Posts Tagged ‘ Aliens ’

Prometheus

Aliens, aliens, aliens. I realize that I am all about the extra-terrestrial these days BUT this is important. Prometheus needs a Popcornography review -partly because I love aliens but mostly because it is just damn fantastic. Way back in 1979, Ridley Scott reinvented the science-fiction genre while concurrently introducing the world’s most terrifying homicidal species ever to grace the silver screen. See Popcornography’s: In space, no one can hear you scream. Prometheus is a most enjoyable experience and should not be missed, although, admittedly it’s not quite ALIEN.

As much as I love the origins of the Alien franchise, the first film left much unanswered. I am, of course, referring to the bizarre beings adorning elephantine masks that the Nostromo crew encounter on their unfortunate expedition. These being are referred to as “Space jockeys” and are found, by the exploring crew, to have enigmatic holes in their chests. They are encountered within a mysterious crash landed vehicle on a seemingly uninhabited planet and their origin/background is never explained. After this discovery… people die, and as a result, little time is left for question answering. Fast forward 30 years and ENTER Ridley Scott’s Prometheus which is the prequel to the Alien. Prometheus hopes to explain what happened prior to Sigourney’s crew being slaughtered. Scott decided to revisit the franchise to tell a grandiose tale that promised to answer lingering questions surrounding the Alien mythology but ended up raising more. Prometheus does offer interesting insight, and is successful in many regards but viewers may leave feeling confused and unsatisfied. Dangling carrots are we Ridley? I’m not a donkey.

The prologue is superb and immediately plays towards the new found philosophical ambitions of the franchise. Soon after, we are placed in the year 2089 in the Isle of Skye and are introduced to scientists; Elizabeth Shaw (Naomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who have discovered ancient cave paintings that apparently depict the beginning of humanity. These not particularly complex cave drawings are amazingly interpreted as an invitation to meet the “engineers” of mankind. Consequently, 17 crew members (aboard the ship Prometheus) set out to the planet as depicted in the previously mentioned rock art. Amongst the crew members are Shaw and Holloway and the synthetic human, David (Michael Fassbender). The entire team is lead by the cold and collected Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron).

The rest of the team consists of highly generic and stereotypical military folk including a grumpy geologist as well as trigger happy, wise-cracking security experts. The crew is disappointing. As opposed to the original, the audience is never offered deep enough insight into the crew members’ characters. Who are they? What do they want? Where are their snivelling children? We don’t know. On the original Nostromo, you are exposed to the mundane existence of the crew and the lengthy period of space travel. You learn of their goals, ideals, etc. and are able to relate and connect to the characters more effectively. In Prometheus, you are never given any time to understand them and what results is a multitude of broad and uninteresting caricatures.  To be frank, these one dimensional characters really pissed me off. The crew pretty much follow in the footsteps of the Nostromo crew. They explore, they encounter unusual alien artefacts and, shortly afterwards, awful and gruesome things occur.

The entire feel of the movie is very different to the origins of the series. It does not feel heavily orientated towards horror (like Alien) or all-out action (like Aliens) but rather something more cerebral.  There are obviously horrific alien scenes, that reference the intense body horror portrayed by the original, but Scott seems concerned with an intellectual approach i.e. clumsily dealing with the themes of faith and religion. With that said there were many moments that I struggled to watch. Specifically, there is an INTENSELY disturbing scene regarding an abdominal foreign body and a futuristic operating table (med-pod). What is this foreign body you may wonder? It’s a bouncing baby Xenomorph! You will be convulsing in your chair due to an awful mixture of disgust and horror. It’s hectic. The alien designs themselves, although terrifying, are not nearly as interesting or memorable as Giger’s design from the original Alien.

What Prometheus does in terms of visuals is absolutely astounding. Obviously, this film surpasses any other Alien entries exponentially in this regard. The alien vistas of LV-226 are stunning, to say the least. While the crew explore the planet in search of life, one cannot help but feel intrigued by the environments. The stunning visuals significantly add to the experience of the crew and, like them, you crave to learn more and to continue exploring the foreign, yet perilous landscape.

Sexy Screenshot Number 1:

Sexy Screenshot Number 2:

Sexy Screenshot Number 3:

The three main characters, however, are what really bring the world to life. Fassbender, Theron and Rapace all do a terrific job. Charlize IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW as I have mentioned numerous times. The cold, bitter and tricky Vickers is note-perfect. Her intentions and allegiances are never clear from the start which results in a very intriguing character. It is most entertaining, however, to watch her cold exterior crack as the situation becomes increasingly dire. Charlize loses her cool and it is just marvellous.

Charlize calm and collected:

Charlize not so calm and collected:

Rapace is never calm and collected:

Alternatively, Rapace really involves the audience with her very distressing situation. If you thought Sigourney was a survivor, think again. Rapace puts old Sigourney to shame.

