Friday, June 1, 2012

I wish PROMETHEUS had never been made.

Guillermo del Toro recently said that, with the release of PROMETHEUS, it was pretty much certain that his H.P. Lovecraft adaptation AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS would never see the light of day.

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While it’s easy to spot the superficial likeness in plot between the two (research team goes to remote location, finds out about horrifying origins of mankind), one thing is for sure. Del Toro would have put a shitload more care in his movie. If you can count on that spicy Latino for one thing, it’s that he makes sure the world of the film makes sense, even if it’s populated by fairies and ghosts and vampires and hellboys. In PROMETHEUS, barely anything makes sense.

Spoilers follow. If you’re hit in the face with facehugger acid blood, you turn into a contortionist Harvey Dent Spider-Man zombie and Stringer Bell will have to burn you, shoot you and run you over. That sounds very awesome and it kinda is, if that were a standalone sequence. But it’s part of a two hour movie with a narrative and everything.

If you have sex with a guy who drank champagne that got spiked with goo that was just lying around a Space Jockey ship, he will skeet a giant ass facehugger into you. Like, man-size. It’s actually kinda comical. Oh, and if the comically oversized novelty facehugger totally envelops an eight foot spacejockey, a midget alien pops out. Seriously, it’s like a little goblin! Spoilers end!

The movie starts with gorgeous location photography. Really stunning stuff, and the 3D is worth the price for this alone. Then it’s revealed there’s an alien ship hovering over the landscape, with a hooded figure approaching it. The figure reveals his face and he is a weird cross between Dr. Manhattan and Voldemort. He drinks a black goo that attacks his very DNA, and tosses himself off a waterfall as he desintegrates. Cut to titles.

What did this dramatic, cryptic prologue mean? I don’t know! Maybe you can tell me? The film simply does not answer that. Was the planet Earth? Was it LV-223, the destination of the Prometheus’ expedition? Who knows!

We’re shown Drs. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, seriously not Tom Hardy, I swear) digging up ancient murals that TOTALLY prove ancient man had contact with aliens. This is a very fresh and original theory, so Weyland Co., eager to keep its title as dumbest corporation in movie history, immediately funds it with a trillion dollars.

For two years, Shaw and Holloway are underway to LV-223, with android David (Fassbender, without question the best part of the movie) keeping shit running while the crew is in cryo. Once there, they’re defrosted and are holo-briefed by a now-deceased Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce in SUPER HILARIOUS old man make-up). Charlize Theron and Idris Elba (the second best thing about the movie) are also there. They have sex at one point because the two most attractive people in any setting will naturally gravitate towards each other. Exploration happens, but nobody really finds out anything.

The best parts of the movie are when David is full of wonder about life, the universe and everything. There’s a gorgeous sequence of him finding a Space Jockey starmap that’s filled with beautiful 3D, animation, music and Fassbender finding just the right expressions of controlled/restrained awe. He’s even a joy to watch going about his daily business while the crew’s in cryo.

There’s also two good suspense/action scenes: Noomi performing some emergency surgery on herself, and Idris vs. the contortionist zombie. But that’s pretty much exactly what they are. Good scenes without context. They make very little sense in a larger framework.

There’s your movie in a nutshell pretty much: competently made/shot, poorly thought out.

FINAL BIT O’ SPOILER

Pearce is in a secret cryo pod, to “meet his maker” before he dies. I was expecting this would lead to something. Maybe he’d get rejuvenated by Space Jockey DNA or something, but he’d go nuts and the remainder of the crew’d have to fight him/stop him from reaching Earth. But nope, it didn’t really lead to anything. Why would you even GET Guy Pearce to have him play an old man? Can’t you just hire an old man? When David and Pearce’s nurses/bodyguards get to the ONE LIVING SPACE JOCKEY pod, I was pretty much expecting some answers (not the least of which about the prologue which still didn’t make sense, and we were in the third act by now), but nope! He just starts punching people!

END SPOILERS

Look, don’t see it. Watch ALIEN again. ALIENS, too. Throw in PREDATOR.

6 comments:

  1. Just to respond to your question about the prologue. Whether that was earth or not, the purpose of it was to show us that this is how the space jockey's 'kick start' the evolution of life forms on a planet. By breaking down their bodies, their (what must be perfect/godlike) DNA then starts to reform into new lifeforms in the water. I thought this was stunning and a beautiful sequence. But did we get any development of this concept? NO! That's what frustrated me.
    Right, now, the space jockey they meet that starts punching people? That annoyed me too, but thinking about it this is why that occurs (again,just my opinion)If you look at the Jockey in the intro he is wearing a robe. This may indicate he is of a let's say religious order, willing to sacrifice himself for the new life his body/death will make. The jockey they find in the ship later on, could just be a 'military' jockey, after all its pretty clear that this place is a military compound with weapons of mass destruction in. His job was probably to fly the motherload to any planet that needed wiping out. He won't be a philoshopher or give two cruds about inferior lifeforms, and so attacks everyone. I really wanted a 'conversation with a space jockey' but alas, no sign. What do you think of these theories? The rest of the film was fairly flat IMO but these ideas do intrigue me, they just weren't developed.

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    1. Yeah, that all makes sense, Mason. But as you say, the film barely stops to explain anything. And it's not like it's going at a breakneck pace telling us a million other things.

      The suicide/evolution kickstart at the beginning IS beautiful -- there's hardly a moment in the film that isn't beautiful. I just wish Sir Ridley had sent the script back for another go.

      In a way, it's the worst kind of bad movie. The kind made by talented people with just enough saving graces to leave you frustrated at what could have been, rather than pissed off.

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  2. Del Toro is a fucking hack. Scott's film is far from perfect but mentioning Del Toro ? please ! Blade 2 was shit. So was Hellboy. Pan's Labyrinth was overrated as hell. (mediocre at best). The only thing you can't take away from Del Toro is the importance he gives to set designs.

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    1. AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS would have actually supplied existential horror (if Del Toro adapted it even half-closely). PROMETHEUS asks existential questions and abandons them for narratively confusing monster attacks.

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  3. There is an easy way of summing up the plot of this film an its the parallel between humans creating David, and the "Engineers" creating Humans.

    Just like zombie man showed utter contempt and disregard for David as a sentient being (pretty sure if you had given him an axe, he wouldn't have any issues with smashing open the robots head with it), the Engineers showed exactly the same disregard for human life. A key scene in the movie at the beginning is where they were asking the questions "Why did they create us, and why did they abandon us?" That's ABANDON. In other words our usefulness to the Engineers ceased at some point. They had loaded up the ship with super advanced bio weapons and were going to send it to earth, but they got delayed for some reason.

    The film did leave me wondering a lot of things, the whole massive face hugger bit at the end just didn't seem right with me, more like a bit to help placate the fans rather than anything to develop the plot.

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    1. The creator-creation relationship/meaning of life questions came so close to being poignant. I think a lot of it was Fassbender.

      And you're right, the facehugger/lil' xeno bit at the end was pure fanbaiting.

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