Prometheus (2012) Some Assembly Required

Like the rest of the world, I have been eagerly anticipating the release of this film. Although I will admit to having a little bit of trepidation, with the bad taste that  the “prequel” of The Thing”  produced still lingering in my mouth. But I have to say, as prequels go, this was a corker. Although director Ridley Scott has gone on record stating that this film  is not really a prequel, per se. It is set in the same universe (gee thanks, Ridley. I didn’t see that one coming), I mean come on. The sets on the alien world, the finding out what the “space jockey” from Alien really was. This was a prequel, right down to the fact that the owner of the company was obviously a relation of  Charles Bishop Weyland  that we first meet in Aliens vs Predators. So stop being so fey and coy Ridley, cos like it or not this is a “prequel.”

The film starts with a spaceship hovering over a landscape that seems to be mostly rushing water. A big albino type fellow drinks some kind of gel-like substance and starts getting some green moss-like looking stuff growing on his skin. His body starts breaking apart and then falls into a waterfall. As the rest of his body disintegrates we are treated to images of DNA strands changing, breaking apart and reforming. I will admit, this whole sequence left me a little confused. It was not until I got home and looked up the film on  Wikipedia that I found out that this was the “seeding” of Earth. Cue face-palm.

After this “seeding” we are now in 2089. A team of archaeologists are in the Isle of Sky Scotland and have found cave paintings showing a big chap pointing to six “planets.”  Fast-forward to 2093 and we are on a spaceship. It is on it’s way to the six planets that were on the cave painting.

The first person  we meet is David (Michael Fassbender) he is a robot. The kind of Artificial Intelligence that is prevalent in the Alien verse. He is obviously a predecessor of the ‘evil’ Ash that we met in Alien. Fassbender is beyond brilliant as the ‘robot’ David. We see what his everyday routine is during the two year journey to the planets. He plays basketball while riding a bicycle, he watches films (and seems especially attracted to Lawrence of Arabia), learns languages, eats, drinks, and  (somewhat disturbingly) listens in on the dreams of his fellow passengers while they are in hyper-sleep.

David, we find out, was a special creation of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) who is financing this trip. Weyland tells the crew (in a holographic “beyond the grave” message) that David is in essence his surrogate son. David’s level of AI is so high that it appears that he can have opinions, likes, dislikes and hidden agenda’s. If Fassbender doesn’t get at least an Oscar nomination for this performance, I will be amazed.

We then meet Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) a type-a personality whose job is to make sure this little expedition goes as planned. Theron and Fassbender are by far the most interesting characters in the film. Theron was told to “blend” in the background in a lot of the scenes and all that does is make her character  appear suspicious and a little threatening.

The “heroine” of the film is Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw. She is the Ripley of this little space opera. Unfortunately Noomi is not Sigourney Weaver. Don’t get me wrong. I think Noomi Rapace is a brilliant actress. I saw her performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And it was right after her stunning work in that film that she got the role of Shaw. I just didn’t, and still don’t truth be told, see why the main protagonist of the film had to be a woman…again.

We’ve seen it all before, most notably in Alien and Aliens. Ripley was a “kick-ass” heroine. Shaw just doesn’t have quite the same impact. In fact none of the characters have a lot of impact. The only exceptions are Vickers, David, and Janek (Idris Elba) who for some reason are more fully fleshed out as characters. Even the appearance of Weyland towards the end of the film is very scant on character development.

I got the feeling while watching this film that a lot of it wound up on the editing room floor. What was left had a feeling of being uneven or disjointed. It also had, what I felt, were “see Spot run” scenes. After Shaw’s husband is vindictively contaminated with alien goo by David, we are given a short scene between Elizabeth and her hubby. We are spoon fed the following information: Elizabeth cannot conceive and her husband still loves her in spite of this and makes love to her to show it. We didn’t really need the scene or the information it gave us. When David finds the alien life growing in Elizabeth’s body, we could have filled in the blanks. The knowledge that Shaw cannot conceive is extraneous to the film’s plot and serves no real purpose.

