TBT – Prometheus (2012)

alien, fucking beautiful, fucking creepy, fucking scary, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, prequel, Ridley Scott, sci-fi, TBT

I’m going to be honest, as much as I’ve defended Prometheus to people it’s a film that I had, until very recently, only watched once and that was just after it was released on DVD. Yes, I didn’t even watch it in the cinema. That, obviously, hasn’t stopped me feeling qualified to defend it and, if there’s one thing you can be absolutely sure of about me by now, I won’t back down in an argument regardless of how much I know/remember about a topic. Especially if I think I’m morally superior. And, when it comes to Prometheus, I am definitely on the moral high ground. A lot of people I know have unduly criticised this film because it wasn’t what they were expecting. It’s a similar situation to the time I nearly ruined an old friendship because of the film Hugo: they hated it because they thought it was going to be a kid’s adventure instead of a love-story to cinema. People were so desperate for another Alien that anything else was bound to be torn apart. It’s nonsense. Ridley Scott always made his intentions for the film super clear and warned audiences not to go in with any stupid expectations. Is it the film’s fault if they didn’t listen and just wanted another Sigourney Weaver type killed massive black alien creatures? No. Look, I’m not a stubborn monster who isn’t willing to listen to people’s reasoned arguments about why it’s a terrible film. I myself think it has a few major issues. However, if you’re only going to negatively compare it to one of the best films of all time… well, let’s just say, in my head nobody can hear you moan.

Prometheus had a lot to live up to when it was first released. It was Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise and it was our chance to finally understand more about the history of the alien corpse that the crew of the Nostromo discovered in the first film. It promised to set us on a path that would answer a lot of questions that have been raised over the years. Strictly speaking, it isn’t a prequel but a film that is related to the later films whilst being a story in its own right. It exists in the same universe but don’t expect too many moments of face-hugging or chest-bursting. Especially after Damon Lindelof got his hands on the first draft and erased as many Alien-isms as possible. Prometheus, as the name would suggests, deals with humanity’s relationship with their creators. Prometheus was the Titan who went against the wishes of the Gods and gave mankind fire. For that act of treason, he was banished and punished by the Gods. He gave humanity fire and was then forced to have birds eat his liver every day for eternity. So, if there’s one thing that the crew of the Prometheus ship should know, you don’t fuck with your God/Gods.
Regardless, the crew set out on a journey to discover where they came from. After discovering various cave paintings depicting mankind worshipping God-like figures and a mysterious star chart. They decide to follow the map and track the beings, who they dub The Engineers, to the distant moon LV-223. After receiving funding from the Weyland Corporation, Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Dr Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead the mission to try and find the creatures they believe created mankind. They are, naturally, joined by a whole host of staple sci-fi supporting characters. The gruff and distant Commander (Charlize Theron), the laid back but dependable Captain (Idris Elba) and the naive biologist and clearly destined to be the first to die (Rafe Spall).
Most importantly, in terms of both plot and scene stealing, is the mega creepy android, David (Michael Fassbender). He was created to be as human-like as possible and is more than capable of feeling those pesky emotions that most robotic creatures tend to avoid. It clearly spells trouble and, despite everyone else being unable to see it, David obviously has his own secret agenda. Fassbender is the breakout star of the show and brings a new level of fucking creepy to androids. Everything about the performance works to make David seem more inhuman and uncanny. It’s amazing. 
Less outstanding are the rest of the performances. I’m afraid, no matter how much I love her, I never really got behind Noomi Rapace in this role. She never quite sells the character or her relationship with fellow scientist Dr Holloway. I realise that we’re trying to avoid comparing this with its predecessors but, when you’re part of the franchise that invented badass, sci-fi women, Prometheus needed Dr Shaw to really pack a punch. She doesn’t. Equally, Charlize Theron is kind of thrust into a underwhelming role where she has little to do other than (SPOILER) die in the most unnecessary way possible, What is it with people not being able to run away from something properly? She and Rickon need to start a club. 
Anyway, that’s not to say that Prometheus doesn’t have some good moments. It’s not that the characters are completely underwhelming, it’s just that they don’t feel as developed as they need to be. And that’s not to say that we needed hours of background and context for them. We know basically fuck all about the crew of the Nostromo in Alien but they felt more like cohesive characters than a lot of these ones. The only one who comes close to Fassbender is Idris Elba’s captain but even he can only do so much with so little. Prometheus falls down under the weight of it’s own expectations. It wanted to do so much that the important details suffered. It was great that Ridley Scott wanted to explore the background of this universe and go a little existential. However, it was huge task. Somewhere along the way it became too much. 
The narrative shows promise but has so many twists, turns and unanswered questions that it feels a little shoddy. Now, I did like the open ending and the secrets that were left unrevealed but it still felt like it wasn’t enough. There is too much predictability at play here and a lot of the dialogue is just awful. There’s so much going on and it never feels like it all forms one major plot. It’s too fragmented and separate. There needed to be more clarity. The big action and horror set-pieces are great but, even with these bursts of excitement, there is no real momentum to this film. It doesn’t feel like it’s moving anywhere and it’s easy to get distracted along the way. It wastes more time on myths and legends that don’t matter than in answering the questions we wanted answers to. It’s still watchable, though. Of course, that is mostly down the fantastic design and Fassbender’s haunting performance. Ridley Scott can still pull some great sci-fi moments out of his hat but this film needed a much stronger script. I commend the idea of what this film should have been but Prometheus could never have achieved everything it set out to be… so it didn’t.

