Prometheus…What Went Wrong?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: Movies to miss, Reviews | Tags: , , , , |

I’m not going to add anything to the interwebs by writing a review of Prometheus saying it was disappointing. There is an overwhelming feeling of “meh” from pretty much every direction.  So instead I figured I’d share some thoughts (not all of them are mine) on why its turning into one of the biggest let down movies of the year. (There are spoilers so this is your warning.)

I think the biggest problem is it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be.  Is it a straight up Sci-Fi/Action movie? Or a more deep evaluation of the origins of humanity? Or a prequel to Alien?  Apparently Ridley Scott thought he could pull off all three at once. Turns out he can’t.  In fact, of the many unfinished parallel plotlines, the only one which felt like it had any sense of completeness was the brief hints to being an Alien precursor, which for some reason was repeatedly denied during the films early promo…

There are a lot of characters in Prometheus. A lot. Standard set up for a film where you need a lot of Red Coats to kill off, but the only characters with any kind of development were Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw and Michael Fassbender’s much hyped David.  Having said that though, Shaw is nothing more than Ripley with a different name, and while Fassbender makes a very convincing slightly sinister robot, there’s nothing new there, and his motives were entirely confusing.  We were left trying to work out if he was infecting people with toxic alien sludge (‘cos that’s a thing) for some higher purpose, following orders from above or just a randomly evil robot…

As for the other characters, Charlize Theron is completely wasted, and the plot “twist” involving her and her not-so-dead Dad is just thrown away, leaving me wondering why they bothered to have it in the first place. The rest of the characters are disposed of with little ceremony, and are fairly indistinguishable so there isn’t much impact; it’s all just  a bit formulaic.

Enough moaning about character development, on to my other pet peeve: bad Science.

Dear God there is some bad Science in this film! I’m fairly sure Ridley Scott has no basic understanding of Biology. Obviously, I’m not expecting perfect theses from films, but there’s a “Sci” in front of the “Fi” for a reason and genetic disease doesn’t suddenly manifest and make you act like you caught the Rage Virus. Just Saying.

Also, how does the black slime that went into Charlie’s Mouth end up with a worm in his eye and a squid in his wife? And DNA doesn’t just float about in the middle of cells. And you can’t point at someone who is acutely ill and say “it’s not contagious, this is genetic.”

End Rant.

No, wait a minute, one more thing: you poke a dead brain in the locus coeruleus and it comes back to life?!? Seriously?!

All of the above could potentially be forgiven though if the film had some good set piece action sequences and a coherent plot. But it doesn’t. The plot is so full of holes it makes a more convincing Swiss cheese than a movie.  It’s one of those films where the more you think about it, the more things you find that just don’t make sense.  Most frustrating of all though is the lack of resolution. I have a big problem with open-ended movies which leave questions just for the sake of it.  It’s what me and my sister refer to as a “Ninth Gate” in reference to one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen which as far as I can tell just stops for no reason.  Probably because it was just getting embarrassing and the production crew thought they might as well quit while they were behind..  Films like Inception use their open endings to keep the audience thinking, but Prometheus keeps lining up big questions and then not answering them.  I’ve already said that Charlize Theron’s relationship with her father is wasted, and there are other little plot lines that are opened and then never closed, but the most frustrating of all is the reveal that the “Engineers” decided to wipe out the human race but never letting us know why. I know he’s left that open deliberately but why? What does it add to the film?

It starts out with the crew trying to understand their origins and wanting to literally meet their makers. OK, with you so far. Turns out the aliens all got wiped out by some mysterious thing which they handily captured on holographic candid camera so that people could find it and think it was a good idea to go into the room full of dead guys…right I can just about buy that. But when the humans work out that the aliens were killed by their own biological weapon which was meant for them it all gets a bit vague. The one surviving alien is woken up and decided to go on a one man killing spree to take out all the humans before setting off to complete his mission of destroying every living thing on Earth. Cos he can. The fact that his entire crew have been killed by the toxic sludge/wormy guys doesn’t at all make him think twice about setting off in a spaceship filled with the stuff. Sure that will work out just fine.  And while we’re at it, if you want to wipe out a race that you created, why would you choose to do it by creating another race which is equally capable of wiping you out? These alien dudes did not think it through….

And all of that is before you start asking yourself why the guy at the beginning drank the black stuff to kill himself….and why when he had it he just dissolved, whereas Charlie looked like his veins were trying to explode out of his face and Fifield went all 28 days later….And are the snakey things that came out of the black water different to whatever is in that black sludge….And…???

