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Exodus

Exodus film posterSynopsis

Based on the biblical story of Moses leaving Pharoah Rameses’ court and learning of his Hebrew identity.  He meets God’s messenger at the burning bush.  Moses wants to free the Hebrew slaves but Rameses doesn’t agree and so is visited by the plagues.  The slaves are released then pursued by Pharoah, whose army is drowned in the Red Sea which parted for the Hebrews.

Ridley Scott’s movie is always aware of the Ten Commandments (1956) starring Charlton Heston at the height of the cheesy biblical epic.  That film catered for bible-belt sensibilities of the time.  Heston was a granite monument to stolid acting, the scenes could have come out of a Jehovah’s witnesses prayerbook.  Scott seems uneasy with the religious aspects of the story since he’s determinedly low key, wanting to avoid the embarrassments of cornball sentiment which Scott can’t resolve.  His vision of God’s messenger is a middle class British schoolboy aiming for understatement but undoing it by attacks of childish petulance, presumably substituting for God-like authority.  It’s that same trick of demurral which apologizes for numinous impart.  This is the educated liberal approach to religious mysticism for the Harry Potter generation.  This same syndrome stalked Willem Defoe in Last Temptation.  If Scott is uneasy with religion why make this film at all?  It’s analogous to doing a ‘realistic’ Robin Hood.  When the whole point is that Robin Hood should be a preposterous fantasy.  It doesn’t offend and neither does it steer between these temptations.

The sets are sumptuous and the plagues have good special effects.  The acting is pretty good, dominated by Australians.  Rameses the Pharoah becomes ever more reptilian under his face paint.  His tyranny subtly probes for advantage.  The tone of voice now overawes, and now deceives to 0kill.  Bale looks reliably tortured as he gazes nobly into any reminder of his conscience.  Rameses and Pharoah are the brothers who learn they are not so:  loss and finding of self, about keeping faith with one’s identity.  It’s a message that’s become urgently pertinent to our world.

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Posted by on January 25, 2015 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Prometheus

Prometheus posterSynopsis

Ridley Scott’s prequel to Alien, though it has been denied that it is.  Scientists Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw) and Logan Marshall Green (Holloway) discover cave paintings showing giants pointing to the stars.  Then in 2093 a spaceship travels to outer space.  On board is an android (Michael Fassbender playing David) who wakes the crew up, and they explore the moon they’re on, which orbits a ringed planet.  Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, head of the Weylon Corporation.  The scientists want answers to our origins, Vickers has other priorities.  The crew explore a giant installation and they find alien eggs and they are attacked by these aliens.  They find a giant humanoid, a survivor of the spaceship.  Will the humanoid attack the crew and what will the aliens do…..?

Criticism

In spite of protestations to the contrary, this is the prequel to Alien.  Ironically, of course, the earlier events in this 2012 film enjoy the benefit of advanced cinematic technology unavailable to the later events of the 1979 film.  There is little hint here of how the world of the Alien film could be tacky and picaresque, the antiseptic hi-tech of Prometheus would preclude this.   Prometheus is closer in appearance to the blander, more amenably hi-tech, world of 2001.  Prometheus is pre-occupied with life and death, the nature of mortality, and our own origins.  Elizabeth Shaw is committed to our being created by a high intelligence, so she is no Darwinist.  If you think about this, then a lot of sci-fi must be inimical to Darwin because it insists on the creation of artificial and natural life, even in 2001 there was the intervention of a black monolith to get us going.  Elizabeth Shaw wants to know why the giants turned against humans.

Ridley Scott also explores the boundary of human and non human intelligence in the relationship between the android David and the scientists.  Scott explored this in Blade Runner (1982) when the androids poignantly aspire to human status.  David likes to watch Lawrence of Arabia, no doubt identifying with Lawrence’s indifference to ordinary behaviour.  David seems essentially benign, which makes Ridley’s later fear of androids less excusable.

The dialogue between the crew members is mostly professional, political, and not disinterested.  The Weylon Corporation behaves in a sinisterly secretive fashion.  The scientists do not work as a team, more like business rivals.

Prometheus takes us back to the hollow installation with its Giger style that we first saw in Alien.  The look is all metallic insect exo-skeleton.  It is a sort of organic geometry which reminds me of Gaudi’s Barcelona architecture.  The humanoid giants look like Michelin men from the car tyre commercial and their eyes make them look like they’re wearing giant sapphires as contact lenses  The aliens have of course become familiar, and in Prometheus the parameters of their appearance have only extended a little.  Now they look like tattooed multi-eyed octopi.  Their modus operandi are insect like and parasitic.

Prometheus elaborates on the Alien scenario rather than explaining it, presumably to leave scope for a sequel, which looks likely given the ending.

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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