Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Deep in the Most Shallow of Ways

I was going to write a full-blown review of Prometheus, which I saw last weekend, but I don't really have the wherewithal to do so. The movie's been hashed and rehashed so many times since its release in Europe two weeks ago that I'm not sure I have anything insightful to add. So, in lieu of my own review, I offer instead the following quote which comes close to summing up my feelings:
Ridley Scott may have the technical craft polished to an almost absurdly accomplished level, but the script itself feels like the stoned-at-3:00 AM musings of a first-year philosophy student.  It is deep in the most shallow of ways, asking some of the biggest questions of our existence with a puppyish enthusiasm and without even the vaguest hint of an answer.

It's easy to draw comparisons between this film and "2001: A Space Odyssey," and Scott seems to be inviting those comparisons with his first image here, an almost-direct quotation of Kubrick's movie.  The difference is that Kubrick didn't graft the Hollywood structure onto his examination of the moments where life has taken a quantum jump forward in complexity and sophistication.  He had enough faith in the strength of what he was doing that he told a very unconventional version of a narrative.  But anything he raised as a question in that movie, he answered.  If you think "2001" is in any way "vague," you need to see it again.  That is a movie where every piece of information you need from it is contained within.  Although I enjoy "2010" as a piece of mainstream science-fiction, it is very much the dumb cousin of the first film.  It spells things out, or tries to, in a way that is almost insulting after how carefully constructed "2001" is to reveal it secrets to a patient and inquisitive audience.  Unfortunately, "Prometheus" is far more "2010" than "2001."

29 comments:

  1. Talysman the Ur-BeatleJune 13, 2012 at 10:46 PM

    I lost respect for Ridley Scott when I found out he believed Decker was a replicant and that he would make that clear in any sequel he happened to make.

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  2. I can't trust a review from someone who think Kubrick is a good standard. Kubrick is a terrible director and 2001 was an awful, boring, useless movie that has done SF no favours. 

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  3. lol cool story, bro.

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  4. Sometimes a film is just a whole bunch of great images with a soundtrack. Need we weave more into it?

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  5. I can sum the plot of Prometheus for you: Its like someone was flicking through a copy of Dragon Magazine and read the editorial describing the Editor's experiences in D&D - where Editor so and so having ventured into the Dungeons 'neath Castle Greyhawk the night before the party was set to explore it - encountered a giant stone head and cast a magic mouth spell on it so it Declares that 'He who gives away his most valuable magic of his own free will looking for nothing in return shall be rewarded tenfold!' and then ventures in with the Party the next morning and with the Giant stone head repeating its message - the more magic toting PC gives away his most powerful magic item to the sneaky PC spell-caster - and said: Hey Lets have a Giant Stone head with a Message.

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  6. ... far more "Matrix Reloaded" than "Matrix" ... far more "Donnie Darko Director's Cut" than "Donnie Darko" ...

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  7. @Faustusnotes,

    Such as yourself, everyone is entitled to their opinion.  But when likes of  Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa , Ingrid Bergman,  Orson Wells, Sidney Polak, David Lynch, Mark Romanek, George Lucas, Sidney Lumet, all  acknowledge  Kubrick as one of the greatest directors of all time...Well,  you look like a complete idiot when you say Kubrick was a terrible director.

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  8. Oh come on, Woody Allen is terrible as well. Kurosawa's most famous work is over-long, repetitive, tedious and poorly acted - wouldn't surprise me at all that he likes Kubrick, who never saw an actor he couldn't turn into a wooden shell of a man. And David Lynch? If some idiot standing on a stage while cauliflower-shaped sperm dolls fall on his head is meant to be cinema, well ...

    This quote James links to is poorly written and largely a defense of 2001. What random tosh it is. And to complain that Prometheus is the ramblings of a first year philosophy student by comparing it unfavourably to something as pretentious and pointless as 2001?  I don't get to see this movie until August, unfortunately, but there's no information content in this review.

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    1. I actually really like Paths of Glory...

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  9. The last act of 2001 could be compared to that same philosophy student looking at a lava lamp and listening to Phillip Glass.

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  10. Hmmm...2001 pointless.... it was about humanity being shaped by technology, being challenged by that technology, and reaching enlightenment through the use of technology. Its not very subtle.
    Comparing other sci-fi films to 2001 is sometimes an exercise in pretension in any case. Alien was a great horror film made in an era where horror was mumbojumbo, slasher flicks, and black cats. The director communicated the environment amazingly well inthe film and it was as much a character in the film as Ripley and the Alien. A film set in the same universe as alien should be judged against that.

