Arrival

In a montage at the beginning of the film, Professor of linguistics Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is seen caring for her young daughter who sadly doesn’t make it to adulthood because of cancer. We return to the present day and Louise is lecturing some of her students when they realise that strange monolithic alien shapes are appearing in places around the globe, hovering silently just a few metres above the ground. Louise is asked (by US Army Colbert GT Weber) to join physicist Ian Donnely in trying to help the military figure out who and what they are and what is going on.

I enjoyed the process of Louise trying to establish communication, and the patience required and displayed by the protagonists. It also displayed the difficulty with worldwide cooperation well, full of tension and twitchyness with positions and methods shifting greatly due to small changes here and there.

However I was very disappointed by the ending which seemed to reduce the entire story down to one person and their love life. Grand ideas about the furtherment of mankind and cooperation on an international scale and more were reduced to one person’s skills and choices. I unfortunately completely lost my suspension of disbelief at this point!

2 on 5

Info
Director: Denis Villenueve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mark O’Brien, Tzi Ma
UK Release: 10th October 2016

Prometheus

Ridley Scott returns to the sci-fi genre after such incredible success many years ago with ‘Bladerunner’ and ‘Alien’. James Cameron directed the follow-up ‘Aliens’ which was also well received before the wheels fell off the franchise ending with the ‘Alien vs Predator’ films which I have to confess I haven’t seen. Now comes the reboot with the fashionable prequel trilogy: this film is kind of to ‘Alien’ what ‘The Phantom Menace’ is to Star Wars, at least chronologically, but we all know how bad ‘The Phantom Menace’ is, so how has Ridley handled the Pre-Alien universe?

The film starts with the long and quiet journey through space of the ship Prometheus, the sleeping/suspended crew attentively watched over by the android David, played by Michael Fassbender. The crew are awoken a day from their destination planet and their expedition is explained to them as for many of them this is the first time they’ve met.

This is the first of a long string of plot-holes the size of planets and inconceivable decisions taken by characters who appear to be there mostly for decoration they are so shallow and generic.

There are two exceptions to this:
1) The aforementioned Fassbender, who is simply brilliant and provides all the interest in the story. The Android David also helps to patch up a few of the holes in the plot with his master (looking like the old Biff from the ‘Back To The Future’ series but weirdly played by Guy Pearce in prosthetics) perhaps offering an explanation as to why the crew are so slap-dash, unprepared and unscientific in their quest in that maybe their quest is a means to an end of achieving the real objective of the mission.
2) Noomi Rapace (who Played Lisbeth Salander in ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’) as lead scientist Elisabeth Shaw who shows herself to be an incredibly diverse actress by here playing a completely different role and a character that she establishes almost completely in the first few seconds on the screen.
Charlize Theron plays the icy commander but doesn’t really have enough time or the lines to do anything with.

The story is essentially the same as ‘Alien’ – discover planet, go explore, everything appears dead, or is it – but this time round there isn’t the claustrophobic tension and terror rather there are wide open expanses and impressive vistas and it has to be said the design of the film is something to admire. Little details like the laser-scanning spheres are great and you get a real sense of scale with the big valleys on the planet. The space suits look cool too and there are a few really nice set-pieces in the vein of the facehuggers bursting from the chest, but this is not a film like ‘Alien’ that is going to redefine the language of cinema.

The standard story is dressed up in a pretty stupid but grandiose smattering of ‘who are we?’ ruminations, but these are very unnaturally scripted and the whole film is wrapped up in a very deflating way. It does feel a little like a step on the franchise rather than a standalone artistic vision.

So in summary, impressive vistas and cgi, visually great, Fassbender and Rapace are great but there’s many a better film could be made with those ingredients without having to add a flat support cast and a plot full of holes.

3 on 5

Info:
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Faasbender, Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron
UK Release: 1st June 2012