Monday, June 18, 2012

JIMBO GOES TO THE MOVIES: "Prometheus" Review

Ridley Scott makes his long, long anticipated return to the “Alien” universe - but is “Prometheus” really worth the three decade wait? 

I caught “Prometheus” a few weeks ago, and I still don’t know what the hell it was supposed to be about. Was it supposed to be a thinly-veiled defense of creationism, or some sort of commentary on medical technologies, or some sort of statement about our scientific inability to conquer death, or what?  All I know is, that movie left me with a serious case of the “huhs?” and the “what-the’s?”, which I will presumably still be suffering from when the thing gets released on Blu-Ray.

Let’s take things from the top, shall we? The very first scene of the movie, I guess, is supposed to be a metaphor for the creation of man. Well, I guess that means we can burn both “The Holy Bible” and “The Origin of the Species,” because in the world of “Alien,” humanity seemed to have come about when some time-traveling, nine-foot tall bodybuilder with a Roman nose drank sulfuric acid and deteriorated in Loch Ness, getting all his chromosomes and shit scattered about the Scottish hillside. Of course, one could read this as a parable for the sacrifice of Christ (not that the movie is rife with heavy-handed religious symbolism, or anything), or maybe it’s a direct reference to the Prometheus myth itself, with that lumbering, decomposing grey guy giving humanity it’s “fire” in the form of DNA particles. Of course, Ridley Scott just can’t come out and tell us what’s what, so for the time being, pretty much all of those theories can be deemed acceptable explanations for the film’s opening. Well, that, or it’s just an inconsequential red herring, which, let’s face it, is a pretty likely rationale considering the director’s track record.

This much, however, I did get out of the movie. So, Lisbeth Salander and her boyfriend find some cave paintings, which are remarkably similar to artwork drawn up by all sorts of ancient cultures. Using some high-tech star-mapping program (I hear it’s going to be included in Windows 8), Weyland Industries  manages to find that very locale in the universe, which is an Earth-like planet in a solar system really, really far away from us. Seeing as how the film takes place in the 2090s, our interstellar travel technologies are, apparently, going to get really advanced in a real hurry, since extra-solar system travel isn’t just feasible, it becomes a common practice (alongside the existence of hyper-sleep chambers and medic-bots units) by the end of the century. Admittedly, it’s a far-fetched premise, but what the hell; I suppose guys in 1912 couldn’t have predicted the Internet, the A-Bomb or Ricky Martin, either.

So, Weyland is paying for this expedition, because…well, we really don’t know, at first. We have our usual cast of future alien-chew-toys, who are hired hands to help Lisbeth and her boyfriend find whatever it is that they’re looking for. Calling the shots onboard are Charlize Theron (playing an icy bitchy-bitch so frigid that everybody on the ship thinks she’s a robot) and Michael Fassbender as a “Lawrence of Arabia” loving android named David. The crew hop in their “Mass Effect” cosplay uniforms, crank up their dune buggies and travel inside this old ass temple, which is filled with the following; a bunch of really tall dead dudes in insect helmets, ceramic vases filled with this icky black stuff and what appears to be penis monsters that, when in the presence of humans, turn into va-jay-jay shaped cobras that like to hop in people’s mouths and impregnate them with octopus monsters. All of this, of course, should seem very, VERY familiar to you.

Well, things get particularly icky after Lisbeth’s boyfriend starts coming down with alien flu (probably because the on-ship robot gave him champagne tainted with alien goop, but the film never really comes out and tells us that’s the case.) So, Charlize ends up flamethrower-ing him when he tries to come aboard, which makes Lisbeth and her impossibly high cheekbones super-sad for like a day or two. The problem here is two-fold; first off, Lisbeth’s boyfriend, despite being barbecued alive, is still very much alive, and very, very angry (cue the dude’s SECOND death scene in the film shortly thereafter) and much more importantly, Lisbeth herself is PREGGERS with what appears to be some sort of slug alien mucus monster - and apparently, the gestation period for slug alien mucus monsters is about 45 minutes.

This segues into a particularly gruesome scene where Lisbeth hops in one of those medic-bot units and has an impromptu C-section, culminating with her squid baby getting yanked out of her by what appears to be the lifting mechanism of one of those arcade claw games. She manages to escape having her face chewed off by her octopus offspring, only to run smackdab into the president of Weyland Industries, this dude that’s supposed to be like 150 or something (the make-up job here, I might add, is absolutely horrible-looking.) As it turns out, the whole point the company sanctioned the voyage was so that this dude on his deathbed could meet God, and somehow get a couple of more years tacked on to his life expectancy. So, the remaining crew treks back down into the underground temple, where they come face-to-face with one of those giant grey alien guys. Without giving away too much, let’s just say his idea of “granting eternal life” involves, uh, the opposite of granting eternal life, I suppose.

