Ryan and Amy are finishing up a week in a Southeast Asian paradise with little or no contact with the outside world. This past week, I made the decision to leave Berkeley and join Fred in Southern Louisiana. Apparently, after 6 years in the middle of things in the Bay Area, Ryan and I are fleeing the centers of pop culture civilization. This does not bode well for the project of PopTheology.
Witness our inability to get up a review for Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus, despite simultaneous worldwide distribution. I know for a fact Ryan saw this film in Malaysia as soon as it came out, but then he disappeared where apparently the Internet has yet to be discovered. I have been dealing with details of an impending move and didn’t have time to get to a theater until late last Thursday night.
But, in the spirit of John Hurt, who somehow managed to keep his British dignity even with an alien hatchling bursting out of his chest, I shall Keep Calm and Carry On with some thoughts on Prometheus.
1.) Visuals: spectacular: I saw the film in IMAX 3D, and wow, what a treat for the senses. The film starts with spectacular zooming footage over Scotland, where two archaeologists (Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green: remember when actors had easily-recalled screen names?) have found cave paintings that point them to possible alien life forms light years from Earth. Their search for the life forms quickly takes us into outer space, aboard the Prometheus, an expeditionary ship funded by the Weyland Corporation. Once on ship, we are introduced to David (Michael Fassbender), an android who has been whiling away the two-year journey (the humans are in cryo-hibernation) by learning languages and watching Lawrence of Arabia. In fact, he has styled himself after both the look and the detached mannerisms of Peter O’Toole. Watching David crisply go about his business onboard, by himself, with Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude playing in the background, one is brought back to the brilliance of bringing together classical music and science fiction.
In fact, the whole film—from the moon surface scenes with a giant ringed planet filling the sky, to the natural forces of mountains and water and the suggestion of human life being created from the DNA of massive, marble-white aliens; even the old-school bubble-headed space suits—brings us back to the mind-expanding science fiction of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The key is in having characters we can imagine knowing (Scott retains his talent for bringing along scruffy working-class characters to interact with the obsessed scientists and corporate tools), doing things we can imagine ourselves doing (e.g. visiting another planet that looks like a real planet rather than an acid trip with blue aliens).
Scenes like David’s discovery of the “Engineers’” holographic star charts are about as spectacular as anything I have experienced at the movies. At various points during the film, I actually found myself staring with mouth agape at what was unfolding. When used thoughtfully and used well, 3D, particularly in the IMAX format, is introducing a new element to storytelling in film.
That being said, it’s amazing how little has changed since the last flourishing of 3D in the early 1950’s. Comparing some of the classic 3D films of that era and Prometheus, one could easily come to the conclusion that 3D was created to show four things: spacemen and spaceships, creatures, and boobs.
I illustrate here (all of these films were released in 3D):