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Entries in Ridley Scott (2)

Friday
Jun082012

Prometheus

Early word on Prometheus was that it was going to be a prequel to Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi terror, Alien. Later, word came out that it had blossomed into an entirely different story completely separate from the Alien world. Finally, we were told it would exist within the same world of Alien and maybe cross paths, but still have its own mythology that won’t interfere with what Alien established. I hesitate to divulge how integral it is to the Alien movies, but whatever it is, it’s solid. It’s not the scariest movie in the world, nor the most exciting, but it has ideas and explores a question that has plagued mankind since its creation: how did we get here?

The movie begins in Scotland in 2089. Two researchers, Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan-Marshall Green), have just stumbled upon a cave painting that dates back at least 35,000 years. It predates any similar discovery they’ve ever made, but it shares a common characteristic: it depicts humans pointing towards the stars. In each painting, the stars were shaped in the same manner, exactly like a galaxy that those primitive cultures never should have (or could have) known about, given that it was too far away to be seen with the naked eye. This leads the researchers to believe that there may be life out there and that maybe that life created us. A few years later, after sleeping in stasis aboard the spaceship Prometheus, they, along with 15 other crewmen and women, arrive to explore a planet that they hope will give them meaning to their existence.

If you’re alive today (and if you’re reading this, I have to assume you are), chances are you’ve thought about the meaning of life. You’ve wondered how we got here, what the purpose of our existence is and who, if anybody, created us. Prometheus wonders that too. The screenplay (and therefore, the characters) taps into our natural human curiosity, our intellectual need for answers. It has a natural wonder of how life began and how important (or, just maybe, unimportant) it is. Their search is what keeps you drawn in because their curiosity is our curiosity. Although obviously fictional, what they discover is mind-blowing and only those without a similar intellectual desire for answers will find their revelations uninteresting.

Greater emphasis could have been put into the validity (or lack thereof) of religion in regards to their findings, which would have made a powerful real world statement on an important modern issue, especially given that one of the characters carries her faith with her regardless of the contradictions she discovers along the way, but religious observation is not the movie’s goal. Its ambitions go much higher than that—besides, human existence probably isn’t as simple as many religions make it out to be—but that ambition is its primary problem. Aiming high and hitting the target is a hard thing to do and Prometheus doesn’t quite reach the standards it, and its eagerly awaiting fans, have set for it.

Ridley Scott tries to convey the same sense of terror portrayed in his quintessential 1979 science fiction landmark, perhaps in an effort to make some type of tonal connection between the two, but his ambition requires a broader scope that contradicts Alien’s more focused nature. Alien took place all on one ship where there was nowhere to hide, giving it an unsettling, claustrophobic feeling while Prometheus takes place across multiple locales, both land and ship. The characters travel all the way through space and explore a previously unexplored planet and what appears to be an elongated cave with its own breathable atmosphere. It also introduces far too many characters, 17 in total, most of whom get only a minute or two of dedicated screen time before essentially disappearing. It focuses on a select few people, including the captain (Idris Elba), Meredith (Charlize Theron) and the ship’s android, David (Michael Fassbender), as it should, but it only brings forth the question, why even have the other characters?

Regardless of its sci-fi content, Prometheus is a human story. Its grandeur may not match its ambition like Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the fact that it has ambition at all is worthy of praise. Those looking for another Alien movie will walk away disappointed—in nearly every regard, Prometheus is quite different—but those who have a natural wonder about where we came from and what our purpose is will find Prometheus both profound and awe inspiring.

Prometheus receives 4/5

Friday
May142010

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a noble character. With his motto of “steal from the rich and give to the poor,” it’s hard not to like the old chap. Or so I’m told. I wouldn’t know personally because, well, I don't really like the old chap. Despite literally dozens (perhaps hundreds) of Robin Hood adaptations in film, television and literature, I’ve never become accustomed with the green-tighted fellow because his antics always bored me. Not much has changed with the 2010 Robin Hood.

Like how last year’s Sherlock Holmes brought the titular character to modern times, Robin Hood modernizes our hero and introduces him to a new generation. Gone are the green tights and feathered caps. Gone is the neatly groomed facial hair. This Robin Hood is rugged, always sporting a rough beard, and wouldn’t be caught dead in sissy green tights. However, also gone is the traditional story of the character. Following suit with most Hollywood films these days, Robin Hood is an origin story of sorts, so he hasn’t quite begun to help the poor through thievery.

This time he is played by Russell Crowe and is in the midst of the Crusades in England in the late 12th century. On his way back from battle, he finds a dying man clutching a precious sword who was on trek to Nottingham to inform the people that their king had died in battle. Robin, being the righteous man he is, takes over the duties and after delivering the information, the new king John (Oscar Issac) is crowned. Power changes, but unrest continues under John. In light of this, France, led by a treasonous Brit named Godfrey (Mark Strong), sees an opportunity to invade and as they plan their descent on the English, Robin Hood and his Merry Men begin to unify the people and plan a defense.

Boring and cliché are two adjectives one would hope not to use when describing a film as promising as Robin Hood, but no other words will do. We’ve seen this basic story arc before—a man fights for his wavering country—right down to the freedom speech with swelling music in the background and it's told in a manner that makes the eyelids heavy, full of dense exposition and forced romances that weigh the entire thing down.

But more goes into movies than the story and it, as important as it may be, does not reflect the rest of the film. Sure, the story may be hogwash, but the presentation is terrific. Russell Crowe gives another great performance as per usual and watching Ridley Scott, a highly esteemed director, tackle such a formidable tale is interesting. Though he stumbles here and there, his direction is quite dashing overall.

Perhaps most remarkable are the extravagant costumes and sets. If ever I found myself drifting away from the lackluster narrative, I could always find eye candy in what was presented before me. Like many period pieces, Robin Hood nails its time period dead on and it is a sight to behold.

However, the saving grace of the film is the action. These battles are epic and watching thousands of men bum-rush each other is fun to watch, even if it does feel a little too familiar. The aforementioned boredom that besets the film comes not from these moments, but rather from the downtime in between.

Robin Hood is not a film that I feel I can firmly define. I’ve struggled as I’ve typed away here because it is neither terrible, nor great. It rests somewhere in the middle and as I watched it, I never truly found myself leaning one way or the other. I was merely in a state of neutrality. Upon reflection, however, I feel the good outweighs the bad and it’s worth a look, as faint a praise as that may be.

Robin Hood receives 3/5