profile of PaulVerhoeven

Prometheus - Movie review

Back in 1979, Ridley Scott directed Alien, in which the crew of the mining ship Nostromo encountered something horrifying in space. The film was, rightfully, a hit; it combined the artful pace and aesthetic Scott was so adept at with the lithe, unsettling designs of H.R. Geiger. It spawned three sequels, two crossover prequels, comic books, novels, and, presumably, some conceptual dance numbers.

Prometheus is Ridley Scotts prequel, and it's obvious from the get-go that he's committed to making it as real and deep as possible. The film, again, focuses on a scattershot array of men and women on board a ship, that ship being Prometheus. Their mission, however, is more overtly ambitious than that of the Nostromo: at the behest of the now dead Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), and under the guiding hand of two archaeologists, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), the crew is headed to a distant planet to seek out something borderline biblical in scope.

The film is utterly gorgeous to look at. Every exterior and interior shot looks like a painting, rendered in thick, velvety strokes. The CGI is entirely seamless, and, indeed, minimal considering the subject matter. Prometheus looks, feels, and sounds as tangibly real as a film about extraterrestrial life ever could. Similarly, the performances are top notch; Michael Fassbender is a standout as the ship's android, David, whose almost childlike petulance becomes a nuanced character study. Charlize Theron provides a scintillatingly impenetrable foil as Meredith Vickers, a Weyland administrator sent to oversee the operations. Each performance hits the mark, making every scene ring with conviction.

Now to the two flaws. The first, one might be inclined to argue, is minimal: the score sucks. It kicks up a distinctive explorative leitmotif almost immediately, but from there, proceeds to often saturate and stifle key scenes. It's upsetting to watch what is ostensibly an art sci fi film, filled with gorgeous, borderline eerie shots being suffocated by often generic swathes of strings. It is all angry and staccato, and it rarely works. But, it isn't a game changer. The film has one truly unique flaw, and it's unique because it is, much like a face hugger, attached to the film, but not technically part of the film.

Trailers.

Never before has the internet been so heavily bombarded with trailers as it has with Prometheus. From teaser trailers, to regular trailers, to more regular trailers, to tweets from the studio asking if we've all seen the trailers, to yet more lengthy trailers, to actual scenes from the film which, as it turns out, give away several key plot points, audiences have been saturated with not just hype (which is dangerous enough once it reaches a certain level of concentration), but spoilers. The films script was penned by Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, and like Lost (before it sucked), it relies on the gravity of great reveals. Beyond the promise of aliens, the film is peppered with momentous discoveries, which are meant to hit you right in the gut. But thanks to the studios battering us with thrilling but clumsy and ill-thought out trailers, almost every key scene has been… well, seen. Often we'll casually claim that all the good parts of a film were in the trailer (this is a problem usually reserved for comedy trailers), but in this case, in a film that relies of the impact of reveal after reveal, the trailer literally spoils two thirds of the key reveals in Prometheus.

And by trailer, I mean trailers. Plural. Because the level of trailer onslaught we've received, and naively imbibed, foolishly assuming it wouldn't impact the film adversely, has been singularly abhorrent. It has, and I cannot stress how much this saddens me, made it harder to review and enjoy a film which in every other way is a truly solid piece of artful, suspenseful science fiction. Trailers aren't meant to stymie enjoyment, they're meant to tease us into watching the film in question. You don't convince someone to read the Harry Potter novels by telling them which characters die on the basis that death is inherently compelling.

There was a point when I was convinced that the trailer was, like good music videos, an art form. If handled correctly, you could convey the tone of the film without giving away a single thing. At this point, however, I feel it's vital to stress two things: first of all, the film itself is really, really good. If you don't really pay attention to trailers and publicity and have forgotten what the trailers contained, you'll be fine. The promotional video for the David android and the Peter Weyland TED talk were both exceptional, doing what a trailer is meant to do (tone conveyed, not content), and are actually worth watching.

And secondly, this trailer saturation problem is only going to get worse. So do yourself a favour and avoid them if you can. Consider yourself a cinematic tantric, denying yourself as long as you possibly can until the moment of ecstasy. And if that image creeps you out, consider this: would you rather be creeped out by the image of, say, Sting trying to prolong an orgasm, or almost physically angry at a brutally stupid and tactless culture of trailer bombardment?

I know. It's a tough call.

/Paul
profile of PaulVerhoeven

10 comments so far..

  • reddog's avatar
    Commenter
    reddog
    Date and time
    Monday 04 Jun 2012 - 11:54 AM
    I thought it went unsaid: If your going to watch trailers for a movie, you risk spoiling the crap out of it for you. I even go to the extent of when hiring a DVD, I don't read the synopsis anymore because most films are all but summed up in the 50 or so words on the back cover.
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  • PaulVerhoeven's avatar
    Commenter
    PaulVerhoeven
    Date and time
    Monday 04 Jun 2012 - 12:29 PM
    Yeah, it really should go unsaid, but it never is. Especially not now that studios are so desperate to differentiate cinema releases from other ways of watching films (hence 'only at the cinemas'). So they're flooding millions of bored potential viewers on blogs and social networks with trailer after trailer, meaning now more than ever before it's possible for a trailer to damage a film worse than ever.
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  • Marcus's avatar
    Commenter
    Marcus
    Date and time
    Monday 04 Jun 2012 - 12:52 PM
    Just saw it. Never have trailers so castrated a great film.
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  • Svenenem's avatar
    Commenter
    Svenenem
    Date and time
    Monday 04 Jun 2012 - 1:47 PM
    Damn it, I guess I won't watch the trailers and spoil it for myself before leaving a fake movie review on David and Margaret like I usually do...
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  • Svenenem's avatar
    Commenter
    Svenenem
    Date and time
    Wednesday 06 Jun 2012 - 1:29 PM
    Hey Joseph Macculey, if that is your real name; you are cancer.
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  • Svenenem's avatar
    Commenter
    Svenenem
    Date and time
    Wednesday 06 Jun 2012 - 4:59 PM
    Nice one Alyx, now just try these pills they really work, simply go to www.nigeriadoctor.com Kidding....
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  • clembastow's avatar
    Commenter
    clembastow
    Date and time
    Saturday 09 Jun 2012 - 3:19 AM
    It wasn't the trailers that were the problem, it was plot holes the size of the Nostromo, hackneyed dialogue, and the inexplicable decision to tart Guy Pearce up like Mr Haddon from 'Contact' instead of, say, casting an actual old person (why not Robert Duvall, for example). What's the cinematic equivalent of a 'prawn'? Nice face, shame about the narrative?
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  • Woobie's avatar
    Commenter
    Woobie
    Date and time
    Saturday 09 Jun 2012 - 1:48 PM
    @Clem THIS! Pearce looked ridiculous in that makeup, like 'Old Biff'from Back to the Future. He's supposed to be, what, 100-110 years old? Why not Peter O'Toole? Might explain why David looks so much like him!
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  • Filmcan's avatar
    Commenter
    Filmcan
    Date and time
    Monday 11 Jun 2012 - 1:43 AM
    First Star Wars, then Indy, and now Alien. How many great achievements of cinema are they willing to destroy? Hollywood seems to have completely lost the ability to entertain or more importantly, tell an actual story- you know, with characters.
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  • PaulVerhoeven's avatar
    Commenter
    PaulVerhoeven
    Date and time
    Monday 18 Jun 2012 - 2:09 PM
    No, Clem, you're right. The trailers weren't the problem at all. Glad my argument swayed you.
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