Monday, July 23, 2012

Review: PROMETHEUS Part 2

Read part 1 of my review here.

When last we met to discuss this movie, I had written many words and had not really gotten to the start of the plot.  I had problems right from the start with the way characters were introduced and characterized.  I also had problems with the way certain plot points were introduced to the audience.  However, I also mentioned that this is a movie that should be applauded for its aspirations.  Today we’re gonna get more into the actual nitty gritty.  The biggest thing that I’ll be focusing on is character behaviors in service of the plot.

With that said, let’s dive into my long delayed part II of my review.

The crew gathers together and is debriefed by the head of the corporation, and funder for this particular mission, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in really old man make-up).  You have to wonder why Guy Pearce was cast in this role.  The make-up is okay--certainly better than the make-up at the end of Deathly Hallows, but...I can still tell it’s a young guy in old man make-up.  If you do a little bit of extra research, there was a viral marketing campaign set up online where Weyland, has a biography profile special, gives a TED talk, and all kinds of things, all as a young Weyland.  Just to note: you will never see young Weyland in the film, which returns to the question: why Guy Pearce?

Weyland, or rather a hologram of Weyland, reveals that he actually died before the expedition began and has recorded this hologram to explain as a contingency plan.  He introduces himself and David, whom he calls “like the son I never had.”  I wouldn’t bring this up, but it ties into something much later that I want to mention.  He explains that they’re looking for their creators, the originators of life on Earth, the “Engineers.”  Most of the crew are skeptical, the archaeologists defend their ideas, and everyone gets distracted when they get to the planet and stand around in amazement for a while.  It’s an Earth-like planet light years away from our solar system.  The visuals here are very impressive, and the score is fittingly epic and beautiful.  This is another moment where the film slows down and lets you bathe in the atmosphere (bad-dum TSH!).  

A scan reveals a mountain that’s hollow inside and the crew lands to check it out.

While down in the hole, Holloway decides that, since the atmosphere underground is almost exactly like Earth’s, it’s safe to take off his space helmet.  This is one of those things that you can shrug off, but as the guys from Red Letter Media pointed out, WHAT ABOUT DEADLY ALIEN MICROBES?  Just because the atmosphere is fine, doesn’t mean that there aren’t alien diseases that you don’t have to worry about.  Even if this is the future, we can’t possibly know about all of the diseases in the universe, you moron.

Meanwhile, David has been tasked by someone to leave the group and PRESS ALL OF THE BUTTONS.  In doing so, he accidentally activates hologram security footage of the previous inhabitants of this planet sprinting down the halls.  They’re clearly fleeing something dangerous.  The hologram leads them to a decapitated specimen of the very race they’ve been coming to look for.  David does his button touching thing, despite his colleagues frantically shouting at him to NOT DO THAT, and they find the alien's head on the other side of a closed door.  Inside this new room, there is a massive stone humanoid head and a bunch of urn-looking things.  

Between the dead alien, the creepy holograms, the weird stone head carving, this is all too much for Punk Rock Geologist, and he wants to head back.  Since no one’s looking at rocks, which is apparently all he cares about, he wants to go back to the ship.  Despite the alien being dead--decapitated, in fact--for more than 2,000 years, Punk Rock Geologist is terrified of it.  He’s not the only one, though.  Southern Vaguely Effeminate Biologist is also terrified, and they high-tail it back to the ship.

I guess I can maybe see the geologist getting scared.  He is a geologist.  His specialty is rocks, and unless those rocks collapse on him, there’s not a lot of danger of them killing him.  But the BIOLOGIST?  Isn’t this EXACTLY what he should be interested in?  Shouldn’t he want to examine this bizarre foreign species?

Meanwhile, the urns start leaking weird black goo stuff a little, but no one notices, except David, that is.  He steals an urn because...hell, I don’t know, he thinks it’s full of chocolate syrup?  Makes as much sense as anything else really.  Just then, everyone receives word that a big ass storm is coming that will chop them into little bits unless they high-tail it back to the ship.

This action scene is done pretty well, even if it does feel like it was thrown in there mostly because we haven’t really had an action sequence yet.  The visual effects of the storm are cool, especially the overhead shot of everyone trying to outrun the massive cloud.  

It’s only when they get back inside the ship that they realize that Biologist and Geologist didn’t come back with them.  Instead, they’ve gotten lost in the caves and are now trapped in there until the storm passes.  One quibble: when they first entered the caves, Punk Rock Geologist sent out little flying robot balls to begin making a holographic 3D map of all of the tunnels in the cave, which they beamed back to the ship.  Since Biologist and Geologist were in constant communication with the did they get lost again?  Oh, right, because the plot says so. 

It’s at this point that you should be hearing the chords to Jonathan Coulton’s “Redshirt” playing in your head because you can practically smell how dead they are.  It reeks of horror movie convention.

So, anyway, they wind up back in the room with the urns, but the black stuff has bubbled out a lot more at this point.  They stop to rest when a weird phallus shaped alien pops up out of the goo.

Remember how they were terrified of a centuries dead alien?  Suddenly, THE PLOT demands that Biologist be curious and inquisitive.  He starts creeping closer to it.  It opens flaps itself open, looking very similar to the frill-like things on the dinosaur from Jurassic Park that kills Melvin.  Does this give him pause, since any biologist worth his salt would know that opening frills is a sign of aggression--like a dog growling or a snake rattling its tail?  Nope, his reaction is, “OMG, I wanna pet it!”

No...seriously.  He tries to pet it.  It kills him.

Geologist, while trying to help his buddy, gets sprayed in the face with some acid stuff--also like the dinosaur from Jurassic Park--and falls face first into the black goo.

