Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ridley Scott what were you thinking?!

The last few weeks I've participated in an orgy of movie watching, thanks partially to long plane flights and staying with my movie-buff sister for a few days. I've mentioned before how once upon a time I did movie reviews, and enjoyed writing them. I have just seen a film that gave me the urge to put pen to paper again. Or at  least electron to silicon.

Two of my favourite films as a teenager, in fact even as an adult, were Blade Runner and Alien. The characters were three dimensional, the cinematography and effects and direction were outstanding, and they were full of atmosphere. So the director Ridley Scott has been one of my favourites as a consequence (my all time fave director is probably Hitchcock though, but Scott is up there in my top 5). I am also a fan of Aliens - one of the few sequels that really was a sequel to the original movie, as well made as the original but different - again three dimensional characters, great sets and loads of atmosphere.

The main attractions of Alien 1 & 2 is that the characters were beliveable - interstellar truckers in 1, military grunts in 2 , and the worlds they were set in although futuristic, looked realistic. They are both a tiny minority of movies where spaceships float in the vacuum of space silently (accompanied by a deliciously creepy film score), and the science is actually relatively plausible.

And then we have "Prometheus" - the prequel to Alien.

(spoiler warning)

First of all, the science is dreadful - I'm told the space science is OK, but it's full of bad biology. The engineers we are told have a 100% DNA match with humans - seriously, they are giants with pitch black eyes and thick marble-like skin. That alone would require quite a few different genes. At the beginning of the film we see an "engineer"/"ancient" dissolving themselves into the water supply of a primeval earth. Despite the fact that if you reduced DNA to it's component parts, it would not reassemble at a later date in the same order, that's just bad chemistry, but in 3 or so billion years between the engineers dumping DNA onto the earth the evolution of humans, did the engineers not evolve at all? We go from bacteria to humans on one planet, but the aliens are untouched by natural selection and evolution.

They find a several alien head in perfect condition after 2000 years despite being in what we are told is earth like atmosphere - is this atmosphere completely sterile? Are there no decomposing bacteria? We see later that the planet has worm-like creatures, so the chance of zero bacteria or similar is unlikely. Moreover they take this head, and despite being two thousand years old, they are able to electrically stimulate it's nervous system. Finally from a scientist's perspective, their portrayal of a biologist made me cringe. What biologist goes up to an unknown wild creature saying "hey beautiful" and try to pet it. I've been attacked by enough wildlife, even cute seals & dolphins to know that those buggers bite and have nasty infectious diseases.

Finally, Noomi Rapace has an alien removed from her by the auto-surgeon. When she returns later to that room, the small tentacled alien she had removed, has grown to giant size - how? It was sealed in a room with no access to food. Matter cannot simply appear from nowhere, so how did the creature grow. Did it each all the surgical instruments in the room for nourishment?

Then there are various aspects of the plot that don't make sense. What was the heiress of a multi-billion dollar company doing taking two years off to visit an alien planet? Shouldn't she be watching the company? The aliens have super technology, yet dispatch pesky interlopers by beating them up. What no weapons?

There apparently was a catastrophic outbreak of one of their created "viruses", so what does the hibernating alien do first thing on waking? Kill the humans and launch the ship towards earth, despite having been in stasis for 2000 years. What no checking to see if the situation has changed in the last 2000 years?

There were a few positive notes those. The character of "David" was one of the few ones with any depth, and extremely well acted. I love the "Lawrence of Arabia" scene.

Charlize Theron's character, although a plot hole, was also interesting, and I liked how although human, members of e crew thought she could have been an android, because she was so so emotionless and unempathetic. Noomi Rapace tried her best despite clunky dialogue. As for the rest of the characters - meh. Can't I couldn't remember most even when the film was playing, they were so one-dimensional.

If you want to see a good film, avoid Prometheus, and I recommend looking out the following to add to your Netflix queue.

Best exotic marigold hotel: Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith - what's not to love in this superbly acted, sentimental and amusing story of senior citizens moving to India to stay in a ramshackle hotel.

Honkey dory: In 1976 a drama teacher tries to stage a musical version of the Tempest at a working class Welsh high school. Despite Minnie Driver's intermittent Welsh accent,  a nice movie.

Pirate radio: Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Brannagh and a host of great British actors, including two actresses I have crushes on. The soundtrack is fantastic.

Anonymous: An interesting film with the premise that Shakespeare's plays were written by the Earl of Oxford and that Queen Elizabeth I had a host of illegitimate children. The latter is probably more plausible - she was periodically confined to bed because she had an illness which caused her to "swell up". There are huge historical flaws in the Earl of Oxford thesis though e.g. the Tempest is widely believe to have been based/inspired by  a 1609 popular pamphlet on a "tempest" that caused a shipwreck that marooned scores of people on an island. The Earl of Oxford died in 1603 - the number of similarities between the pamphlet and the circumstances of the play are so abundant that it would require the Earl to be seriously prophetic. That's just one argument. But nonetheless, I really enjoyed it, even if they did make Kit Marlowe a jerk (one of my favourite historical characters).

As a final note, Snow white and the huntsman is worth watching just to see Ray Winton play "scary" the dwarf - other dwarves include Ian MShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and a smattering of other famous British dramatic actors. The dwarves have much much acting cred than most of  the leads. It is also nice to see "Bella" be bad ass, as opposed to simpering and whining about her boyfriend woes. Snow White is a much better role model for young girls than the shallow, pathetic, self-indulgent "Bella".

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