Friday, July 13, 2012

Prometheus (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Ridley Scott's cinematic revisitation  to outer space is analogous to Woody Allen's return to a quirky and manic Metropolitan city. There is the same quality of affection and nostalgia. Instead of winding European streets we have a pristine white-upholstered  spaceship, instead of  quirky characters wringing their hands about adultery, we have intense staring-eyed scientists and Alpha females clad in skin tight spacesuits. And finally, in place of a ragtime clarinet score, we have the ominous hiss of a ship's ventilation system and the thrum of a ship engine (very much like The Nostromo) followed by the apprehensive tinkle of a some scary sounding chimes. 

This is classic Ridley Scott territory, the director who brought us "Blade Runner", "Legend" and "Gladiator". Scott is a director who renders his images with a painterly  details, however kitschy his subject matter. Whether you are a fan or not, Scott has made his mark in the canon of film.

In his latest "Prometheus", we are situated once again in the anxiously affectionate expanses of Space.  Indeed we are treated to a series of galactic images in a similar fashion to Woody Allen's opening montage of Paris. What immediately hits you is Scott's attention. The shots of space appear touched by some existential angel, the most minute aspects are rendered so clearly. Not since Stanley Kubrick have I seen space visualized with such poetic detachment, just as it might be.

And the planetary landscapes with their deep grooves and wavy Expressionist lines recall Van Gogh.

Yes, once again we have a lonely ship, misted over in the fog of melancholy as most of the crew is sleeping in their pods for a destination unknown. One glance at Ridley Scott's haunting pan of the ship will tell you that we are in "Alien" prequel mode. And we can guess that the sensors will pick up signals for life. And yes, also we have a strong resolved "Ripley" character in the guise of Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Rapace does a fine job at recapturing some of  Sigourney's fighting spirit but she also brings her own trademark spaced out qualities to the role, that peculiar monotone that made her famous in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". Also present is Michael Fassbender as David, an eerily unemotional android. 

Alas, the greed at discovering a new thing under the moon brings traces of something scaly underfoot and some Ridleyan tension and genuine scares quickly commence. Some diehard fantasists, always on the hunt for the startling and most original, may well grow weary that something Giger this way comes, but Scott's passion and enthusiasm for all things spooky in space is well in evidence here and hard to dismiss. The battle scenes with Noomi Rapace in particular rival any displays of fear and self preservation by the beloved Ripley. This familiar primal fear is further enhanced by the subtle malevolence as delivered by actor Charlize Theron. All this is laced with such virtuosic visuals in 3D that we truly believe that Scott is beaming to be the Edmund Burke of Space on Film.

As beautifully shot as it is, this is essentially an H.P Lovecraft tale, but it is an excellent one with terrific pace and mystery.

This is Ridley Scott's legacy after all, complete with the  distinctive reptilian  designs of H.R. Giger which always seemed to me a bit like Louise Bourgeois's black cabinets. Only at the end, during an epilogue does Scott weaken in intensity. In space, I thought, can one hear a cash register ring? But even when asking this, I held my breath and smiled. Nothing says 1979 or 2012  like a bit of extraterrestrial fear.

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