Science fiction, triple feature
Despite director Ridley Scott’s otherwise-solid science fiction film record —”Blade Runner” and “Alien” — his latest film, “Prometheus,” disappoints.
Of the ensemble-ish cast, an android named David (Michael Fassbender), is the only one that gets enough character development to have any empathy with audiences. Protagonist Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) falls flat, and major antagonist Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) feels like she could be interesting with more context.
Both of these characters are acted well, especially Dr. Shaw, but there’s not enough of them there to really make them connect. The audience isn’t shown enough to know why they’re supposed to care.
That’s the big problem with the plot, too. The movie doesn’t tell the audience enough to actually understand what’s going on.
Excepting the left-field first sequence, the first half feels solid, like it’s leading into something as razor-sharp and tightly constructed as “Alien,” but with a larger scope, then it just goes off in three different directions.
By the time the first deaths occur, the plot is already fraying and it doesn’t take long after that for the whole thing to become amorphous. Worse yet, the allegorical/metaphorical aspect, which was so strong and consistent in “Alien,” is dealt with inconsistently and inelegantly.
This movie deals with the relationships between the creators and the created — both deity/creation and parent/child — but the subject is either ignored entirely or hammered on with a total lack of subtlety in any given scene.
The effects are gorgeous, and the visual design is stunning and atmospheric, but without enough substance, it’s more big-budget Hollywood eye candy.
Scott initially billed “Prometheus” as a prequel to “Alien,” so it really is difficult not to compare the two films. But where “Alien” was tightly written, with well-explored characters and a solid metaphorical backbone, “Prometheus” is big and messy and trying to inflate the feeling of “Alien” to an epic scale.
‘Men in Black 3′
But there are better options for a science fiction film this summer. Surprisingly enough, “Men in Black 3″ is a solid piece of entertainment.
It’s not clever, per se, but it’s certainly not dumb, and it’s a better time than the second one. Will Smith, returning as Agent J, is funnier than he’s been in a while.
The villain’s solid and menacing, dipping now and again into the uncanny valley quite handily. The plot is solid, too — surprising, considering how something as silly as the “Men in Black” series might otherwise handle time travel.
Speaking of which, the historical jokes about 1969 are present — Andy Warhol is an undercover agent, Mick Jagger is an alien — but they aren’t as overplayed as the secret alien infrastructure jokes were in the second film.
The writing is, and it’s hard to believe, fairly intelligently and tastefully handled. The film indulges in playing with the nature of time and time travel without making it too heavy on the nerd-speak for mainstream audiences.
Due out on Aug. 3, Len Wiseman, known for “Live Free or Die Hard” and the “Underworld” series, is remaking “Total Recall,” the campy sci-fi action film of 1990 directed by Paul Verhoven and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Instead of Schwarzenegger, the lead role of Douglas Quaid will be played by Colin Farrell. Say goodbye to the campy action goodness of yore, and say hello to a dark, cyberpunk-flavored film that draws from both “Bourne Identity” and “Minority Report.”
The film will not take place on Mars; the main conflict will be between the nation-states Euroamerica and New Shanghai. But on the upside, Vilos Cohaagen, the big villain, will be played by Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad” fame, and William Nighy is rumored to be playing Kuato.
This one could go either way.