Friday, June 15, 2012

The depths of the unknown: PROMETHEUS

Note: I was going to talk about George Steven's Swing Time this week, but after watching it for the first time, realized that Top Hat and The Gay Divorcee deserve the praise that this film just didn't inspire in me. If you are are looking for the perfect night to bask in the heaven that is Fred and Ginger, rent one of these instead. 

"Big things have small beginnings" 

The opening credit sequence of Prometheus (Scott, 2012) will take your breath away. The camera flys above lush green valleys with icy blue water running through it like viens. Cliffs of ice and snow create fortress of rock and create an ambiance of fear and awe. The sequence ends at a raging waterfall. As the camera flys above the torrent of clear and dangerous water, a man, full formed, appears at the top of the falls along the edge. The use of both practical effects and VFX design make this white skinned giant appear human while also creating an unworldly feel. He drinks from a small capsule, which oozes a black liquid that comes alive in front of his eyes. The substance enters his system and rapidly eats away at his skin and bones until he tumbles from the cliff into the water below, breaking apart as he falls. He hits the water with a loud thunderous crash. Welcome to Prometheus.

This film is masterful in the hands of its cinematographer, Dariusz Wolski. The sweeping camera angles and creation of space on the newly discovered planet incorporate a mythical and sinister feeling that alerts the audience to the fears they know are sure to unveil themselves around the next corner. Ridley Scott directed Alien in 1979. Alien is a film that stumbles upon a monster and inevitably becomes a fight for survival about all else. Prometheus, probably much to the dismay of Alien fans, is not that kind of film. Scott takes on a much more metaphysical approach in this film. His characters are seeking, not stumbling, to find answers to their past, present, and future. They seek out the monsters, hoping instead to find a land of ancient men. But even this naive search can lead to death and destruction for all who seek it. The title stems from the ancient greek myth of Titan Prometheus, a servent to the gods who gave human beings the gift of fire, leading to both prosperity and invention and also impending and inevitable destruction.

Noomi Rapace masterfully plays Elizabeth Shaw, a scientist on the verge of a major archeological discovery. With the aid of her fellow scientist and lover, Charlie Holloway (played by Logan Marshall-Green) they set out to find an ancient race, one they believe we have descended from. They seek to meet their makers and what they find instead both destroys their belief in faith itself, but also leads to there emotional and physical devastation. Michael Fassbinder effortlessly plays the android David, seemingly human but lacking in compassion and sensitivity. His separation from humanity is something that Scott is intent on exploring. The themes of human nature, destruction, dependence, faith, and trust are built and shattered as this film burns slowly at the beginning and builds to its climactic final moments. Due to the impeccable costume (Janty Yates) and set design (Arthur Max), the actors were able to truly inhabit the space of the ship and the planet outside of it. The helmets and space suits both protect and entomb the characters as they move from the space ship to the outside world. The production design is delicate yet forceful and precise.

I don't believe that this was a perfect film, but it was expertly crafted, and the acting, especially by Rapace and Fassbinder, was chillingly perfect. Rapace was the perfect successor of Alien's badass female lead, Sigourney Weaver. Shaw is a fighter but she is also wounded and vulnerable. Towards the end of the film, she realizes that her insistent search for the answers to the past has irrevocably altered her future. This film sets out to explore the implications and possibilities of immorality. The financier of the expedition, Peter Weyland (played by a expertly made up Guy Pearce), seeks to find a way to erase the inevitability of death and never have to resign his "throne" to his family. This is a creation story, a exploration of myth and fantasy. It will not answer our questions about god, the afterlife, and inevitable nature of mankind, but it will make you hesitant to ask those questions in the first place. Sometimes what we seek to find only leaves us shattered and more lost then when we began. This is one of those films.

 The engineers 

 Charlize plays Ms. Vicars, the expeditions overseer 

 Elizabeth as she enters the alien ship 

 The tomb of the engineers 

 Amazing production design, the mist and the vases. 

 Director Ridley Scott hard at work on set. 

 David discovering a whole new world 

 David watching Shaw's dreams 

Landed on the planet. 

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