Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Prometheus vs. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, two hotly-anticipated fanboy franchise prequels with legendary directors at their helms.
Premise In Prometheus, director Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) returns to the Alien franchise he inaugurated with, duh, Alien. What we have here is a pseudo-prequel that Scott has said pulls from DNA of the original. The scattered scenes of the trailer seem similar to Alien plot points. A space-flight crew in the future, made up of Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron (who can be seen doing naked push-ups at 0:44), approaches a new planet, where they discover a nest of pods and subsequently grave danger—all this in complex, beautifully colored sci-fi settings. Their intention, as the large print makes clear, is to find clues as to the source of life, with disastrous consequences.
With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we’re also dealing with a prequel, this time for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Again, Peter Jackson—who won Oscars for said trilogy—is at the helm. Martin Freeman, of British The Office fame, plays a young Bilbo Baggins, Frodo’s uncle. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will trace the first half of the J. R. R. Tolkien book, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, in which Bilbo embarks on his own great adventure with the help of Gandalf the Grey and in the company of a band of dwarves. All leading up to his fateful encounter with Gollum.
Both promise to be exciting continuations or pre-continuations, of their originals franchises. We’re going to give the slimmest advantage to Prometheus, though. We just can’t see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey superseding the legendariness of the LOTR films, but Prometheus—with its return to the awesome Alien title sequence and promise to answer questions about the source of life and simultaneously, its destruction—however impossible that goal will be to reach, just has us more titillated. Advantage: Prometheus
Lead In Prometheus, Noomi Rapace, the original, Swedish Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and one of the stars of this year’s Sherlock Holmes 2, leads the space-exploration crew. In the other corner, we have Martin Freeman, of British Office and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy fame, who will be playing Bilbo in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. For both Rapace and Freeman, these are some hefty roles with their fair share of challenges. Freeman carries pressure of LOTR fans everywhere to get Bilbo right and lead a franchise film, while Rapace fills out an expert cast—more on that later—and leads a prequel to one of the best sci-fi movies ever, Alien, from one of the best directors alive today, Ridley Scott. Pressure, pressure, pressure for both. Advantage: Tie
Supporting Cast Both films require superior leads and supporting actors, and both have them. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey brings Sir Ian McKellen into the beloved Gandalf role, as well as Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Andy Serkis as Gollum. Now, after Rise of the Planet of the Apes, we all know Andy Serkis is a genius (and he’s hoping the Oscar voters know, too), as are McKellen and Blanchett, not to mention the dwarf crew. Prometheus however, has a touch bit more big-name talent, with Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce (Memento), Ben Foster (The Messenger) and Idris Elba (The Wire) rounding out the large-cast feature. Advantage: Prometheus
Sci-Fi/Fantasy Wardrobe If you’ve seen the behind-the-scenes specials and hours of DVD extras of any Peter Jackson or Ridley Scott movie, then you know both directors manage insanely large and intricate fictional worlds that at their best can be visionary, and at their worst kind of forgivable (see Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Scott’s Robin Hood). With both Prometheus and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, we see both directors return to their old wardrobe haunts. Jackson’s Hobbit looks like it hasn’t visually strayed from his LOTR trilogy, and why should it? Prometheus, however, comes 33 year after 1979’s Alien, which means lots more to special effects to play with. We just can’t choose between the neon and skintight bodysuits of Prometheus and the Middle Earth garb of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Advantage: Tie
Director Obviously, both films are among the most super-exciting, hotly anticipated releases of 2012. The Hobbit‘s director Peter Jackson’s last directorial project was The Lovely Bones—and in fact, he was not the original director for The Hobbit. Fantasy-film visionary Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) was attached to direct the movies, but dropped out last May because of production delays. Still, Del Toro’s talents will still be seen in the screenplay, which he co-wrote. Then there is Prometheus director Ridley Scott’s return to the sci-fi genre, which he pretty much defined with 1979’s Alien and Blade Runner three years later. Mix in some of the best up-and-coming acting talent of our generation, and we have our winner. Advantage: Prometheus
Verdict Honestly, we’re probably going to go see both films. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was top-notch and we expect nothing less from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. However, with Prometheus, we get Ridley Scott back in the sci-fi game, lots and lots of hot, talented actors, and more Alien mythology—it will probably get us into movie theaters first. If Ridley Scott wants to explain the source of life and throw in some very naked Charlize Theron doing pushups, we’re in. Winner: Prometheus
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