Friday, June 01, 2012

Prometheus (3D)

Prometheus / Prometheus. US © 2012 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Dune Entertainment III LLC in all territories except Brazil, Italy, Korea, Japan and Spain. PC also: Brandywine Productions / Scott Free Productions. P: David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Tony Scott. D: Ridley Scott. SC: Jon Spaiths, Damon Lindelof. DP: Dariusz Wolski. PD: Arthur Max. AD: John King, etc. Set dec: Sonja Klaus. Cost: Janty Yates; cost dept.: big. Makeup, prosthetics, hair, creature design dept: big. Art dept: big. SFX team: big - Plowman Craven & Associates, FB-FX, Fuel International, Halon Entertainment, Lifecast, MPC (Moving Picture Company), ReelEye Company (SFX contact lenses), Special Eye Effects (contact lenses). VFX team: big - Lola Visual Effects, Luma Pictures, The Visual Effects Company (motion control), Weta Digital (roto). AN dept: big. M: Marc Streitenfeld. Frédéric Chopin. "The Alien Theme" by Jerry Goldsmith. S: Mark P. Stoeckinger. ED: Pietro Scalia. Casting: Nina Gold, Avy Kaufman. C: Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw, an archaelogist), Michael Fassbender (David, an android), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers, supervisor of the exhibition), Idris Elba (Janek, captain of The Prometheus), Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland, multibillionaire, owner of The Prometheus), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway, an archaeologist, Shaw's love interest), Sean Harris (Fifield, a geologist), Rafe Spall (Milburn, a botanist), Emun Elliott (Chance, ship pilot), Benedict Wong (Ravel, ship pilot), Kate Dickie (Ford, the ship medic). Loc: Iceland (Dettifoss, Vatnajökull National Park; Hekla, Rangárvallasýsla); Highland, Scotland (Fort William, Glen Coe; Inverness; Rannoch Moor; The Storr, Isle of Skye); Ciudad de la Luz, Alicante, Comunidad Valenciana, Spain (water scenes). Studio: Pinewood Studios. 124 min. Released by FS Film with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Topi Oksanen (from the manuscript) / Carina Laurila-Olin. 2K DCP viewed at Tennispalatsi 1, Helsinki, 1 June 2012 (day of Finnish premiere).

Technical specs from the IMDb: Camera: Red Epic, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses - Laboratory: Company 3 (digital intermediate), Fluent Image, London, UK. - Source format: Redcode RAW - Cinematographic process: Digital Intermediate (master format), Redcode RAW (5K) (dual-strip 3-D) (source format) - Printed film format: 35 mm (anamorphic) (Fuji Eterna-CP 3514DI), 70 mm (horizontal) (IMAX DMR blow-up) (dual-strip 3-D) (Kodak Vision 2383), D-Cinema (also 3-D version) - Aspect ratio: 2.35:1.

There had been no press screening in time for the NYT supplement of Helsingin Sanomat to publish a review of Prometheus, and I read Pertti Avola's review online today.

The official synopsis: "A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race."

I have admired Ridley Scott since I saw The Duellists in 1979, and his movies Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma & Louise have stood the test of time. Scott became famous because of his striking visuals as a top director of commercials, but at least in those movies his artistic vision was no longer surface gloss but something more profound. Scott belongs to the industrial designer type of directors, but at his best he is also a very good director of actors. Some of the most powerful and original action heroines in movies have emerged in his direction, and in Blade Runner the performances are consistently interesting even in small roles.

Prometheus originated as a prequel to Alien, but the result is another spinoff like the Aliens vs. Predators series. We see the birth of the alien, but it is only a subplot in Prometheus.

Prometheus is an effective horror film, and the most horrifying sequence is the one where Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) gives birth to the monster.

The sense of wonder is not strong in this movie. At its most effective it is in the alien temple where David revives the alien hologram star map which has Earth as its destination. Our engineers had had second thoughts about us and they had planned to attack the Earth to destroy life with biological weapons. Instead, however, they themselves perished by their weapons.

David the android (Michael Fassbender) is an interesting character in the development of cinematic androids. He keeps educating himself by studying many languages, and he learns patterns and models from movies including Lawrence of Arabia ("The trick, William Potter, is not minding that it hurts."). David instantly understands what has been going on in the alien temple. At first viewing I did not get it why he injects Charlie Holloway with the poison from the alien's biological weapon. Elizabeth Shaw is not fertile, but she is impregnated by the alien substance in Holloway while they have intercourse.

The difference in the behaviour of David the android and the humans is so small that the point of David's nature is all but lost. Inadvertently, Prometheus is a movie about dehumanization. The female characters perform in Ninotchka mode (Ninotchka before falling in love and bursting into laughter), and they don't make love but get laid in a functional manner. Charlize Theron is almost unrecognizable in such a cold mode. Noomi Rapace is efficient in the same way as she was as the utterly traumatized Lisbeth Salander.

I have been puzzled by the Twilight series and The Hunger Games, the new kind of big popular dystopias where we visit worlds not worth living in with no positive perspectives or alternatives, no convincing counterforces to the horror. In Prometheus, the figure of Elizabeth Shaw is much less vibrant, much less a life-force than was Ripley at least in the original Alien movie. Or maybe the Shaw character is just so underdeveloped here that we cannot make much sense of her determination when she states that "I want to go to where they came from" together with the decapitated but still functioning David.  

Prometheus was shot in digital 3D with high lighting levels, and the darkness was added in post-production. Although the physical world consists largely of stone, metal, and glass, even in such reduced circumstances there is a sense of visual poverty which is surprising in such a big production. Ridley Scott was famous for his excellent visual quality before he turned digital (including the use of the digital intermediates in his movies and the less than perfect digital effects in Gladiator and Hannibal). The low definition of Prometheus is far from the visual brilliance of Alien and Blade Runner.

There was no problem with the 3D, and the image was bright enough.

An interesting positive reaction in Finnish by Jutta Sarhimaa in her blog (7 June, 2012): http://cinefiliaa.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/miksi-prometheus-on-nautinto-elokuvaksi-kesan-pelastus-ja-alien-fanin-unelmien-tayttymys/

Jim Emerson's Scanners blog  remarks (14 June, 2012) are worth reading: http://blogs.suntimes.com/scanners/2012/06/prometheus_alien_origins_the_s.html#more

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