development issues, as well as a few others...

    ...But overall, I was very happy to see intelligent, epic, big budget sci-fi again, and return to the world that Scott helped create, so for whatever transgressions he's made, I forgive him and look forward to the blu-ray and the next prequel/sequel/whatever... ! there surely will be a sequel to Prometheus after that final scene!?

  • skinnyboy23

    Great review Ard! I don't understand the hate that some reviewers are throwing this film, like you pointed out Alien and to some extent Blade Runner had film critics divided on them at release and now look how they turned out. I am not saying Prometheus is going to end up on that high pedestal but it looks like time will tell.

    I wonder if some people are upset that the film doesn't go and explain everything that it sets up, I know from watching an interview with Damon Lindelof he explicitly says that he wrote it that way and how he hates how films now hold your hand and walk you thru everything and leaves nothing up to your imagination. Also it is a great way to leave things for if they decide to further explore what they bring up in the film.

  • My issues with the script have nothing at all to do with a lack of explanation but with internal logic problems and the overwhelming sense that events are being strung together to get the film to the next action set piece rather than in any way that comes out of any sense of who these characters are.

    I'm going to use a couple specific examples here - so,yes, spoilers - but I'll keep it to minor events within the same sequence.

    1. If you are a biologist who has traveled two years through space to visit a foreign planet that no human has ever set foot on before and may have a direct connection to our own origins and, if, having arrived on that planet you discover the long dead body of one of the aliens that may be our direct genetic forbears, what do you do? I would think that the very LAST thing you would do is panic and run away but that is exactly what the biologist in this movie does. Why? Because they need to isolate him - and one other character - for a set piece later on. It makes NO SENSE AT ALL for the character to behave this way but he does because it's convenient to get the film to the next bang and crash moment.

    2. Further to that fact, the OTHER character who runs away with the biologist is the geologist who - mere moments before - had released tracking spheres to roam their location and build a 3D map of the entire environment. He brought them. He controls them. He has all of their gear. And yet he immediately gets lost. And stays lost for quite a long time, long enough for every other character in the film to open a locked chamber, find and bag specimens, admire some artwork, etc etc etc before getting word that a storm is coming and that they have to leave. Everyone else leaves, geologist and biologist do not. The people who DON'T have a map get out fine. The people who DO have a map do not. Why / how does this happen? Why did geologist / biologist not go back to their transport when they said they were going to? Why did they not go back when they heard that the storm was coming and everybody needed to leave? Their comms gear works just fine throughout the rest of the movie, so I can only presume they heard the call and yet, didn't leave. Again, this happens because Ridley needs them stuck there alone so that he can have a bang / crash moment regardless of whether it makes any sense given what we already know about these people.

    3. And, what the hell, since there's ANOTHER prime example of this in this exact sequence I'll just keep going ... Let's say you've got an interstellar biologist who has just run from a dead thing rather than examining it. And let's say that shortly after that he gets word from the ship that one of the mapping probes - which they're bizarrely ignoring despite having the controls - has found a life form which the biologist panics about as well and runs from that, too. Having run from the dead thing and having run from a report of a living thing, how would you expect said biologist to react when a big, penis shaped tendril pops up out of some sludge right in front of him? Again, behavior is WILDLY out of keeping with what has been shown from this character before and, again, the only rule seems to be to get to the bangy crashy bit regardless of whether the character behavior makes sense.

    The problem with the script isn't that Lindelof has big ideas that he's not fully revealing. The problem with the script is that he doesn't seem to have any ideas deeper than catch phrases and that he has no sense of character or internal logic.

  • Jahsoldier

    You hit the nail on the head for me. I have already mentioned my own thoughts on Brian's post.



    I am glad Ard writes a very different review here because the film does deserve credit. Sadly I feel the film is held back from greatness by it's script writing.

  • Ae

    Congratulations Ard. Your review sucks.

  • Ard Vijn

    Cool! Care to elaborate?

  • I'm curious how you'll react when you see this away from the IMAX environment Ard. The visuals are astounding, sure, and IMAX is definitely the way to see this but the script ...

  • Ard Vijn

    I'll revisit this as quickly as possible, and will re-re-rewatch it when the BluRay arrives.



    Script errors can annoy me no end, especially when I can think up a valid workaround to a plot hole in ten seconds. It happened here as well but it never pulled me out of the film as it obviously did with you. I heard people complain about the relationship between Ellie and Charlie, or David's behavior. Sorry, I felt in both examples the script was not inconsistent at all and especially David made sense (to me at least) at any given moment.



    Between this and several other recent titles I guess we'll have to live with having violently opposing views, Todd! ;-)

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