Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ridley Scott: Prometheus

Michael Fassbender, Prometheus, 20th Century Fox Films, 2012.

Arriving on a tide of cineaste suspense as well as great expectaton, Ridley Scott's return to the science-fiction genre is most definitely worthy of exaltation. The visionary artist cum studio maven crafted two of the greatest sci-fi films of all time; Alien and Blade Runner. That he has not truly ever matched those films is not surprising; that many of his recent films are safer entertainments, free of adventuresome thinking, is a disappointment to his fans. Matchstick Men and Body of Lies stand out the most as Scott's most crucial contributions to world cinema as of late.

Prometheus, a visually grandiose, frequently creepy space opera, has many Scott strengths going for it. Dariusz Wolski's cinematography, first and foremost. Wolski's crisply stylized glimpse into our world (Scotland, lush and tangible, in the awe-inspiring credit sequence) and others (the dark mystery of an alien civilization now extinct) is some of the best camera work of the year, no doubt. Scott and Wolski work together to recreate the visual rhythms of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey by way of Scott's own Alien. The self referencing is both fascinating and confusing. Recalling Hitchcock and Ford remaking their own films, Scott's fixation is cinephilia to the nth degree. For my taste, he went a bit too far with that at times.

The casting of Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, and Idris Elba in the four central roles is inspired; they all excel with what little they're given. Pretty much all the other casting is mediocre, down to Guy Pearce in ridiculous old-age make-up in a bizarre key role. Marc Streitenfeld's score is epically sweeping and suspenseful.

The real problem is a pretty bad script by Damon Lindelof (who wrote last year's splendid Cowboys and Aliens) and Jon Spaihts (who wrote last year's crappy guilty pleasure The Darkest Hour). Filled to the brim with plot holes, inane dialogue, ridiculous sequences, and over the top gore, its a mess that needed a couple rewrites. Scott and co. do what they can to make good of bad, and succeed in a visually ravishing experience with not much else beneath.

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