PROMETHEUS (Ridley Scott) - 3.5/5
With each review for ‘Prometheus’ prefaced with the familiar ’33 years after he redefined the genre, Ridley Scott is returning to it’ one could only be led to expect a similar turn of events on its release. Enter Cousin Disappointment. Not as strong or as belligerent as Father Disappointment but still maintaining the power to leave you sucking on the gristle of your own expectations. After a series of discoveries from many unconnected civilisations all pointing towards the same star system, a team of 17 (employed by Peter Weyland, seemingly the galaxy’s only contractor) lead the vessel Prometheus to a moon with an atmosphere suitable for life. Scott has often denied that this is a prequel to Alien, and to a certain extent this is true. Instead of searching for the origins of the Xenomorphs who play an incidental role here, the true search is for ourselves and our own existence leading to the beginning of a whole new franchise away from Ripley’s tightie whities. After a slow but not arduous introduction consisting of shots that Terrence Malick might be proud of we find ourselves faced with a pale, deeply defined and muscular man, shedding a robe atop a waterfall. Within seconds he will be nothing, his cells devastated by a suicide we might later suggest to be noble. Immediately, however, a question is asked that is to determine the future of the Prometheus crew: When God dies, what is left for his creation? After all, when the Nietzschean Superman chooses to take his own life in desperation, only a cataclysmic sense of foreboding remains.
Remember how Alien was a horror film, cast in a mould of HR Giger’s gothic nightmare, building up a tight string of tension until Dallas’ semi-unfortunate demise? Remember how as a child the first appearance of the Xenomorph left you returning to your pre-toilet training days, quivering beneath your duvet confused both by Sigourney Weaver’s pants and Giger’s obvious obsession with both male and female genitalia? ‘Prometheus’ contains, with the exception of the latter, none of the above. And Good! We’ve been living in the franchised Alien Universe for far too long, ever since Cameron’s pitch to Studio Exec’s was ‘ALIEN$’. Ridley Scott reclaims his creation, providing a definitive story to accompany his own original but with a philosophical twist we’d all been warned about. It works, mostly, and unfortunately pining for more answers that we’ll all have to wait for we are in turn provided with some experiments into the ridiculous too. Faceless monsters, reminiscent of early Buffy episodes (which even then were attached to a ridiculous sub-plot) provide a showdown necessary to answer one of the many origin questions but Cousin Disappointment rears his ugly head encroaching all over the less is more territory for a spectacle often with little attachment to the plot.
The visuals, however, are stunning and the violence for the most part is riveting. Yet, amongst his homage to discovery and David Lean there is a 2 minute interlude in which Scott heads down Danny Boyle ‘Sunshine’ territory which let us all be assured is never a good thing (see the overly tanned zombie bore fest for reference). ‘Prometheus’ is rescued through a character tension so strong only a pneumatic drill or a series of sharp, violent deaths could break. Noomi Rapace’s emotional exhibitionism combats the robotic unnerving of Michael Fassbender’s David 8, a curious android with a Pinocchio complex, and Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers, ice queen extroadinaire. The film also has an admirable depth to it and allows new conjectures for the rest of the series but is not without vacuity in some places. Enjoy nonetheless, but leave your expectations at the popcorn stand otherwise you’ll be footing the bill while your trusty Cousin has all the fun.
After a year on here I still don’t know how to reply properly but here’s a quick response to FOOLPROOF COFFIN about why I enjoyed Shame so much.
Firstly, it was great to see Fassbender not only return to McQueen’s direction but also to deviate away from some of the most unproductive and bore-inducing films of 2011 (see X-Men/Jayne Eyre). Though I must concede, because having reminded myself of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last night, I found it wholly deserving of Outstanding British Film.
Shame to me was heartbreaking, because what we were presented with is not a man whose shame comes from his sex addiction but instead from the point that people seemed to miss about the film that was in his obvious non-familial relationship with his sister. Her begs of asking him to ‘come over to the dark side’, the side that he has successfully removed himself for so long (arguably, as he seems to have replaced one dark side for another) is really the only piece of dialogue that provides us with this information. The rest has to rely on their own psychological manifestations with regards to their own bodies. One represents introverted self harm and the other extroverted. It is this make up of the film that really draws my love to it.
The film is one of the few that can incorporate so much graphic sex and make it as disturbing as, say, the rape scene in Tyrannosaur (another terrifyingly good British film of 2011) instead of base titillation. Nobody leaves Shame feeling that what they saw was pornographic, and if they did then they didn’t understand it. With every woman that he seduces, he loses a part of himself. The only woman that he truly wants to make love with, he can’t perform around. And THAT scene on the train, towards the end, has you breathless.
All in all, I thought it was brilliant. In my Top 5 of 2011. McQueen also manages get Bach in there, which can never be complained about. Also, notice that even when he runs through the streets of New York, you can feel his stasis. There is no relief, and that’s what I fell in love with about the film, it’s inescapable claustrophobia.
X-Men: First Class - ***
(Or as it should otherwise be known: The Fassbender Identity)
Matthew Vaughn returns to the big screen with another comic book adaptation (his last being the wonderful Kick Ass) collaborating with Bryan Singer, director of X-Men (2000) and X-Men 2 (2003). What comes of this is actually a pretty conventional though entertaining origins story which succeeds, mostly, where Gavin Hood’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) failed.
Beginning with a familiar scene in Auschwitz, 1944, the child Erik Lehnsherr is subjected to the murder of his mother as a punishment for failing to display his powers before the Nazi Doctor, Sebastian Shaw. The film, cutting back and forth between Xavier’s early friendship with Raven (Mystique) and his later professorship and Erik’s violent hunt for Shaw, spends a long time with introductions, which though necessary proves to be dull and restrictive. Fassbender’s Erik is also so tightly wound and ultimately untouchable that suspension of disbelief only lasts so long before his ropey dialogue becomes an key issue: ‘I’m Frankenstein’s Monster’.
However, despite all this, the character development soon picks up pace and reclaims interest. Once the recruitment begins, First Class becomes an enthralling exploration of the conflict between difference and acceptance. We soon see the pieces of the origin puzzle fitting nicely together with the birth of Magneto and the reason for Xavier’s disability. There’s even an amusing cameo from the ageless Wolverine (Hugh Jackman).
If you’re looking for an intelligent, effects laden, coming-of-age, coming-of-evolution adventure story then this is definitely one to watch. Coming out of the screening, however, you’ll feel as if having awoken from a dream; First Class is believable amongst the cinema seats yet ridiculous in the foyer.