Awards Profile: Prometheus

Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron

Synopsis: A team of explorers discover a clue to the origins of mankind on Earth, leading them on a journey to the darkest corners of the universe. There, they must fight a terrifying battle to save the future of the human race.

Awards Speculation:
Wait a bloody minute, what’s this film doing here!?  Weren’t we only covering possible Oscar contenders with Awards Profiles?  We are, and I’m not going to patronize anyone by suggesting that this science-fiction thriller will nab the famous Brit his first Best Director Academy Award, because it won’t.

However, just because it probably will not be a serious challenger for the top categories does not mean it should be counted completely out of the awards conversation.  For one thing, it is almost certainly one of the most anticipated summer blockbusters of the year, and possibly the most anticipated of June excepting a certain Scottish adventuress.  For a while it seemed only to be on the radar of cinephiles and Alien fanboys salivating at Ridley Scott’s return to the space where no one can hear you scream despite a supposedly different type of threat…but I’m getting ahead of myself.  My point is that ever since its insanely promising and thankfully cryptic teaser with an only slightly more revealing and just as thrilling full trailer shortly after, Prometheus has gone from an Enticing Prospect to a full-blown Event, and such a thing deserves at least some consideration.

Not an Alien prequel, apparently, though H. R. Giger is still gainfully employed in the future...

But what is the film exactly about?  That’s the best part in my eyes: we’re not quite sure.  It actually started off as a terrible idea, when Scott announced that he would be working on a prequel to Alien.  Because if there’s one thing that makes horror more effective, it’s knowing as much as possible about the terrifying threat pervading it and killing any sense of mystery, isn’t it?  It was a film that virtually no one outside of 20th Century Fox stockholders had been clamoring for and only avoided an outright backlash due to the franchise being driven into ground years ago by Alien vs. Predator.  But then something amazing happened.  As the script went through several changes and the project was forming, it seems as though Sir Scott or one of his collaborators thought up of a better idea: why not just place the film in the same setting with many connections to the Alien franchise, but have it be an original story that stands on its own?

And so Prometheus was born, a film featuring the Weyland Corporation, white-blooded androids, and those hypersleep pods but no xenomorphs or Ripley.  Oh, and featuring the guiding hand of Ridley Scott.  To be honest, I have always found him rather overrated, a “big name” director who never really earned that status, he has not made a genuinely great film in twenty years.  To me, he’s a competent visual craftsman but lacking soul as an artist, often bringing about films with astonishing scope and visual intricacy but little emotional resonance or even anything resembling daring thematic ideas.  Does anyone really remember anything about American Gangster, or Body of Lies, or, god help us, Robin Hood?  The glowing exceptions to my problems with him are Alien and Blade Runner (I suppose Thelma & Louise would also count, though it is not an unqualified triumph by any means), which are also coincidentally his only forays into science fiction.  His return to the genre fuels not only my own interest in the film but I imagine in many others as well; the chance to see if he’s still “got it.”

Since this was now an original premise, its script and plot were put under the tightest watch this side of The Dark Knight Rises, with the actors reading the script with a guard standing by.  All that’s been revealed is that a research crew has been lured by the promise of finding an ancient civilization and instead finds the possible end of the human race.

This all sounds rather intense.  How is 20th Century Fox so sure that such a thing will make a lot of money?  Well, they’re not, which is a wrinkle in this production that I’m not sure what to make of.  Apparently Scott has been preparing for studio exec hand-wringing over the content of the film and decided to cut both an R-rated and PG-13 version of the film and let the distributor decide what to release based on financial projections and moviegoer buzz.  I do sincerely hope that the level of anticipation built up will give them the courage to gamble on an R-rated release, even though such a move almost guarantees less money in box office revenue.  Not that I’m a gore or nudity hound or anything, but I’ve always believed that a film should be uninhibited in how it presents itself.  War movies shouldn’t shy away from stark, harrowing violence.  Raunchy college comedies should be free to revel in jokes about bodily functions, no matter how repetitive and unfunny I may personally find them.  Sci-fi horror films should be as intense as possible, and if something as skin-crawling as this:

Enjoy your lunch, folks!

is necessary for the integrity of Prometheus, then it should be what it is.  The Hunger Games reminded us (or me at least, since everyone else apparently loved that movie for some reason) all too well what happens when an unsettling, complex science fiction idea is whitewashed by profit-driven executives.

Speaking of which, I’m still more than a little disappointed about Scott’s enthusiasm for incorporating 3D into this film.  I guess I could skip the 3D presentation like I almost always do, except now I’m worried that the film is now built around the technology and it will be glaringly obvious that it was filmed to be noticed like that no matter what format I’m viewing it in…or perhaps not.  Scott is if nothing else a visual genius (he started his film career as an art director), and I can’t imagine him taking the time and care towards the film’s largely practical visual effects just to muck it all up with cheap 3D gimmicks.  Could this finally convert me to the side of the technology?  Probably not, but at least it won’t get in the way of my hopefully considerable enjoyment out of Prometheus.

Since we’re considering it purely in the context of crafts nods, I would say that Visual Effects is easily the most likely nominee if it ends up with a sole nod.  From there, I would also bet on the sound categories being a serious threat, especially in a film like this where you not only have obvious, distinctive space noises but also a genre very dependent on its soundscape to establish mood.  If the film is a major critical and commercial hit it might even secure Editing and Cinematography nods as well.  From there it’s a little shaky.  No science fiction film has been nominated for Best Costume Design since 12 Monkeys, and Mark Streitenfeld’s score might come off a little Inception-ish to the largely exclusive nominated composers club.

What oddness does Fassbender have in store for us?

The “major” categories are even more of a longshot.  Best Original Screenplay has a glimmer of hope in the wake of Children of Men and District 9’s surprising appearances as writing nominees, but Picture and Director?  Not likely.

And the acting categories?  No freaking way, though the cast is certainly impressive.  Heading up the ensemble is Noomi Rapace, making a thankfully nice transition from her Girl with the Dragon Tattoo breakout success to the United States, as Elizabeth Shaw, an archaeologist whose cat-like curiosity apparently gets the crew into this mess in the first place.  As the titular ship’s captain is Idris Elba, of whom I will not stop promoting until Hollywood realizes the star potential in him.  Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron is arguably the biggest name in this project as Meredith Vickers, a Weyland Corp. representative who is described as “a fortysomething, tough-but-sexy woman” but who is not just another Ripley, or so we are assured.  The intriguing bit of casting for me is my man-crush Michael Fassbender as an android.  Since this model is about 30 years younger than the unstable Ash, what kind of insecurities and flaws will the synthetic David bring to the story?  Fassbender himself has supposedly drawn from a variety of influences for this performance ranging from Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner to Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.  Seeing such an internal and sensitive actor go for something more otherworldly should be a pleasure to watch regardless of Oscar potential.

Whether or not the movie is a major awards contender, Prometheus will almost certainly be in the collective cinematic discussions in 2012.  Let’s hope the result is a positive one.

Prometheus will be released in June 8th, 2012 and is being distributed by 20th Century Fox

Oscar Potential:
Best Original Screenplay
Best Art Direction
Best Cinematography
Best Costume Design
Best Film Editing
Best Visual Effects
Best Sound Mixing
Best Sound Editing
Best Original Score