As I said...redshirts.

Meanwhile, back on the ship, they try to reanimate the alien’s head with electricity to study it.  I think it was to map its brain patterns or something.  That works for all of 30 seconds, then the alien’s head explodes.  So much for your amazing discovery.  Didn’t that seem like an incredibly risky operation to perform on a once-in-a-lifetime scientific find?  They also find the alien’s DNA is an EXACT MATCH FOR OUR DNA, which obviously PROVES THAT THEY CREATED US!

Wait...then why were they 8 foot tall bald albino bodybuilders?  And how does that prove anything of the sort?

Meanwhile, David plays with his stolen souvenir, digs out some black goo, and sneaks it into Holloway’s drink.  Why?  Good question.  We don’t really get any answers.  I can tell you my wife’s theory a little later on.

Holloway tries to get David to join him for a drink, but David refuses, saying, “It wouldn’t do me much good.”  Sure...except that they clearly show you eating some kind of oatmeal type food at the beginning of the movie while everyone else is in stasis sleep.  That’s not keeping up appearances--there’s no one around to see it.  It clearly won’t gum up your workings.  So...why not have a glass with Holloway?  It would make you look less suspicious--because you might as well have a sign over your head saying ‘THERE’S SOMETHING BAD IN THIS GLASS AND I WANT YOU TO DRINK IT!’

In addition to looking stupid for falling for such an obvious ruse, Holloway is bitter and resentful because they’ve presumed all of the other Albinos are dead.  He’s upset that he couldn’t ask them some deep burning questions on his mind. totally got what you wanted--”proof” that these guys created us.  You wanna know why?  Quit your bitching!  You should be walking on Cloud 9 right now!  You should be over the moon!  You should be pulling your pants down and rubbing your bare ass in Vickers’ face because you were right and she was wrong.

After this, Holloway goes to check on Shaw.  This scene demonstrates another downfall to the movie.  While the movie asks interesting questions about God and the creation of life and stuff, it just asks the questions.  There’s never any exploration of that theme.  For example, Shaw’s character is supposed to be a devout Christian.  But, beyond occasionally touching a cross she wears and a rare line of dialog, you couldn’t tell.  Her faith never seems to inform her decisions or add to her character.  Her being Christian has as much bearing on the story as learning that Sherlock Holmes’ favorite soup is chicken noodle.

Shaw and Holloway have a very brief discussion about how these aliens created mankind.  Holloway feels this disproves God’s existence.  He says, “It shows that the creation of life isn’t very special.  This shows that anyone can create life.”  Shaw’s response is to get teary eyed, put her hand to her belly, and whisper, “...I can’t create life.”

Um...WTF?  Where did that come from?  We have no indication up to this point that she’s barren.  There aren’t any lingering glances at babies or wistful stares at tiny shoes, NOTHING to hint that she might even want kids, let alone that she can’t have them.  She’s barely been characterized as a Christian, and we just suddenly learn that she’s also barren?

Let’s play a guessing game of sorts.  You tell me, why do you think they would suddenly drop the knowledge on us that Shaw is barren and can’t have kids?  Why now?  We’re, like, halfway through the movie.  You guess, and I’ll drop down some space to give you time to guess.

Did you guess that she’s about to get pregnant with something awful?  Yes?  CONGRATULATIONS!

Do I need to even explain why this is bad writing?  It’s so sloppily executed.  If they were going to go with this storyline, it should have been worked in way earlier in the movie, not 10 minutes before that information is relevant.

Shaw and Holloway have sex, and then Holloway looks into a mirror and you see something in his eye, showing that whatever David put in his drink has infected him.

They go back into the cave to look for Geologist and Biologist.  They find Biologist dead, but Geologist is nowhere to be found.  Also, black goo is leaking out of all the urns and all over the place.  Meanwhile, David is off playing explorer again and finds what might be an Albino Man in a stasis pod, and also a star-map highlighting a route to Earth.  Holloway starts to get sick, so they all rush back to the ship.  Vickers greets them at the door with a flamethrower and says she won’t let him on the ship because he might infect the rest of the crew.  Therefore, the only logical thing to do is set him on fire, which...he agrees with.  Shaw tries to stop him, but Holloway gives Vickers the go ahead and she lights his ass up like a candle.

Shaw collapses and comes to in a medical pod where they’re scanning to make sure she’s not infected with anything as well.  Shaw learns she’s pregnant...3 months pregnant.  This shocks and horrifies her, especially because David informs her that the baby isn’t human.  

She’s desperate to get the monster fetus out of her, but David wants to put her in a stasis pod until they get back to Earth.  She escapes and uses a machine to perform a self-abortion/c-section thing.  It’s a gruesome, horrifying and genuinely well done sequence.  You can feel the panic and stress Shaw must be going through, and you empathize.  Not to mention, a do-it-yourself c-section/abortion is a fittingly horrifying thing.  It feels right at home with the chestburster scene in alien.  However, it hasn't been properly built up to--it hasn't been earned.  Prometheus isn't the same type of movie as Alien, and so at the end of it all, if feels out of place and ultimately unsatisfying.  The tone and mood of the scene is off from the rest of the movies grand, open, exploration feel.

So that's part two of my review.  We're coming up on the finale of not only this review, but the movie as well. We've seen characters act incoherently, we've seen things done just for the sake of plot, and we've seen hackneyed, unoriginal plot elements introduced in such a clumsy, obvious way, first year film students would groan.  Next time, we'll see characters continue to act inexplicably, and may have possibly become psychic.  Also, one of the stupidest deaths in cinema.

Thoughts?  Opinions?  Agree?  Disagree?  Sound off in the comments.