Tuesday’s Reviews – STAR TREK BEYOND (2016)

Chris Pine, films, Idris Elba, meh, review, sci-fi, Simon Pegg, Star Trek

I’ve had mixed feelings about this film since I first saw the trailer. I hadn’t exactly been blown away by 2013’s Into Darkness despite my love of Benedict Cumberbatch. I just didn’t like the silliness that the trailer seemed to be portraying. It was trying to go down the Guardians of the Galaxy route with the references to The Beastie Boys. It felt fucking desperate if I’m honest. Like it’s just trying to fit in with the other spacey blockbusters instead of trying to be something new. Of course, there was still hope. I know I’ve said a lot of shit about Simon Pegg over the years but the fact that he came on board as co-writer surely had to be a good thing. I mean the man helped write Spaced and a trilogy of films that succeeded 2 out of 3 times. At the very least we’d have enough in-jokes and references to keep is preoccupied long enough to not notice how shit everything else was. So, with only a month to go before the film comes out I finally got round to watching it.

I have to admit that I enjoyed Beyond way more than I thought that I would. It’s a pretty standard kind of Star Trek film but it was enjoyable enough. Naturally, it is one of the funniest films in the franchise and certainly the most self-aware and humours since the reboot. However, I still couldn’t get away from my feeling that it was trying too hard to be the opposite of Into Darkness. It takes the dark and grittiness of its predecessor and goes to great lengths to be sillier. It means that, instead of being a complex film with a narrative that flows nicely and deals with real human feelings, Beyond is basically just a selection of hit-and-miss jokes between massive action sequences. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The Original Series hardly went into great depths about the human relationships at the heart of the show.

I guess Simon Pegg and co-writer Doug Jung attempt to bring some emotional range into the mix as both Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Spock (Zachary Quinto) contemplate leaving the Enterprise for more fulfilling work. Kirk is finding out that a five year journey in space isn’t quite the fun-filed adventure he had hoped and Spock must decide between the Enterprise and political work on New Vulcan. However, this is never really developed to the point that either of them learn anything about themselves. Every time they get close something will inevitably blow up or something funny will happen to distract them. Ultimately. both of them make their decision without really discussing anything important, which makes the whole enterprise really fucking superficial.

However, there are many who will love that about Beyond. It took a lot from the negative audience reactions from Into Darkness and made a film for the fans. Something that is both clever and really fucking risky. After JJ Abrams’ second film came out the audience wanted more Kirk and co, less darkness, and a plot that wasn’t just a rehash of a classic. All of these things are catered for but the team seem to have forgotten a few key points. Namely, a coherent and engaging story, a well-written baddie, and decent roles for anyone who isn’t Kirk, Spock, Bones or Scotty. But, as Some Like it Hot famously told us, “nobody’s perfect”.

I’d try and sum up the narrative here but, really, I don’t really understand much of what happened or why. The crew of the Enterprise were lured into a trap set by the supposedly villainous Krall (played by a completely wasted Idris Elba) and have to stop him unleashing a weapon of mass destruction on a Federation outpost. Hang on, what was that I was saying about “original story”? Change this guys name to John Harrison and we’ve got Into Darkness all over again. Although, Beyond does have the unmistakable feel of classic Star Wars about it. The gang get stranded on an alien planet and there are plenty of unnamed red shirts who get offed. This is also the closest the reboot has got to getting the characters to be familiar interpretations. Well the main trio anyway. The relationship between Spock and Kirk is a wonderful as ever and, thankfully, Beyond shows us more of Bones (Keith Urban) and Spock. Bones was the underused but brilliant aspect of the last two films and Urban is finally able to get some real screen time. The banter but ultimate care and respect the two show are some of the film’s highlights.

However, the rest of the crew really get fuck all to do. Although, there is a wonderful new addition to the team thanks to Sofia Boutella’s Jaylah. The newcomer is a stronger, more intelligent and developed female character than anyone in the previous films in the reboot. Although, even she basically just turns up to fight people and give vital bits of exposition when needed. There’s nothing wrong with films that are all about action but that action needs to be spectacular to make it worth it. There can be no denying that Justin Lin has a better handle on the action sequences than Abrams didn in the previous instalments but they’re still all over the place. The first major action sequences is kind of spectacular though. The Enterprise is set upon by Krall and his fleet of tiny, bee-like ships. The later two setpieces are edge-of-your seat stuff but they’re nothing near the first. The rest of the film does little to prove that Star Trek is a decent enough action film to rival the ones currently being produced. The editing is choppy, the camera bounces around all over the place, and there is an over-reliance on deafening sound effects. No amount of cheesy references to the Beastie Boys is going to convince me that the action scenes save this film.

Somebody really needs to remind the people who make these films that the whole reason the Enterprise set out was to “boldly go where nobody had gone before”. Modern filmmakers have clearly forgotten this fact and decided it’s better to just copy every other big action blockbuster that’s ever created. When Abrams first took up the reboot I was excited. I loved the idea of new Star Trek. However, it’s always tried to be something else. Abrams wanted to make it his version of Star Wars and now it’s just the poor man’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This film should have been the franchise’s Skyfall but instead it’s more like fucking Quantum of Solace. Something that had a load of promise but just lost its way. I mean in the grand scheme of things Beyond isn’t a shitty film. It is, however, shitty Star Trek.