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Prometheus – Let’s just say that I have a lot to say.

NOTE: I honestly could not construct this review without putting in spoilers.  If this is important to you, read at your own risk.

Besides slamming into logical roadblocks, I don’t quite understand why the internet hive mind is in a murderous rampage over this movie.  Ridley Scott’s directing style was there, H.R. Giger’s grotesque and biomechanical art direction was present, the performances were pretty well done; frankly, I was happy enough for the final product.  What really lacked, in my opinion, was the writing.  According to IMDb, there were two writers: Jon Spaihts, who I’ve never even heard of because he hasn’t done anything, and Damon Lindelof who wrote Lost… and I think this explains a lot.  I’m not going to go off about “franchise continuity” like most people have because Ridley stated during production that this is more of an “off shoot, spin off reboot” rather than a direct prequel of Alien.  If you take the movie as that, then what contradicts continuity makes sense on its own.  The lack of common sense and basic understanding of science, on the other hand, doesn’t.

Uh… okay…

My first eye roll occurred from the whole star map nonsense.  To be honest, I don’t know anything about star maps or astronomy but I’m pretty positive a “star formation” that has been repeated by ancient unconnected cultures (1) means nothing because it’s just a meme (i.e. six pointed star, swastika), (2) how did they know it was “engineers” giving them clues to search for them, (3) that formation could look like any formation in the whole galaxy simply by shifting perspective on certain collections of stars, and (4) how did Weyland know that there were engineers of human life?  He seemed one hundred percent sure that it was a calling and, after all, he is a businessman.  A businessman isn’t going to invest in an endeavor unless he is confident of a profit, driven by superstition or not… and it was a superstition that he completely believed in because he made it clear that he did not know of, meet, or had any sort of contact with the engineers.  Also, the star formation did not seem like it was some sort of Lovecraftian object that would drive its finders into obsession.  Otherwise, the whole crew would have been enamored by it.  This whole star stuff was a skyscraper built on straw.  There was a big reason for going there but not enough of a foundation to get there.  This is one of the first logical roadblocks where I sense the writer(s) asking “we know what we want and what to do but how do we get there?”  They couldn’t have a reason for mining because that was the first Alien movie and the crew in Prometheus had to consist of scientists; otherwise, it would undermine the whole story [ba-dum-tish].  This logic roadblock was not entirely slammed into but the drivers weren’t left unscathed.

A huge roadblock, though more of a gaping pothole, was science.  If I want to write a science-fiction film, I’m not going to ask the writer and creator of Lost to help.  Yeah, he helped write the newer Star Trek movie.  I thought it was pretty decent but at the same time, the movie’s plot/story was similar to many other plots/stories from the original episodes.  At least there was some sort of guide… and the science is also way out there (which is a problem I’ve always had with Star Trek but that can be discussed another day).  Prometheus and the Alien franchise is pretty near-future for science fiction.  No phasers, no teleporters, no crazy worm hole/time travel stuff.  The science has always been straight forward and believable in the Alien universe.  My first question of the science in Prometheus is that even if this is a kinda-sorta prequel, why the hell is the biology of these damn creatures so complicated?  Even in the original Alien movie, it was pretty simple and that simplicity helped in adding their creepy factor.  From my understanding, the black goop, when ingested by a human male, would slowly kill him and mutate his sperm; that mutated sperm, when in contact with a human egg, would create a squid like creature that then would quickly evolve into a giant starfish; then, if able to, the giant starfish would act like a face hugger to impregnate (or re-impregnate) whatever it could find and kill it at the same time.  And if it could find an engineer/space jockey, the now dead engineer/space jockey would then give birth to a Xenomorph.  But if the black goop was ingested by a male engineer/space jockey, it just would kill him quickly and the body would then act as a building block for human life.  But the goop was originally going to be used by the space jockeys/engineers to kill off the humans they created for no clear reason.

What?

You need to know a decent amount of science to write science fiction.  Even if you’ve seen just an episode of Lost, you know that show has confusing logic and it is clearly brought over here.  The original creatures in Alien were not that complicated and their lifecycle was very insect like.  It went Queen –> Egg –> Face Hugger –> A body to impregnate (human or not) –> Chest Burster –> then it would rapidly grow into a Xenomorph.  The closest lifecycle to this, that I can think of, is a tapeworm’s.  As I said, you need to have a basic knowledge of science to write science fiction.  This creature, or these creatures, in Prometheus do not have any sort of lifecycle of anything that (I know of) exists.  DNA cannot instantly adapt to whatever environment it is in, single celled or multi celled; sperm or giant starfish.  But obviously anyone that thinks a woman can leap off an operating table and run away perfectly fine after having a c-section, while hopped up on pain killers, needs a reality check.  It’s a pity too because that particular scene was great till its conclusion.  It really had a shot at making a statement about the struggles of motherhood.  In fact, this whole movie could have made a real statement about the struggles of motherhood, the same way Alien made a statement about the struggles of women in a male dominated society (amongst other things).  There was a lot of places where a “struggles of motherhood” theme could have been planted; the engineer/space jockey using himself to give birth to the human race, Shaw being sterile but still giving birth to some nightmarish squid thing, Vickers clearly having the ability to give tough love to her crew.  Instead, this movie decided to take the “let’s talk about faith” route.  They ultimately needed a way to get to the story and had no way of getting there.

