Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Theron Double-Feature: Prometheus & Snow White and the Huntsman

Pure sci-fi versus pure fantasy (I am a big sci-fi buff; not so keen on fantasy, but loved LOTR). Dark violent film versus dark violent film (dark is okay; violence I can live without). R.S. versus R.S.: Big-name director (Ridley Scott) versus no-name director (Rupert Sanders). Not-so-nice Charlize Theron versus almost pure evil Charlize Theron (What’s with that, Charlize? Tired of playing nice?). Moderate critical acclaim versus generally unfavourable reviews. The winner of this contest should be obvious, but perhaps the outcome will be less predictable than the films were.

The last sci-fi film Scott made is one of my thirty all-time favourite films (Blade Runner) and Alien is one of my favourite sci-fi films. I knew absolutely nothing about Prometheus going in (as it should be) and was unaware of its relationship to Alien, but it did not take me long to make the connection. That was still in the early parts of the film, when my sense of hope and wonder was still strong. It faded fast after that. 
Prometheus has incredible potential, touching on themes like the possible alien origin of humanity. But it’s not really about those fascinating themes. Instead, it’s about monsters and an android and Elizabeth Shaw (the new Ripley). In other words, it’s another version of Alien. That might have worked if all the action wasn’t so silly and predictable, utterly lacking in the suspense which made Alien great. 
The plot? The space ship Prometheus is on a mission to find the “engineers” who may have been responsible for planting human life on earth. Ancient symbols found on earth point them to a moon in a distant star system, where the explorers find an underground building full of “treasures”. Enough said.
Noomi Rapace is a fairly good choice to play Shaw, though it’s Michael Fassbender as David, the android, who steals the film. His character is much like that of Ash on Alien (I suppose that makes sense), willing to sacrifice humanity in the name of science and discovery. As for Theron, she is fine as Meredith Vickers, the person in charge of this venture, but her character, like many of the others, is completely wasted. We never get to know her, her actions are inconsistent and, well, the whole character part of the film is a mess as far as I am concerned, with people coming and going and dying without much concern or logic.
There are a couple of breath-taking scenes that are worth the price of admission, but even they are wasted in this derivative, ordinary sci-fi film. Maybe the obvious sequel will get at the bigger questions, but I won’t hold my breath.
Prometheus is a major disappointment. The various elements (acting, directing, cinematography, score) were all good, but someone forgot to write a compelling story (just as in Star Trek, The Avengers, etc.). Still, it was fun enough to get ***. My mug is up, but not with conviction.
Snow White and the Huntsman
The story is familiar to all, so predictability cannot be avoided entirely. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to be treated to a story that felt new. Charlize Theron plays the evil queen who wants to get rid of Snow White (played by Kristen Stewart) so that she can remain the fairest (I suppose that must refer to looks alone) in the land for all time. The main thing standing in her way is Chris Hemsworth (where did he come from all of a sudden anyway?) as the huntsman who takes it upon himself to protect Snow White.
Somewhere along the way, you know the seven dwarves will have to make an appearance. When they do, Snow White and the Huntsman immediately gained a half-star. I suppose the filmmakers could have used real dwarves, but they chose to collect a marvelous group of British actors to be CGI dwarves. I loved it! Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Toby Jones stole the film right out from underneath (pun intended) Theron, Stewart and and Hemsworth. Not that any of the latter were not up to the task. Theron, who is almost the centre of attention in the second part of the double-feature, was a little over-the-top, but I suppose that is to be expected. Stewart was fine as Snow White and Hemsworth was a good choice as the huntsman.
Snow White is a gorgeous film to watch and it has an excellent score by James Newton Howard. Up until the last fifteen minutes or so, I found it thoroughly entertaining (rather more so than Prometheus, I have to admit). Things kind of fell apart in the last fifteen minutes, though I should have seen it coming. Did I mention that there is far too much battle in the film? Sigh. I suppose that is also to be expected in a fantasy film.
Stewart’s Snow White may have won the day (come on – you know how the story ends), but Theron is still the fairest of them all (IMHO; surprise, Janelle, it’s not SJ).
Despite the poor ending, Snow White did the opposite of disappoint, so I will give it a rather weak ***+. My mug is up with a little more conviction, making Snow White the surprise winner of the evening, but maybe that had more to do with that nasty thing called “expectations” than with a truly objective subjective opinion. 

1 comment:

  1. Saw Prometheus on the plane home from Winnipeg. That's a sign that I didn't expect to like it much (as I wouldn't waste a good movie on airplane conditions). And still I was disappointed. Pointless sci-fi drivel. None of the character development worked for me. I repeat - none. All of it was sacrificed for the sake of time and I don't even know where that time went because it sure wasn't on plot development. And don't even get me started on the last half hour. I have no idea what Ebert saw in it other than the alien creation of life on Earth question which only made me yawn. The best I could offer this was *1/2