PROMETHEUS


Ridley Scott’s Promethes is a movie that explores the deepest existential, theological and philosophical questions of mankind’s existence.  Ironically, the only way to really enjoy the film is if one doesn’t think about it too much.  The plot revolves around an expedition sent to find evidence of a group of aliens that came to earth and gave birth to humans.  What the expedition finds is not quite what they expected, though it has to be admitted, what they found is probably more interesting that it would have been if it did meet expectations.   Unfortunately, I have to state for the record that I never could get emotionally involved here.  The dialog and characters (screenplay by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof) were bland and dull and the plot a tad boring as well.  About halfway through I just gave up trying to figure out the back story as to what happened to the aliens and what it meant for mankind.    There’s a ton of talent in the cast, many recognizable faces and award winners.  Charlize Theron basically plays the same character she does in Snow White and the Huntsman, the woman who does the man’s job and therefore has to be a bitch (poor Charlize, her second movie of the year where the audience is going to leave basically humming the tech design).  Noomi Rapace, without the dragon tattoo, plays the nurturing mother role (she has a scene where she has a C-section that I guess was supposed to be gut wrenching—pun intended—but I thought was a hoot and a half—not the reaction Scott was going for, I suspect).  She has a strange accent, mainly in that it seems to have little connection to her father’s, played by Patrick Wilson.   Guy Pierce, that popular Australian star of such films as Memento and L.A. Law, was given the plum role of playing Mr. Burns.  But when all is said and done cast wise, all I could think of is the remarkable line up in the movies Alien and Aliens, two films where, for all their adrenaline soaked plot lines, one comes away remembering the actors just as much or more than the special affects; it’s unlikely that will happen here.  It ends with what seems to me to be a ridiculous and even immoral choice on the part of Rapace; at the same time, it does set up a question as well as a sequel that does kind of intrigue me.   In the end, Prometheus is a CGIer’s wet dream.  But it did very little for me.

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN


One of those films that once you leave, your first thought is, “Wow, that movie is going to get a lot of technical nominations at the Oscars next year”.  It’s stunning to look at with amazing costumes by Colleen Atwood; frightening art direction and set design too many people to list; and incredibly beautiful cinematography by Grieg Fraser.  But as for story, etc., well that’s another cup of tea.  It’s one of those cautionary tales (like Network) about what happens when you let a woman try to do a man’s job.  Charlize Theron plays a wicked queen who doesn’t want power, just power over men; she doesn’t want to rule, but just stay eternally young and beautiful and is willing to walk all over any other woman who gets in her way.  Yes, there’s an unpleasant whiff of misogyny and fear of strong women here and there in the movie, but it’s not all the fault of director Rupert Sanders or the writers Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini.  There is that source material (can anyone imagine a king being bothered to say “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the handsomest of them all”).  But I did feel like they pushed it a bit here.  Kristen Stewart plays Snow White.  She’s very effective when she isn’t saying anything.  Her eyes and the shape of her face are incredibly expressive; one can’t look away.  This effectiveness is at times unfortunately lessened when she has lines to say (again, to be fair, the dialog does fall a bit flat here and there).  Chris Helmsworth is the huntsman and has the same problem: he’s handsome and has presence out the whazoo (though with not quite so expressive a face), but he also has to speak at times.  And the result, unfortunately, are two characters whose relationship is suppose to be the heart of the story, yet there is almost no charisma or heat between the actors.  Then there’s the problem of the seven dwarfs.  I expect that I will be laughed at here for taking political correctness a bit too far, but I was actually offended that these characters weren’t played by little people, but by better known character actors whose faces were CGI’d onto dwarf-like bodies (not always that well, I thought, though my friend Jim disagreed—he though the SFX people did an excellent job here).  I’m sorry, but it felt a bit too much like black face; are you really telling me you couldn’t find seven small actors to play these rolls (Time Bandits didn’t seem to have the same problem)?  There was also the additional issue in that half the time I wasn’t listening to anything they were saying, instead just trying to remember where I knew that actor from (Bob Hoskins really threw me for some reason).  The whole story climaxes with a battle scene that is begun with Snow White in Joan of Arc drag delivering a rousing speech to the soldiers she will lead, like Henry V before the Battle of Agincourt (talk about mixing metaphors).  At least that was the intent.  It was so unimpressive to me, I’m afraid, that all I could think is that Stewart is no Lawrence Olivier or Kenneth Branagh and the writers no Shakespeare (the very next night I saw the episode of Game of Thrones where Peter Dinklage was required to do the same thing and did it so brilliantly, that I realized that Oliver or Shakespeare wasn’t necessarily necessary for something like this to work).  In the end, the movie is big and over the top and really goes for the juggler.  And though it wasn’t to my taste, I do have to give fare due and say Jim loved it and highly recommends it.  So decide for yourself.