You really can’t help feeling sorry for her as she stands post-surgery dripping in blood:

But as is the case these days, Fassbender’s performance as an artificial and synthetic human is truly remarkable. He provides the audience with comic relief; as well as moments that are sometimes endearing, sometimes dark and sinister. His lack of empathy and emotion as well as his ambiguous intentions are truly shocking. What would you expect from Fassbender? He is the hottest new thing in Hollywood after all. According to George Clooney (and his full frontal performance in Shame) he is HUGE in more ways than one. At the 2012 Golden Globes, Clooney went as far to say that Fassbender could play golf with his hands behind his back. It’s comments like these that separate the Golden Globes from the Academy Awards. ANYWAY, the point is that Fassbender is sensational and his performance in Prometheus, I feel, is highly underrated.

Fassbender was pleased with Clooney’s comment:

To conclude, Prometheus is elevated above the average sci-fi because the scope and effects are awe-inspiring. However, the predominant reason that it manages to reach such a high calibre is merely because Fassbender performs so well. Prometheus does not manage to reach the incredible sense of tension portrayed by the original Alien or the all out assault of the sequel Aliens. The climax is open-ended and hints at further instalments and although I enjoyed the experience whole-heartedly, I was a little dissatisfied with the few answers that Scott gave the audience. If you are having trouble deciding whether Prometheus is worth your time, there are three reasons that should drive you to cinemas. Ahem.

Number 1: CHARLIZE IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW

Number 2: It’s a scrumptious feast for the eyes

Number 3: Trust me – you don’t want to miss out on that med-pod scene. It stays with you forever and could perhaps be the most terrifying thing I have seen in most recent memory.

Remember…

Med pod…

Trust me.

The Dreaded Med-Pod:

For more on Prometheus, check out the latest trailer. So hectic. Love it.

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In space, no one can hear you scream

In giddy anticipation of Popcornography’s Prometheus review, it seems only fitting that a quick overview of the Alien franchise is discussed. And when I mean the Alien franchise, I mean the only films worth mentioning i.e. Alien and Aliens. After that there were merely awkward Predator spin offs, something involving Winona Ryder, and Sigourney shaving her not so fabulous locks. Popcornography likes to pretend that these instalments do not exist. When Alien was released back in 1979, Science Fiction films were all the rage. Light sabres and Ewoks were dominating the screens but despite this, Alien was truly one of a kind. It was not the first blood-thirsty homicidal monster to appear on screen and nor was it the first time cast members were hunted down in dark and dingy spaces. However, Ridley Scott’s Alien was the first feature to effectively combine the two above genres which ultimately lead to a multitude of sequels and spin offs. The sequel Aliens, directed by James Cameron, was the franchises true flagship as critics favoured the action heavy focus as opposed to the initial films strong horror elements. However it is my opinion that the best of the franchise lies in Scott’s original masterpiece. Regardless, the Alien franchise is considered to be 20th Century Fox’s second most popular science fiction film franchise of all time.

   LOOK at the Ewok 

In addition to the near perfect blend of Horror and Science Fiction, Alien had other pioneering attributes. Among these was the introduction of a female heroine. Sigourney Weaver ends up being the sole survivor, except for her ginger kitty, that manages to escape the rampaging “Xenomorph”. As a result when a film, on the rare occasion, features a female protagonist that takes the lead in an action/ adventure movie she is often compared to old Sigourney. With regard to the strong horror elements of the original, the manner in which Scott meticulously manages to raise the menace and tension is worthy of Hitchcock. Recently watching Alien for the first time, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it despite its age. It remains, to this day, pretty darn scary. Scott accurately produces a nightmarish atmosphere through copious amounts of horrific imagery. However, for the majority of the film, Scott restricts the audience to brief glimpses of the creature which raises the tension considerably.

Jones, the cat, manages to survive a multitude of Alien films.

Alien begins calmly on board the commercial towing vehicle; Nostromo. The movie begins slowly as the seven crew members (including Sigourney) are awoken due a suspicious transmission coming from a seemingly uninhabited planet (Planet LV-426). The initial pacing of the movie is SLOW. Scott introduces the characters at a glacial pace. The characters are not the least bit concerned about blood thirsty homicidal aliens and Scott manages to accurately portray a sense of ordinariness with regard to the crew’s activities and personal desires. Many will thus complain that the movie’s pacing is dull and unnecessarily delayed. Those people are missing the point. Scott’s initial lethargic pace is crucial for the rest of the movie to play out as effectively as it does.