This bring us to the film’s climax, where Lisbeth is running from the grey guy - who, as it turns out, is no match for a fully grown octopus monster. This leads to Lisbeth taking David’s severed head on a trip to Planet Sequel, but not before we see what emerges from the grey giant guy -on-squid alien love scene from earlier - and surprise, surprise, the offspring sure does bare an uncanny resemblance to a certain, iconic sci-fi/horror monster legend, no?

By the time this thing came to a conclusion, man, was my head achy. So many unresolved questions, and so many questions that never even got asked during the movie; what the hell were all those giant grey guys running from in the twenty bajillion hologram flashback sequences that played throughout the movie? For that matter, if the planet the Weyland folks visited was just a military outpost for the race of alien giants, then how in the hell did the aliens get there in the first place? Hell, for that matter, how did the aliens find earth, and what was their motives for wanting to destroy it at the end of the movie? And just to make things even more meta, the very end of the film concludes with a viral tease of some kind, with the Weyland Corporation announcing something for 10-11-12. Walking out of “Prometheus” was sort of like trying to piece together five separate jigsaw puzzles at the same time, when all you really wanted to do was play KerPlunk. Look, I’ve got nothing against movies that make you think, but watching “Prometheus” is like being thrown into an industrial washing machine for half an hour and being forced to take the SAT while “Who Let The Dogs Out?” plays at sonic boom levels in the background. There’s a fine line between “intellectual stimulation” and “David Lynch,” and “Prometheus” is a  movie that straddles that line a bit too closely for my liking.

As you can see, the greatest influence for Ridley Scott's film was clearly "Pokemon." 

Ready for some cranial punishment? Let’s examine the hereditary makeup of the xenomorph that shows up at the end of the movie. Apparently, to create an “Alien,” you need one part giant body-builder space man and one-part evil alien octopus baby. BUT, the parents of that evil alien octopus baby are actually human, or at least, half human, seeing as how Lisbeth’s boyfriend (played by Paco from “Across the Universe,” oddly) was infected with some sort of alien bacterium at the time of the evil alien octopus baby’s conception. And since that alien bacterium was derived from some sort of organic pottery sludge, it’s at least reasonable to assume that the bacterium was of the same genus as one of those dong-cobras from earlier in the movie, so that makes the alien half space bodybuilder, at least one quarter human and at least one quarter space cobra. But, since the movie tells us that space bodybuilders and humans have the exact same genetic code, that means at least half of the alien is half whatever it is that humans and the space bodybuilders are, which, presumably, is a subset of some life form that wasn’t mentioned in the film. So, in other words…“ow, my freakin’ skull.”

As you can see, Scott has made a film that’s really, really difficult to review, because it’s kinda’ hard to give a film a quality judgment when blood is leaking out of your ears from an aneurysm. As a sheer visual experience, the movie is pretty damned cool-looking, and pretty much a lock for Best Set Design/Costume Design come Oscar season. While the film is pretty light on action sequences (there’s probably only about three or four in the entire movie), the action sequences that are there are pretty entertaining, and I’ll give Ridley props for some fairly suspenseful moments here and there. The storyline is interesting, but the acting is pretty ho-hum, with only Fassbender really turning in a performance worth talking about. And then, there are the many, many loose ends the film leaves lying around all over the place. Yeah, we really don’t need to talk about any more of those, do we?

As an entry in the “Alien” franchise, “Prometheus” is pretty disappointing, but as a standalone flick, I suppose it isn’t all that bad. That said, the end result is a far cry from the franchise we all know and love, and ultimately, a lost opportunity to bring the venerable series back to its former glory. Shit, can you imagine how awesome this thing would have been if James Cameron would‘ve directed it? It would have been 30 minutes of blatant Iraq War commentary, followed up by two solid hours of exploding bug guts and multicultural stock characters getting acid thrown on them while rocket launchering things. But instead, we get an overlong, laborious flick about barren wombs and religious allegories, with people occasionally getting their esophagi eaten by lizard monsters.

As your standard Hollywood blockbuster, it’s a mildly better than average offering. But for an installment in the “Alien” franchise? There’s really nothing you could consider “Prometheus” other than a disappointment.

My Score: B-


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