June 17, 2012

This review is going to be hard. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. [As always: POSSIBLE SPOILERS.]

The film was a train wreck.

But before you react, let’s keep in mind a few things and then talk about others. Keep in mind, I’m a big fan of Alien and Ridley Scott. Also, I did not go into this with huge expectations. I really just wanted Scott to surprise me (he’s been away from the sci-fi genre since Bladerunner.)

Now let’s talk. What did it have going for it?

The acting was very well done. Noomi Rapace makes an interesting heroine. She’s not the traditional type that you would see cast in this role (I think I read somewhere that original Theron had this role but couldn’t do it because of conflicts, when they opened up she came back in as Vickers). But one thing Rapace is is good. I loved her in the original Millenium trilogy. Here she’s equally as effective and clearly a wonderful actress as the two roles are nothing like each other. I’m not really a Michael Fassbender fan but he was very good in this. He gave David a genuine curiosity that made you want to love him but at the same time created a diabolical undercurrent that made your skin crawl. The previously mentioned Theron was much better in this than Snow White.  There were several moments that ‘cracked’ Vicker’s tough demeanor that you actually found yourself feeling sorry for her. The rest of the cast had their moments to shine and generally did so very nicely. I particularly wanted to call attention to Kate Dickie as Ford who was terrific.

The direction was good and had moments of greatness. This film had a different feel from it’s ‘sequel/predecessor’ Alien and that was actually very nice. It starts with a really strong sense of wonder. Even the crustiness of some of the personalities can’t take away from this and it builds nicely. When things start to turn dark, and we all know it’s gotta come, the twists are subtle which Scott handles very well. Then just as we realize there is a knife in us, he starts to twist and rip. Occasionally there are moments that conjure up several scenes from Alien but Scott stays away from going down that already traveled path. It makes for a film that while it pays homage to the ‘original’ it doesn’t repeat itself (many sequels lack this.)

The scenic production and other creative elements (save one) are visceral and very evocative of the tone and mood that Scott sets. I’m not sure why but I found the atmospheric suits really cool. I also particularly liked elements of the soundscape. I will say that they nicked the ‘pups’ from Stargate (and some scifi junkie will say Stargate stole it from something else, it’s cool) but they were still neat to watch.

And now for the train wreck. Wow, not sure where to begin with this really. The script was so unbelievably bad I felt like I was watching ten pieces of a jigsaw to make a picture but the ten pieces were from ten different puzzles. Now there is a possibility that some of these issues may be a result of editing and we’ll see more in the DVD release. But, while that may be true it’s still sloppy filmmaking. For instance (and seriously stop reading if you haven’t seen it) there is a sequence where we learn David has effectively made Shaw pregnant with an organic element that is on the planet they came to. Okay, no prob, borrows a little bit from Alien Resurrection (which is so unbelievably bad that requires an entire series of posts – and Besson is a big favorite of mine – only time I felt he went wrong) but it’s still okay. So he’s going to try and put her in stasis because the fetus will come to term in a matter of hours. He gives her to two of the other shipmates (and I don’t know what he told them but they do what he said – though he’s subservient.) While they drag her into the sleep bay she hijacks them (they’re trained, she’s an anthropologist) and appears to knock them unconscious though it was never quite clear.  Then she runs to device they have on board that is like an automated surgeon and to make a story short she has a c-section to yank out this horrifying looking octopus like thing. Then she runs back into the main section of the ship, covered in blood and viscera, and manages to stumble into a door that is wide open where David and his master, Weyland (played by Guy Pearce in very bad makeup) happen to be. Then they have this nice little metaphysical conversation about what it means to die or live forever.

Red flags here: 1) Nobody knows that she’s escaped, so while it was important for David to get the fetus in her, apparently he’s not worried whether his orders are carried out. 2) This was about two thirds of the way into the movie, the rest of it takes place over about six hours of ‘movie’ time. She had a major c-section operation. She has staples in her stomach. Watch the last part of the movie to see all of the acrobatics she does. 3) They talk about  life and death and who are ‘creators’ are. The women is covered in blood and other juices and no one, not even David, says, “what’s up?” 4) Oh, yeah, forgot to mention, Weyland is thought to actually be dead back on Earth, so when he turns up here it’s a BIG surprise. And given how many people actually come in over the next five minutes (Vicker’s shows up as well and I think one more but I can’t remember) nobody reacts to this – nor is the door or area remotely secured.

I’m sure someone can help point out that I’m not thinking clear enough and that is fine. But it’s still not good if you come a way from a film of this magnitude with the feeling that somehow everything just doesn’t fit.

There are also a number of other issues as well, suicidal pilots, big giant white guy, and a cameo appearance by an obvious predecessor to the xenomorph from the original, but it’s too long to go into.

I also have no problems with unanswered questions. But I’m not talking about questions. I’m talking about story telling. And to me this film felt like five different editors worked on this film but they were each given access to certain sections on each roll. You might say don’t blame Scott for that. Yes, I can, his name has a great deal of clout and I’m willing to bet he’s got final edit approval.

By all means go see it, especially for the good elements like Rapace’s portrayal of Shaw (there is a particularly powerful moment as she watches her loved one die) but if you don’t want to be both infuriated and frustrated you might just want to wait for the DVD.