Archive for the ‘Film’ Category


Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

Managed to catch Prometheus on Saturday night, Ridley Scott’s eagerly awaited prequel to his best film, Alien. Scott had said that he didn’t want to do a traditional prequel that would end at the start of Alien, but wanted to tell a different story that could lead in different directions.

So, how was it? Pretty good I thought. It’s a film that looks beautiful throughout, from sweeping landscape shots to a very nice spaceship, from cool spacesuits to the sort of holographic displays we’d love to have – full marks for design and cinematography. It also has a story, and a compelling one too. Without saying too much, when a couple of archaeologists find the same pattern of stars repeating in ancient paintings from around the Earth, they realise that it points to a destination that may explain the origins of life on our planet. An expedition is mounted on board the space ship Prometheus, with a crew who have various reasons for being there, which takes them to a place that fans of Alien will recognise.

While the cast are all pretty good, the show is predictably stolen by Michael Fassbender, who plays David, the ship’s android. It’s partly his fault, because he is very compelling to watch, but the android is also the most interesting character – he is on a ship with his creators, as they seek their creators. He also gets the most interesting conversation in the film, when he asks:

“Why do you think your people made me”

“Because we could”

“How disappointed will you be if you get the same answer?”

(Not a precise transcription, just how I remember it)

And so we have a film with a bit more of a philosophical edge to it, about the relationship between creators and their creations. It is not an action movie, but it is unpleasant and gory in places, just like Alien was. It’s not by any means the best film I have ever seen, and it will never have the place in sci-fi culture that Alien has, but I liked it and I think it’s worth seeing.

And now the spoilers – if you haven’t seen it, then look away now.


As I’ve said, I rather liked the film, but a few things about it either annoyed me, or intrigued me. The first is in the setup; at the start, we see our archeologists discovering the address of the alien planet, and a big deal is made of how this is a message or an invitation. But then later they conclude that it’s at best a research station, at worst a weapons research station. So why would the aliens have given that invitation in the first place? Surely they would be more likely to have issued any invitation to their home world. Perhaps deliberate misdirection as a security precaution, but it still seems odd.

And then a thing that intrigued me – my initial doubts were confirmed – the planet they visit is designated LV-223. But the planet in Alien and Aliens is LV-426. So they are different planets – it becomes clear at the end of the film that the alien ship they discovered is not the one that they will discover in Alien, but it was only when I checked at home that I realised that it’s not even on the same planet. Interesting.

And then something else that annoyed me – they cast Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland. Weyland is an old man, Guy Pearce is not – he is a much younger man in make-up. From this, I assumed that he would somehow be rejuvenated at some point, but he wasn’t. So why not just cast an old actor? There are plenty of them about! Unless of course I fell exactly into the trap I was meant to. I kind of disliked that on principle – Where it’s not required, I’d rather see an old actor than a made-up one.

Another question for me was whether they were really correct in their conclusions about it all. Clearly the alien substance does horrible things, but was it actually a weapon? Or was it just biology gone mad? I’ll agree that the Engineer didn’t seem pleased to see the humans, but he only got violent when they started asking the cheeky questions. I don’t know that it was very clear that he was heading to earth to destroy it. I’ll agree that their cargo would not have done humanity many favours, but I don’t think it was clear that this was a plan to harm us. Let a child loose in their dad’s garage full of tools and they’ll damage themselves and everything in their path, but neither their dad, nor the tools, nor the child is evil. I have a suspicion that there could be a director’s cut somewhere that might explain this a bit better. Or maybe it’s just me, but I find it vaguely unsatisfying.

We are also meant to see great significance in the cross, and Shaw’s insistence on wearing it. But there must be a problem there – if she has a Christian faith, she doesn’t have to travel across light years to seek her creator. If she doesn’t have that faith, why is the cross so important to her. She’s clearly believing in something, but it’s not very clear that it’s anything other than a non-specific hope for something after death, as opposed to an actual religious faith.

And then the ending. I love the idea of Shaw and David heading off to find the home of the Engineers. I’m not sure it needs a sequel to tell it, but I like the idea of it, and I like the open-endedness of it. And then we have the birth of what is clearly something related to the familar H.R.Giger alien. Again, an odd thing that the offspring off a giant octopus/squid thing and a largely human looking engineer would be that kind of alien. I can see how it’s great to finish like that, but it seems a bit unlikely.