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  11. I gave up on going to the movies.  Hollywood has homogenized it's product down to such a mediocre medium.  The only movie(s) I look forward to is The Hobbit.  Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer have influenced too much of the mainstream into thinking explosions and non-stop action is the ONLY way to make a sci-fi or fantasy movie.  Peter Jackson is the exception (although King Kong was SOOOOOOO boring and way too long).  Hollywood thinks we all think "Armageddon" had a deep message.

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  12. Nicholas BergquistJune 14, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Well if it helps any, if you're looking for entertainment, enjoy sci fi scenery and space ship porn, and happen to have enjoyed Alien without worrying too much about the Deep Inner Meaning of it all, Prometheus is an enjoyable movie. I think we're asking a bit too much of our light popcorn entertainment these days....or maybe I'm just happy to see a film in the franchise that was better than the last four films combined, albeit not quite as good as Alien and Aliens--but a fair sight better than Alien Resurrection, the abominable AvP series and A3.

    This movie suffers only because its own hype and our inflated expectations. I'm not trying to be forgiving of the film....I'm saying it was a horror movie that is part of a franchise about people-eating/impregnating aliens, and this is not a franchise that has ever asked the deep questions, despite our fondest desire to think it did.  

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  13. The Recursion KingJune 14, 2012 at 10:42 AM

    I have to agree with you. Just because some critic highly rates something doesn't mean it's any good. Nine times out of ten the critic has an agenda and is supporting a film with the some values that align with it. I think we've all seen 'critically acclaimed' films that were absolutely awful.

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  14. The Recursion KingJune 14, 2012 at 10:44 AM

    Ugh, and that's another waste of everyone's time (Donnie Darko). A film with no heart and soul just a man going mad and everybody is supposed to think it is clever and amazing. It's not, it's shallow and pointless.

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  15. I haven't seen Promethius so I can't comment on that, but...

    But anything he raised as a question in that movie, he answered. If you think "2001" is in any way "vague," you need to see it again.

    ...I have to call BS. Especially since Kubrick specifically said otherwise. This reviewer is attempting to prove his chops by saying "Oh yeah, I totally understood 2001!" and not realizing what a complete fool he's making of himself by claiming his personal interpretation is the only correct one.

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  16. We were angry after seeing Prometheus. All this time for Scott to do something great - and perhaps my inflated expectations, just resulted in a predictable flop of a movie. I'll give him another chance though. Tarentino does NOT though - what he did with Death Proof Is unforgivable.

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  17. I have seen Prometheus, and 2001 many times, and I call BS as well.  2001 is a good movie but basically incoherent.  Prometheus is also a fairly good movie but also incoherent in places.  If anything, Prometheus did a better job of explaining itself (albeit poorly at times) whereas 2001 is essentially nonsensical unless you draw your own conclusions - which didn't used to be considered a bad thing.

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  18. I agree.

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  19. Dan O'Bannon > Damon Lindelof?

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  20. Please considering your fascinating (and I'm sure very well-informed) discussion of how Hollywood's most respected directors have feet of clay.  Surely Welles and Bergman must also have fallen short of your exacting standards?  I mean, there's not one gunfight or helicopter chase in Citizen Kane.  And The Seventh Seal isn't even in English!

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  21. You and fautusnotes should make a movie together.  I predict it would be an artistic triumph.

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  22. If you say so.

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  23. The main complaint I hear about the movie is that it fails to deliver on the ideas it brings up.


    However, I don't like the movie because it doesn't tell a good story - it is riddled with logical and structural problems (some forgivable some not).

    What is the conflict of the story, and more importantly, is the conflict entertaining?   That is what people should be asking themselves.

    That might sound like a conventional complaint from a narrow mind but I think people are actually feeling more confused and dissatisfied by the lack of sensible plot conventions in Prometheus rather than the lack of conclusive exposition on the sci-fi elements.

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  24. The_Shadow_Knows faustusnotes Would either of you care to clarify and support your assertions that Kubrick is "terrible" or that 2001 is "basically incoherent", or are you just typical time-wasting internet blowhards? (I realize these alternatives are not exclusive.)

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  25. The_Shadow_KnowsJune 18, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    If you don't know what "basically incoherent" means, I don't see how I can "clarify" it for you. As for "support" - sorry, you don't get to assign me homework.

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  26. to the quotation: philosophy isn't necessarily suppose to "have answers". philosophy is a "love of wisdom rather than wisdom itself." huge difference. maybe he should take that first year of philosophy.

    as for the movie: terribly written for the aesthetic execution. its like looking at the most gorgeous pile of feces you've ever seen.

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  27. yeah, Romantic irony is stupid

    /sarcasm

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  28. id go as far to say the movie is written like a normal session of D&D.

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