It appears I’m not the only one that caught this. Giger’s Harkonnen Castle design for Jodorowsky’s unfinished Dune movie was used for the goop cannister armory… thing… in Prometheus. Image source: http://badassdigest.com/2012/06/14/prometheus-borrows-giger-designs-from-jodorowskys-unmade-dune/

Though entertaining, Prometheus was mostly filled with empty nutrients… notice that I did not say calories.  If this movie did consist of empty calories, it would be non-stop action beginning to end.  It would not even bother to question or make arguments.  The film asks what it means to have faith and why… but these are the empty nutrients.  The questions open up, loudly, but never close; not even with the faintest subtlety.  The subject of faith and religion is too big of a subject to tackle in a two hour sci-fi/horror film, especially a question that does not really have an answer.  I suppose religion/faith is a common topic for science-fiction (VALIS, Star Wars, Star Trek, re-imagined Battlestar Galactica).  But for horror?  I’m not sure.  The only way it could ever end would be on an atheistic note.  Previous sci-fi works that have covered religion always had a more agnostic vibe; examples being those listed in the parentheses above.  The conclusions sci-fi and horror stories typically have contradict one another and Prometheus is a mix of these.  As a genre film, it works and always has worked on numerous occasions (the other Alien movies, one of my favorite PC games System Shock, even Frankenstein has been considered a prototype of mixing these genres).  This is another area where I feel the writer(s) hit a logic roadblock; this one was more behind the scenes.  They picked up two ends but couldn’t get them to meet.  I suppose one could argue that they tried and, yes, I do think at times it worked.  It worked for the heroine Shaw and it worked okay for Weyland, despite it not blending very well with his archetype of a big corporate executive.  Not saying it would be impossible it just wasn’t fleshed out because he only shows up in the beginning and the end.  But even then, those were really the only spots where faith, on an agnostic tone, played a role and worked.  It just cannot work in the horror genre.  Frankly, you have a better chance of putting Bertrand Russell’s atheism into the Texas Chainsaw Massacre than Aldous Huxley’s spirituality in an Alien film.  I don’t think the writer(s) gave the story and theme much thought.  On the bright side, at least it wasn’t Lockout.

What would go great with this?

Serve with…

Chicken in peanut sauce Lean Cuisine.  Make sure you microwave it about thirty to forty seconds under the recommended time.  You’ll want delicious salmonella to truly feel the chaos the story brings to the table.

Accommodating beverage…

Vodka tonic with a dash of mysterious black goop.

Critic Value: 5/10…?

There’s just so much that could have been done here.  This movie is proof that you can have good directing but a bad story.  Ridley’s atmospheric tension building is there and it’s done well.  The scene where David’s character is developing screams Ridley Scott.  The references to Lawrence of Arabia and the parallels of an android’s life among humans are a perfect fit… but after that, where story is the main focus (the writer’s responsibility), it falls apart.  I gave this a five and a question mark because the film as a whole had its chance for purpose, and it tried, and there were spots where it could have been implemented, but in the end it must have been overlooked

Quality Value: 9/10…?

A question mark is for the quality of the writing.  You can hear the movie’s universe breathe with life: the sets, the characters, the costumes, the atmosphere and tension that’s built.  That’s all Ridley and the quality he has always brought to his films.  I may be a fanboy but you can’t deny that he did his job.  The writer(s) didn’t.  Prometheus is like looking at a beautiful glass statue filled with pigeon shit.

Entertainment: 7/10

Love it or hate it, this movie is engaging.  I liked it for what Ridley did/tried to do, I didn’t like it for what the writer(s) did.

It’s more than just pixels…

Journey has been getting me to really think about this subject lately; how cinema has pushed games, how it has been pushing games, and how it will be pushing games. What do I mean by push? I mean by “pushing” towards a more cinematic direction. View my evolution slideshow below to see what I mean…

P.S. Make sure to click the caption button in the bottom left so you can see what I have to say.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Japanese Spiderman – Not a review, just a post.

So, I was looking around and found out that Marvel’s site actually has (I’m assuming) all the episodes of Japanese Spiderman for free: http://marvel.com/tv/show/128/japanese_spiderman.  From a Spiderman fan’s personal view, I find it flat out silly and missing the things I admired about the original comics (his personal struggles, trying to live a double life, etcetera).  But, from a film nerd’s view, it’s really interesting to see a classic American superhero mixed with retro Japanese cheese.

Professor Monster may be my new favorite Spiderman villain.