Enough rambling – bottom line – this seems like the longest review I’ve written in a long time, and that’s probaby an indication of how much I liked the film – well worth seeing I reckon.

Iron Sky

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

I was one of those who fell for the hype, and decided to catch Iron Sky on the single day of its UK release. I had heard a little about it beforehand, but not a great deal, so I came to it fairly fresh at a packed QFT on Wednesday.

Spoiler-free review:

An unexpected film. Unexpectedly offensive in many places, unexpectedly sad in others. Since one of my main criticisms against South Park is that I dislike it because they just want to offend people, the same criticism has to apply here – this is not a film that portrays America in a positive light. It could be argued that politicians and spin doctors are the same everywhere, and that it’s not specifically about American politics  and could apply anywhere, but America is the target that they selected, and they hit it fairly hard. But, aside from that, the film has many laugh out loud moments of both subtle and unsubtle humour and an ending that goes from beautiful to unbearably sad in about 2 seconds. Is it worth seeing? I’m honestly not sure I can answer that. I was glad that I saw it, and I laughed at many parts of it, but I’m not quite sure I’m proud of myself for doing so.

The audience in the QFT was in no doubt what they thought of the film, much laughter, and a round of applause at the end. But one friend hated it, saying the acting and plot where both terrible, while my other companion’s thoughts can be read here (I haven’t read that yet, so I don’t know how our reviews compare).

And if you don’t want to know more, look away now!


Review with Spoilers:

The film opens beautifully, with America’s return to the moon, and the unexpected discovery of the moon nazis. The special effects go from excellent to cheesy real quick, and it’s fair to say that there’s no real feeling of a lack of gravity on the moon. I guess that’s hard for actors to do without making complete prats of themselves though, so we’ll let that pass. Personally, I found the “albinisation” to be appalling – it is much too close to actual nazi science, and it’s the first thing I would remove from the film. I guess I’m just squeamish – I don’t want these moon nazis to remind me of actual nazis – I just want comedy villains. But this part of the film also contains one of my favourite moments, some quite subtle humour, when Renate teaches her class about the Great Dictator, the “10 minute film” that Chaplin made “in praise of Hitler” – a beautiful bit of spin doctoring! Which reminds me that I ought to see that film someday. I’m sure it’s much better than this one. But I digress…

Once we return to earth, another fabulous moment, when the President starts using the nazi speeches as part of her election compaign. I enjoyed this savaging of the vapidity of modern politics, and there are great laugh out loud moments here. I note at IMDB that the president is never named, which makes it even more cheeky to make her so Palin-esque.

We then move into the war, and things I didn’t like again. When the meteor-blitzkreig begins, we see a huge mushroom cloud above a city, which is then never referred to. I dislike the meaninglessness of such an utterly destructive act; they just moved on to the next scene, as if nothing had happened. The inhumanity of it irks me. But I did like the nazi space-zeppelins, which were very cool.

I loved the point at which the peaceful space programs of the great nations are shown to all be armed to the teeth, and I thought the scene where the weapons unfurl from the Mars exploration vehicle was brilliant. The special effects are also very good here, for a cheap movie, as the forces of earth take on the nazi zeppelins and flying saucers (yes flying saucers! You can’t beat a classic!)

I loved that the nazi super-weapon was powered by an ipad – I thought that was a beautiful bit of irony. And of course it was as over-the top as all super-weapons are. I also liked the name, which was nicely Wagnerian, and very appropriate.

And then the ending. The fight in the UN was excellent. But it was the final scene that reduced our audience to silence, when that beautiful shot of earth hanging in space was unexpectedly marred by the trail of a missile looping up out of the atmosphere and down again to destroy a city, and then another, and then we see the lights go out all over the earth. An unexpectedly poignant ending, to know that as the nazis would have to rebuild on the moon after their destruction, so would the people of earth.

The choice of using actual German actors, and subtitling the German speech was kind of unexpected, and had me moving around to read the words I couldn’t see behind the head of the person in front of me. As I read above, it’s not a film I would wholeheartedly endorse or recommend, but I was glad I caught it, and thought it was just the sort of thing I should write a blog post about!