See what I’m getting at? The more you think about it the less makes sense.  It feels like an unfinished film because there are just so many questions, but it’s a long film, so it’s not like they don’t have time to answer them. I wonder if maybe he was holding out for a sequel (there are about a bajillion Alien films, so I wouldn’t put it past him) but I have no idea where he’d go with it, other than to just have someone stand there for two hours and explain all the bits that made no sense.

So that’s what went wrong with Prometheus. It was massively hyped up but it doesn’t deliver. It’s trying too hard to be everything at once when all we really wanted (if we’re honest) was another Alien. A Sci-Fi thriller with some scary looking creatures and a girl running around in her pants. We actually get all of that in Prometheus but it’s so buried under all the extra fluff that’s trying to make it not look like Alien that it doesn’t work.  Ridley Scott should have stuck to what he knew.

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X Men: First Class

Posted on June 14, 2011. Filed under: Movies to see before you die, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , |

Cinemas. I remember them. They were those things I used to go to all the time before I started my medical degree.

When I first heard about X Men: First Class I dismissed it as Saved By The Bell with mutants.  But when they decided to combine it with the back stories of Xavier and Magneto (previously pitched as two or even three separate movies) it started to get interesting again. So off to Camden Odeon I went. And here’s what I thought.

X Men: First Class is awesome. I know I overuse that word, but it really is. For X Men fangirls/boys it’s got just enough new mutants to keep us geeking out without falling into the trap of Last Stand by having too many.  Of course, some are more interesting than others.  Although Havok’s existence in the movie was cool, the actual character didn’t do much to grab my attention, and Angel (mark 2? ‘cos I know we’ve already had one underused character called Angel) was just wallpaper.  Emma Frost was forgotten for half the movie, but she was cool to have around while she was there,  Banshee was more fun than I thought he’d be, and other more minor characters fulfilled their roles of having cool powers and then getting out of the way of the plot.

From the outset I’ve had issues with the casting of Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique. I’m not even sure what it is about her, she just feels wrong. It doesn’t help that I’ve always imagined Raven with black hair (as she had in Last Stand, and hence the name) but Lawrence’s version was a bit too whiny and not cool enough for one of my favourite X Men.

That is my only minor quibble. Other than that this film is brilliant.  It’s being hailed as the best of the franchise, and I’ll definitely agree that it’s up there with the best. McAvoy and Fassbender are well matched as Charles and Eric, without whom this movie would be completely flat. McAvoy in particular shines, with a great balance of dry wit and genuine heart that it is easy to imagine transforming into the Patrick Stewart version we know and love.  The brotherly relationship developed between our two leads is very well written, and sets the scene nicely for how they react to each other in later movies. It’s a kind of old fashioned bromance that works well, knowing as we do what the pair will go through together later

Nicholas Hoult as Beast was almost shockingly good.  Beast isn’t a character I’ve ever got that into, and as much as I love Kelsey Grammar I found his portrayal in the third movie clunky.  Hoult however captures a nerdy shyness within a strength of character that finally makes Beast sympathetic.  His Jekyll and Hyde sub plot is a nice device and although the affinity between him and Mystique is obvious he plays it well.

The plot moves along at a good pace and keeps refreshing itself with new obstacles to overcome.  There are a couple of great throwaway jokes which have managed to recapture the sort of humour that made the first two movies great, while still giving us the action set pieces that we have come to expect from the big budget superhero movies.  The final battle is a feast of visual effects.

As perhaps the only blogger on the planet who didn’t trash Wolverine, I found myself trying to fit this film around the timeline of that one, bearing in mind that some characters cross over.  There are a couple of bits I couldn’t quite match up (probably mostly due to not having seen Wolverine in a while) but on the whole I think the continuity of this film with the rest of the series is much better than what has gone before.  There weren’t any gaping inconsistencies that jumped out at me (apart from possibly one that I need to check) and everything else fit in well with my (albeit limited) knowledge of the X Men universe. Made this Marvel geek very happy.

There’s not much else I can say without wandering into spoiler territory.  Most of the reason I love X Men is  centred around a certain adamantium clawed anti-hero , yet I didn’t find myself missing him. It looks like the X Men movies are finally back on track after one or two slight derailments.  All I know is I left the cinema a couple of hours ago and I already want to go see it again. And again.

Oh, and if that was enough for you, this movie contains the best cameo appearance ever. Ever.

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