The nominations: Visual Effects
The film: Earth, millennia ago. Massive humanoid life form arrives on a barren, lifeless planet via a large disc-shaped hovercraft; humanoid sets off biological reaction that kills itself, triggering the single-celled beginnings of life. Fast-forward to 2089: archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Greene) discover a star map in an ancient cave in Scotland. Fast-forward a few more years to find Shaw and Holloway on a mission corporately funded by Weyland Enterprises to trace the origins of humankind to a distant, distant planet on the spacecraft Prometheus. While the crew is in stasis, the curious android David (Michael Fassbender hilariously serious with a ridiculous Lawrence-of-Arabia/Peter-O’Toole blonde coif) trolls about the quarters, keeping himself occupied by playing basketball and spying on the humans’ dreams. When the crew awakes from stasis, Weyland representative Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) introduces Shaw and Holloway to the crew who in turn explain that they are all there to discover their makers, affectionately called “Engineers.”
Once landed on the mysterious planet, laid out in the star maps Shaw and Holloway discovered from various archaeological sites on Earth, the crew explores one of the large artificial structures on the surface. Inside they find a room housing some mysterious urns as well as a large monolithic face statue and the head of a deceased Engineer. Shaw takes the head back to the ship and David sneaks off with one of the urns. During a sandstorm, crewmembers Fifield and Millburn get lost in the structure and have to spend the night there. Back at the ship, Shaw is shocked to find the Engineer’s DNA matching human DNA. Meanwhile David pulls apart the urn to reveal a strange, biological black ooze. Fearless of the effect it could have, David intentionally taints the drinking glass of Holloway. Shaw shares the news of the DNA with Holloway and the two celebrate intimately.
While Millburn and Fifield try to keep themselves busy to distract from the horror of being stranded on an alien planet, they encounter an odd snake-like creature that attacks Millburn. Fifield tries to help by cutting it off, but the creature’s acid blood melts his helmet and face before crawling into Millburn’s suit, killing him as well. The next day the crew returns to continue their expedition but after discovering Millburn dead and Fifield now missing, Holloway becomes gravely ill. Conscious of his state, Holloway lets Vickers burn him to death with a flamethrower. Shaw passes out and awakes to find herself pregnant with the alien infected fetus of her dead boyfriend. Shaw now begins to realize the massive mistake she has made by coming to this place as things begin to spiral more and more out of control and the Engineers’ true sinister intent becomes clearer.
The odds: When discussing a movie backed with a great amount of passion its easy to get the terms “bad” and “disappointing” confused; though lots of individuals slammed Ridley Scott’s return to the genre he helped create as the former, I heartily believe that it is actually the latter. The movie itself is actually well rounded if only to found incredibly confusing…but that’s more of a marketing issue. The biggest pitfall of Prometheus is that it was set up from its inception as a sort-of vaguely connected prequel to the Alien mythology rather than an original story with its own set of rules. The filmmakers though were too busy thinking they were being tenaciously clever when they were really just being tenaciously indifferent or, in the case of the incredibly sophisticated auteur Mr. Scott, intransigently insouciant. Hiring “Lost” writer Damon Lindelof was an intriguing notion as for his reputation for being the evil genius of plot twists, but having him write an already loaded story combined with Scott’s self-satisfaction produced a jumbled and over-complicated hodgepodge instead of a narratively polished film like Alien - as with all great horror movies the beauty of that film was its simplicity. Most tragic of all though, exacerbating the begrudgingly over-complicated nature of the whole project, was that even with a group of brilliant though not all widely known talent like Michael Fassbender as the deliciously creepy android David or Rafe Spall as the zany biologist Millburn, the cast caved in on Noomi Rapace who floundered, though not entirely blamelessly, with the Ellen Ripley facsimile Dr. Elizabeth Shaw. Even though Scott missed that “less is more” concept as far as the story goes, it is visually brilliant. A gorgeous balance of reality and CGI, the visual design is seamless. No bells or whistles; no grand showboating; only thankless computer wizardry. Its amazing that with a project his momentous that the restraint is shown in the effects. Nowadays one really has to appreciate a movie that makes no assumptions about imagined realities but rather thoughtfully creates some vision that is easily suspended in disbelief even if said movie is maddeningly enigmatic.