Thursday 7 June 2012

Ridley Scott's PROMETHEUS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Well, this dull, bloated, meandering hack job sure as hell isn't ALIEN. It is, however, co-written by the TV hack who gave us the woeful screenplay for COWBOYS and ALIENS.

Prometheus (2012) *1/2
dir. Ridley Scott
Starring: Noomi Rapace,
Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Ridley Scott's film of Alien from the screenplay by Dan O'Bannon was (and still is) a great movie. When I first saw it in 1979, the experience was so perfect, so complete, that I never imagined there would be a need for a sequel (or prequel) of any kind. When the sequels started coming, I was less than impressed. I detested James Cameron's overlong, noisy Rambo-lina-styled Aliens, David Fincher's miasma of half-baked pretention Alien 3 and only Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Alien: Resurrection had decent entertainment value. The less said about the AVP instalments the better.

I loved Alien so much I probably saw it at least ten times in its first year of release and a few more times in subsequent years. Scott's direction was so dazzlingly proficient, H.R. Giger's legendary design elements so astounding and O'Bannon's script so tight that it held up on repeated viewings - allowing one to admire different elements of both craft and subtext once the pure visceral nightmare of the first screening was out of one's system.

And, it was one hell of a great monster movie - so much so that I kept my eyes peeled for any subsequent film Scott and O'Bannon were attached to.

Having penned the hilarious and creepy Dark Star, the John Carpenter-directed satire of 2001: A Space Odyssey, O'Bannon was already familiar to me. After Alien, though, he always delivered the goods - even when the directors were hacks (as was the case with John Badham's competent rendering of Blue Thunder) or if the directors completely buggered up the writing (in particular, Tobe Hooper's mish-mash of Lifeforce and his lamely directed remake of Invaders From Mars) or when the directors were talentless non-entities (like Gary Sherman, whose dull by-the-numbers helmsmanship of Dead and Buried strangely enhanced the writing and made you wish a real director had delivered up O'Bannon's scenario).

When O'Bannon was paired with a great director, though, like Paul Verhoeven - watch out! Total Recall is so perfect and hasn't dated one bit and makes one automatically assume that the upcoming new version will have to be an utter waste of time.

The only opportunity O'Bannon had to direct his own original screenplay was the phenomenal Return of the Living Dead - a horror film so blisteringly insane, scary and funny that I still can't figure out why O'Bannon's output eventually petered out (though he did a decent directorial job on a Lovecraft adaptation written by another screenwriter called The Resurrected).

O'Bannon is one thing - the real thing!

Ridley Scott, however, is another matter. He's directed 20 pictures. He will always be in my good graces for Alien - his work there is unimpeachable. If truth be told, however, I haven't much liked most of his other pictures.

Blade Runner is clearly not without merit, but whatever version one sees, it's pretty much a gorgeous looking mess (and I still think the studio cut is the best). Thelma and Louise is entertaining, but full of fake female empowerment and has little value beyond one helping. Hannibal has the distinction of being a first-rate piece of A-movie trash and Black Hawk Down is still one kick-ass war picture. The rest of Scott's output is completely negligible - and yes, this includes his testosterone-infused Oscar-winning snore-fest Gladiator.

In spite of this, I was genuinely thrilled when I heard about Prometheus. I went so out of my way to NOT know anything about it that all I could tell you about the movie before seeing it was that Scott was directing, it had something to do with Alien and had a cool poster I couldn't avoid. About an hour before seeing the movie, I sadly made the inadvertent discovery that Michael Fassbender was in the movie and playing an android. Knowing this kind of annoyed me after all my hard work of not watching any trailers or reading anything in advance about it, but what finally annoyed me even more was the movie itself.

Anyone who thinks Prometheus should be viewed as a stand-alone piece and NOT a prequel to Alien (as some have suggested) is an idiot. It's a prequel all right. A scientific expedition is launched based upon similarities in ancient art works from different eras. A crew of scientists go to another planet and discover that it was once populated by alien beings who were responsible for creating life on Earth until they were wiped out by the nasty monster aliens from the first movie. Everyone gets wiped out save for Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender.

And there you pretty much have it.

The movie might have been worth watching, but the screenplay is so dull that there's little going for Prometheus other than leading lady Noomi Rapace (from the original German Dragon Girl trilogy), Fassbender's amusing android who models himself after Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, Scott's first-rate visuals and terrific special effects. That said, the effects here are typical of the digital age and nothing has the majesty or power of those rendered in Alien. I even hated the Prometheus spaceship. I'm more of water-dripping Nostromo rust-bucket-spaceship-kind-of-guy from instalment number one.

What drove me crazy in Prometheus is how most of it was all sizzle and no steak. There is only one - count 'em - ONE brilliantly horrific, suspenseful set piece that's ALMOST as good as anything in the first Alien.

And it IS a great scene, on a par with John Hurt's chest explosion. The Prometheus near-equivalent involves Rapace giving herself a Caesarean to pluck out the alien growing in her womb before it bursts out and kills her. It was the only time in the whole movie I genuinely perked up. Scott handled this harrowing sequence with tremendous aplomb. Though the chest explosion in Alien was a tough act to follow, the movie did so in spades and was so ridiculously scary you spent much of the movie squeezing your bum cheeks to keep the fecal matter from spewing out. The rest of Prometheus, however, feels plodding, predictable and is possibly even worse than Gladiator. Though I will concede it beats the AVP pictures.

The movie is rife with BIG IDEAS, but most of them are introduced, then dropped in favour of forward thrust and pyrotechnics. Even more offensive is the predictable conclusion that offers up a sequel or two. I saw it coming from very early on and prayed the story WOULDN'T go where it did.

It does.

So much for shocker endings.

However, I do suspect a gibbon might have trouble predicting the outcome.

That the screenplay is woefully inadequate is no surprise. It's written by Joe Spaights whose only claim to fame is a silly direct to video thriller a la Deliverance and Damon Lindelof, a TV hack whose only feature credit as a screenwriter is (need I say more?) Cowboys & Aliens.

The tagline for the original Alien was the brilliant: "In space, no one can hear you scream." With Prometheus, everyone in the theatre will hear discriminating audience-members scream for the movie to finally end so they can get home, slap on their Alien Blu-Ray and cleanse their palates of this decidedly unpalatable, over-hyped and shockingly well-reviewed hack job.

"Prometheus" is currently in world wide release via 20th Century Fox.