I would have liked seeing more of Theron and David and Janek. These three were the best written and acted in the film. I realise that it sounds like I did not like the film.

I did like the film. A lot.

I liked the premise of it and the execution of events once they arrived at the planet. And yes, Ridley, I saw direct connections between your prequel and the rest of the Alien verse. So despite the fact that I felt there was a lot of footage that never made it into the finished film. I still enjoyed it and will probably get the special edition DVD when it comes out for the  ‘making of’ features.

Over all it is definitely worth seeing in the cinema. I saw it in 2D and not 3D so I don’t know if this changes the overall look of the film, but I am not tempted to re-see it in 3D to find out.

Eden Lake (2008) A White Knuckle Ride

Eden Lake

Directed by James Watkins (My Little Eye, Gone) this tale of two young professional urbanites going to the countryside and running into “hoodies from Hell” is a tour de force of white knuckle moments and wincing violence. Watkins uses the film to make a topical statement about juvenile crime‘s increase in the UK and who is responsible for it.

 Kelly Reilly and  Michael Fassbender play the young professional couple Jenny and Steve. Steve has set up a romantic weekend at a lake he remembers from his childhood, It is secluded and a perfect spot for him to propose to his nursery teacher girlfriend. Arriving at the lake, Steve finds that the whole area is to be bulldozed and turned into houses for the “Yuppie” market. He also finds the the secluded area is obviously not so secluded as a gang of local kids seem to be using the area to hang out.
Steve is not best pleased by the appearance of the noisy neighbourhood kids and their dog. Jenny wants to move to another quieter area, but Steve is adamant that they are going to stay. He goes over to the group and asks them to move on. This idea is met with derision and hostility. It is also an open invitation for the youngsters to start harassing the young couple.
Little darlings...not.
Little darlings…not.
The harassment starts with the group just being noisier, before moving off sometime in the middle of the night.  After waking Steve and Jenny find the food they brought has been invaded by insects. They decided to go into town for a meal and to buy provisions. As the couple drive off, they run over something left by the kids and get a flat tire.
Steve replaces the tire and they drive to a cafe in town. While eating their meal they see the kids from the lake in town. Steve asks the waitress if she knows the kids as he wants to talk to their parents about the tire. The waitress becomes very defensive and says, “My kids would never do that.”
Things between the kids and the young couple escalate. Steve angrily confronts the children and one of them takes out a knife. Steve struggles with the boy and during the struggle accidentally kills one of the boy’s dog. The leader of the pack, a lad called Brett (played brilliantly by Jack O’Connell) who is visibly upset, tells Steve and Jenny to go. Steve tries to apologise for the killing of the dog, but the children ignore him.
Steve and Jenny decide they have had enough and start to leave. Brett, however has had a change of heart and has now decided that his gang are going to exact retribution for the death of the dog. So begins a heart pounding, cringe making attack by the children and Steve and Jenny’s attempt to escape.
Deadly hide and seek.
Deadly hide and seek.
James Watkins is another of those British directors that specialises in writing and directing low budget films that grip you. Made in 2008. Eden Lake takes a look at what was considered by  many to be a frighting increase in juvenile crime. The new millennium saw the emergence of the hoodie.
These hooded sweatshirts were the common uniform sported by gangs and other juvenile delinquents who had no problems breaking the law. Their emergence coincided with the courts in England becoming so lenient in terms of punishment for juvenile offenders that law abiding citizens started to fear these young criminals. Watkins’ message seems to be that it is the parents who are to blame.
This film is not easy to watch. I found myself repeatedly getting angry at the “grown-up” characters and their annoying combination of naivety and belief that, until the end, they could solve it all by talking. The calibre of performances was top notch. The location they chose for filming was spot-on, it looked like your average English town.
In fact there is a pub in the film that is a spitting image of a pub outside of Norwich, Norfolk. My daughter and I shiver every time we drive past it and I can’t help but drive a little bit faster.
Not your local friendly village pub.
Not your local friendly village pub.