10 February 2013

Much ado about (almost) nothing

I lived my teenage years through the eighties. So, like the most part of my generation, I received a strong influence from the arts of that era. I guess, somehow like the generation preceding us and the next one that followed ours, we were, up to a certain level, shaped by the music and cinema of that Era. Which was great, in my modest opinion. Particularly the cinema.
Every young person has the ability to dream. Sometimes even wide awake.
Among all the cinema genres, one comes to our mind as the epitome of dreams: the Science-Fiction. No other genre demands more from our imagination, bringing to us (to the best of the film crews knowledge) the utopia (or the dystopia) of the distant future (or, also, the distant past).
Among the many directors that shaped the visual perception of my generation Ridley Scott has, undoubtedly, the highest honours.
I was quite young when Alien (1979) appeared. Nine years old at the time and with no cinema in my home town, I had the pleasure to watch this movie only in the small tv screen, about five years later. And the experience was for me (and to many others, I guess) a mind-changer. I would never look to a sci-fi movie the same way. That first vision of Scott's work led me to search more and to follow his work during the following years.
And despite the post-Blade Runner erratic career, he remained, much credit to his unique cinematographic vision, one of my favorites directors.
During my younger years I must have watched "Alien" dozens of times, rewinding the poor VHS tape to exhaustion.
During those younger years the experience was mostly visual. I was simply amazed with the cinematographic language: the game of shadows, the subjective camera, the artistry placed in the model constructions and filming, the perfection of lighting and camera movements.
Later, I started to admire the actor's work and finally, in my adult years, I began to explore the subtleties of the plot, of the script.
Nowadays, after being professionally at sea for the most part of a life's decade, I can't stop being amazed for the precision placed in the character's construction. If there is a Merchant Fleet in the future, this is how its crew will look like. As you may have noticed, the "Nostromo" was a commercial (space)ship. And we could see already on her, in the future, the silent manning revolution that started in the eighties of the past century: the reduction of the crews to levels never seen before. In fact, the "Nostromo" was what we call presently a deep-sea tug, towing a refinery and a mineral ore loaded "barge" back to Earth, when the crew is awake of their sleep to attend a (supposed) SOS signal coming from an unknown world.
And in such a small crew, the different personalities start to emerge when facing this new reality. Pretty much like I've seen at sea: the practical mentality of the Engineers, whose only concern is the ship itself and its mechanics and couldn't care less for the romantic chase they embark into, the robot placed on board as a direct representative of the shipowner and carrying a hidden agenda on board of cynic monetary interests, the Captain (Tom Skerrit) that just flies the ship, assuming the passive position that, sooner or later, every Captain has to face in his career, when being confronted with his personal interests from one side and the shipowner's on the other.
The movie was, in fact, a sociological case study of interaction within a small group of humans confined in a narrow and very isolated universe for a very long time (a greater example of this situation was later achieved by John Carpenter on his 1982 work-of-art "The Thing").
So I had great expectations about "Prometheus". Upon seeing the trailer in the cinema, I was quite motivated to spend eight Euros to watch the latest creation of Ridley Scott in the big screen. Thank God I did not. The latest of the "Alien"series is a dull movie in almost all the senses. The crew is composed mostly by young actors that try desperately to shine, whereas on the first film all of them were seasoned actors with dozens of years of experience between them. The only exceptions are the ambiguous representations of Charlize Theron and Michael Fassbender. The later one, as the robot "David", gives a good performance, although not near as great as Ian Holm representing the Android "Ash" on the first movie.
All the rest is a not particularly enlightened lesson in CGI (how we miss the magnificent scale models of the dystopic Los Angeles on "Blade Runner") and various ridiculous special effects (the worms that they step on during their WMD cave exploration look like common garden worms). The astronaut costumes are a bit silly and they drive very fast space cars... yay! Also the all plot of meeting our maker doesn't really convinced me.
Saving the film from total disaster, the magnificent photography of  Dariusz Wolski (great and natural Icelandic landscapes) is the only thing that truly worked. All the rest is cinema for (quite probably) the I-Phone generation. No credible argument, absence of quality acting... but lots of bells and whistles.
Come on, Ridley Scott. You can do better. You've done it before.
Or maybe I'm just getting too old.
Michael Fassbender in a notable interpretation as the android "David" on the latest Ridley Scott's space opera, "Prometheus": "Big things have small beginnings!".