Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Epic Adolescence — Prometheus

There is not much to say about this inane film, except that it exhibits adolescence in epic proportion.


OVERALL: Not recommended

I have a particular dislike for films that pretend to be philosophical but are really only adolescent comic-book explorations. Matrix comes to mind, with its poor combination of a pseudo-intellectual Keanu Reaves furrowing his brow over a pseudo-metaphysical discussion about reality and perception.

Prometheus out-Matrixes the Matrix on that score, with plenty of bad acting, bad directing, and bad plotting to go around. By the end of the film, one has had one's fill of gratuitous alien-goo, unconvincing recoveries from outlandish trauma (how about an alien c-section?), and those big exoskeletal spaceships that have been in vogue in science-fiction films forever. To top it off, the crew is a bad copy of Star Trek.

Why do these pretend-philosophical films bother me this way? I see plenty of bad movies (a recent one being Sherlock Holmes, for example. "Make it count!" Please.) Most of them generally don't pretend to be profound (Jack and Jill, anyone?). That's perfectly ok by me. Not so here. In Prometheus we are led on by questions about the creation of mankind, about why we are here, and whether an artificial intelligence (AI) could have a soul. We see vast potential in the commentary of AI David (Michael Fassbender): his relationship to the humans may resemble the humans' relationship to a possible alien creator. He is rational and detached, and yet at times sinister in his uncaring. He takes a cross from Elizabeth, she wants it returned, because she believes in God, and he does not.

These are profoundly interesting, deeply sacred and important topics; but none are handled with respect in this film. Seeing it one has the feeling of trampling over a bed of orchids, or spoiling a fine pinot by eating a greasy cheeseburger with it. The superficiality of it is almost breathtaking.

Question: Why spend so much money, time, and effort on such a pseudo-epic, and pay attention with so much artistry to the finest visual details, if all you are really interested in is voyeuristic death-and-gore scenes? Low budget zombie films accomplish this much more effectively, and do not pretend to be anything other than they are: camp-cult candy. Neither is it entertaining to watch a contrived plot unwind around contrived acting.

Here is Frank Rich on Alien, Ridley Scott's earlier foray into philoso-gore:

“It is depressing to watch an expensive, crafty movie that never soars beyond its cold desire to score the big bucks … Scott knows how to push the buttons that make the audience squirm, but he achieves nothing that could not be accomplished equally well by sending electric shocks through a theater’s seats.”

Eerily familiar commentary. Evidently, nothing has changed in 30 years. Please, Ridley Scott and every other filmmaker who can command so much of the world's attention with a film, spare us any more of this drivel; it is neither entertainment nor art.

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