23 June 2012


I enjoyed recently:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was flagged out to me by PH (there's not much publicity for it) who knew I was a fan of two of its actors the Dames Maggie Smith and Judi Dench. And who can resist Ridley Scott's Prometheus? The Youtube trailers left me salivating like one of his slimey creatures! In retrospect, the two movies aren't as different as they at first seem. Both are about the idea of "aliens" aren't they? 'Aliens' were invented as a critique of life on Earth. An alien's different configuration can be tailored specifically to highlight whatever qualities the author or director wishes to highlight about the human conditon, to demonstrate a finer, more moral or rational way of behaving. Aliens can teach us how to live.

The predictable plot of John Madden's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel didn't seem promising at all: a group of pensioners are separately lured to India by a Photoshopped promo and wind up in a run-down hotel in Jaipur run by an ebullient native boy played by the sexy, likable (yes, different things) Dev Patel. He dashes about with great energy and good nature but otherwise has no idea what he’s doing. The 'aliens' include a widow (Dench), an old flirt (Celia Imrie), a spinster who needs a hip replaced (Smith), a tragic Don Juan (Ronald Pickup), an ex-jurist (Tom Wilkinson), an unhappily-married couple (Penelope Wilton and the wonderful Bill Nighy). There are no violent surprises nor any special effects at all, just great craftsmanship. The actors are all very good, the pacing and editing is good. India is a metaphor for life, with its dazzling foreignness, the crowds, noise, and dust, a great challenge for us all. It's also wonderfully funny. 
(Maggie Smith and Dev Patel)

I can't buy into the online Prometheus mumbo-jumbo: the pseudo-religious, pseudo-biological, and pseudo-mythological debate seems to be something that Ridley Scott may have encouraged or engendered (it is hinted at in the movie) and if you care for such things, you can read it anywhere. I'm here to say that it's a great movie, wonderfully crafted and thoroughly enjoyable in the way that unseen hostile creatures skittering, slithering, and oozing in the dank dark can be enjoyable. Prometheus, filmed in 3-D, is Scott's first sci-fi project since Blade Runner (which I loved!), and it has impressive audiovisuals — grand, expensive, and apocalyptic. Effects are judiciously used, and the bombastic set pieces forward the weighty plot, or otherwise serve a good scare, the opposite of glib. 

Even if you, like me, didn't exactly get the opening sequence, where next to a thunderous waterfall, a caped "Engineer" sips a poisoned chalice and disintegrates, you'll likely be thrilled by zooming into his DNA-laden chromosomes that balletically disperse in the wate: from these fragments the human race will eventually be born. The movie jumps into action only when two archeologists, Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend, Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, gorgeous), become part of the crew of a corporate spaceship, Prometheus, embarking on a two-year journey to the planet on which, they believe, the Engineers who created us originate.
The expedition is headed by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron. slick, sexy), and tended by David (Michael Fassbender), an androgynous android whose favourite movie is Lawrence of Arabia; He minces about like C3PO and has an English accent like Peter O’Toole’s. It is David’s movie: polite, obsequious, subtle, ironic and sinisterly malevolent.

Prometheus may be sold as a prequel to the Aliens franchise and it certainly shares some preoccupations and visual motifs with the old shocker. The sets, spaceship, the demographics of the crew, and mostly the glistening, viscous creatures that violate and invade the human body, the barely seen creature that pursues its victims through enclosed corridors, eliminating one after another, the unheard screams. Yet, despite what you may have read, Prometheus is not a literal a prequel, although it is just as wonderfully scarey if less darkly claustrophobic.

The crew root around in mucky tunnels and caverns, greeted by holographic apparitions that look like something directly out of Star Wars. There is a serpentine creature underfoot, mysterious carvings like from a Sumerian tomb, black goo and jars of organic ominous matter. Inevitably, Shaw gets impregnated with an Alien baby, and we witness a Cesarean vividly strange and horrible and yes, slightly comic. The talented Rapace is so good, she didn't male this a LOL scene. Shaw is a Scott heroine, and Rapace makes me want to see the sequel, because I'm sure there's one. Despite what the critics say, this movie earns respect. It's wonderful escapist fun and the psuedo scientific/ mythic/ relgious hints work to add another layer of entertainment.

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