The crew decides to investigate the transmission and on arrival of the foreign planet, they discover what seems to be an enormous vessel that has crash landed. OBVIOUSLY they venture forth with the intent to explore. They discover bizarre technology, a deceased being adorning an elephantine mask (which has special relevance to the prequel Prometheus), and lastly a chamber of curious eggs. OBVIOUSLY someone has to investigate the eggs. The crew member Kane (John Hurt) examines an egg which opens and launches a leathery creature, known as a “facehugger”, which penetrates his protective helmet and forces alien parts down his throat. The crew take Kane back to Nostromo with the immovable creature attached to his face. Sigourney has issues with this due to contamination, however, her opinions are dismissed and he is taken aboard. Annoyingly, if people would just listen to Sigourney, far fewer cast members would meet gruesome ends. However, Sigourney remains unheard throughout the remainder of the Alien franchise and as a result the body count continues to grow exponentially.

To survive one should avoid the Facehugger to the best of their ability.

Soon after, we learn of the creature’s lifecycle and the well-known and over referenced Alien scene arrives.  At mealtime there is normal crew-like chit-chat which is interrupted by Kane who begins to gag and convulse. Once Kane falls to the table, a creature bursts out of his chest and scampers off into the air ducts. The “chestburster” scene has been referenced countless times in other films and at the time was the most talked about scene in the movie. I always imagined that the scene would be unbearable to behold, and at the time I am sure it was, but watching the movie recently it actually just looks rather ridiculous.  With that said, I am amazed at what they could achieve back in 1979 with regard to visuals. Film analysts will claim that the “chestburster” scene portrays themes of non-consensual intercourse due the impregnation of humans as well as the phallic nature of the emerging baby Xenomorph. Alien, just so you know, is essentially a rape movie. Anyway that is neither here nor there but the scene, despite the awkward and bizarre manner in which the baby Xenomorph scurries away, is still truly disturbing to this day.

Aw a baby Xenormorph.

After baby alien makes its escape, the crew panic and ultimately an angry adult Xenomorph emerges and begins to slay folk relentlessly. As difficult as it is to imagine that someone is responsible for actually conceptualizing such a bizarre and disturbing concept, the film and the idea is surprisingly intriguing. You are never sure what is going to happen next and although the movie is at times gruesome and disgusting, you are continuously curious to learn more about the creature. As a result you sympathize with those who want to “study” it in the film. Sadly, those people all die.

Aliens is where James Cameron steps in and as a result there is less intrigue, suspense and horror and more action and adventure elements. This was solely done to broaden the appeal of the film and to attract mass interest as opposed to the very niche ideals of the original project. The first film left Sigourney very disgruntled and consequently she strikes back against the Xenomorphs in Aliens. Despite my personal feelings, Aliens was the most successful of the franchise and was nominated for seven Academy awards. OBVIOUSLY, Mr Cameron’s involvement resulted in Oscar buzz. Shocking. The real stars of Alien are not the humans, however. They are in fact the production design of Michael Seymour and the creature design of H.R. Giger. Seymour’s work fashions a perfect playground for the creature consisting of dark and claustrophic passages that emphasize the sense of ever mounting tension. Giger’s creature design is of unparalleled terror and represents the most memorable vision in Science Fiction history. Filmmaker’s over the years have attempted to mimic Giger’s design and have failed miserably at best.

There’s the alien we all know and love.

Alien was so successful that sequels (and now prequels) were almost mandatory. Prometheus will attempt to answer the questions that the franchise failed to do. For instance, we hope that it will finally shed light on what really happened on Planet LV-426 with regard to the downed vessel and the bizarre beings in elephantine masks. According to the hype, more of the Alien mythology will be investigated. Additionally, it has been suggested that Prometheus will be deep enough to stand independently of other Alien films as opposed to just being perceived as a strict prequel. Ridley Scott returns as the director of Prometheus and for this reason we should all be very excited. If, for some reason, the Alien franchise is not enough to drag you to Prometheus then Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron should. Michael Fassbender is the hottest new comer to Hollywood; recently receiving an Academy award nomination for his role in Shame. Alternatively, go for Charlize. We all love Charlize. CHARLIZE REALLY IS SO HOT RIGHT NOW. With the director that pioneered science-fiction horror and with cinematography that is likely to be breath-taking, Prometheus should not be missed. I personally am excited to witness how the Alien universe transitions into modern day film. If nothing else, I expect this film to be a spectacle of technological marvel. The Alien franchise, admittedly, has had very strong cringe worthy moments but where it succeeds, it does so tremendously. In its own way, the Alien franchise has been as influential as Star Wars as it proves that during the 70s/80s wave of sci-fi, there was room for darker and grittier projects. Alien may not have been completely unique in its delivery but its wide-spread acceptance made it a blueprint for an entire sub-genre. The Alien franchise deserves your attention.

Check out the Trailer for Prometheus below. Hectic.

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