I think the characters in here are quite interesting.  The villains are very clearly made for Japanese audiences (Professor Monster with the projector on his head is hilariously awesome), as well as Spiderman’s mech and Mach V-esque car.  I really liked how this Peter Parker has a sister and a much younger brother.  Parker’s girlfriend is the photographer this time, instead of him, which I find to be kind of refreshing and can see bringing some really interesting plots.  If you like odd, retro Japanese stuff then you should definitely check this out; Spiderman fan or not.

What would go great with this ?

Serve with…
California Roll
Accommodating beverage…
Sake Screwdriver

Babylon A.D. — An idea that went from good, to bad, to decent.

I had my eye on this movie since its late production stages.  My nerdom is cyberpunk.  It always has and will be; sadly, it’s one of the worst ones to subscribe to.  The reason for this is because it’s so damn niche.  What’s even worse?  Usually those niche things, when they are released on the market, end up being sealed away in the Crap Vault for eternity; honestly, I thought this was what happened to this movie.  When it came out in theaters, I practically wanted to cry because of all the terrible reviews that rolled in and I typically agree with critics.  Back in 2008, cyberpunk was pretty much declared a dead genre (though it’s slowly being re-resuscitated today) .  The last good cyberpunk flick during that time was probably A Scanner Darkly (2006).  Everything else was either b-rate or hard to get a hold of.  The Gene Generation, though intriguing in concept, was the ultimate in cyberpunk cheese.  The other film, Sleep Dealer, you could only see if you went to one of the film fests it showed at (and maybe an indie theater, neither of which I had access to when it was released).  Babylon A.D. was the only “mainstream” one since ’06.  As you can see, being part of a niche can either really suck or be really rewarding.  Luckily the extended cut of this movie does not belong in the aforementioned Crap Vault.

“DEUCES IS WILD, IT’S A TRIPLE THREAT”

I had access to the DVD that featured the theatrical and extended cut.  I watched both.  One of the major things that the extended cut has over the theatrical is character development.  Honestly, if you saw the theatrical before watching the extended (I did it the other way around), this movie does not make a lick of sense.  Vin Diesel’s character just seems to be some sort of bro biggot, Aurora (the girl he has to protect) appears to be more trouble than she’s worth, and the whole general plot line is far off course than what was intended.  If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that editing can make a world of difference when it comes to plot and story.

This is what I look like when I critique things… or give life advice.

The theatrical cut’s story makes no sense.  It only makes a little bit if you see the extended first but still, it barely will.  I’d spoil the movie if I were to go into it deeper.  The true version is best compared to a mix between The Fifth Element, Children of Men, and a smidgen of Blade Runner.  Granted that even the extended cut is nowhere near as good as these movies, it definitely takes the first two’s “on the run” elements and draws that sense of mystery and worry the latter brings.  Clearly the director knew what made these three classics great.  The producer?  Not so much.  Though, I don’t think someone who was the mastermind behind Lawnmower Man 2 really has the say on what makes a sci-fi movie good; especially since the rest of his IMDb page consists of romances and historical flicks.  I don’t have anything against the guy but this isn’t a movie he should have touched.

Everything looks pretty with filters.
 
In the end, I have to say the extended cut is definitely worth checking out if cyberpunk and dystopian sci-fi are your genres of choice.  As a film (the extended cut) overall?  It’s okay.  Not great but not bad either.  It’s entertaining, a lot of colorful eye candy.  Some of the actions scenes are silly and out of place; I have a feeling those had a lot to do with the producer.  Granted they were required for the story but, compared to the slight level of subtlety in the extended version, it would be too expensive to reshoot them just for it.  That is one of the faults I have to give Babylon A.D. leeway on.  Though, there is one over-the-top action scene featured in the extended version that would have fit better in the theatrical (you’ll know it when you see it).  Thinking back, it was probably used for Aurora’s character development.  But even then, there were still some parts of it that didn’t involve her but maybe they just needed extra footage so it could be referred to as the “extended” cut.  The production of movies always has some mystery behind it.  Sadly, I think audiences will be left in the dark on this one.

What would go great with this (Extended Cut)?

Serve with…
Pasta alla Vodka

Accommodating beverage…
Tall, cool bottle of Baltika 8 beer.

What would go great with this (Theatrical Cut)?

Serve with…
Saltines.  Too bad, you have to starve through the whole thing.

Accommodating beverage…
McCormick Vodka.  A movie like this is hangover inducing, like cheap liquor.

Extended Cut Rating (I’m not bothering with the other one):

Critic Value: 7/10

Unlike the butchered theatrical cut, this version really plays with the thought of theocracy embracing technocracy to push their doctrines.  It’s not entirely apparent at first but the movie does leave you thinking.

Quality Value: 8/10

Once again, putting the ruined version aside, this film was well done all around.  From character development, to story, to cinematography and casting.  This film shows its budget.

Entertainment Value: 8/10

Time definitely flies by in this movie.  It’s visually engaging and the character connections will  get the audience caught in its web.