Prometheus finds director Ridley Scott revisiting the universe of Alien in a film that predates that franchise, whether as a prequel or something else. It stars Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, Charlize Theron, and Guy Pearce.
The story begins with two scientists – Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) – who have uncovered several prehistoric paintings and artifacts which all depict the same scene of a large deity-like figure pointing to a cluster of planets in the sky. The duo have determined that it’s possible evidence of the origin of man, and that these creatures who are depicted – called “Engineers” – may have seeded the Earth with life as we know it. These new-found planets, and the beings who live there, may therefore finally offer some answers to the how and why of creation, and the two scientists believe they have figured out where these planets are.
From this springs the voyage of the Prometheus, a ship loaded with scientists of various disciplines who can examine this region and gather evidence for later study. Upon landing on their primary target, the team quickly come across remains of an ancient civilization. This race seems to have died out, and the crew begin searching for clues to their disappearance, but in the process they also uncover some other life on the planet that soon turns out to be a more immediate threat. But even when they do start to unravel the mystery of these Engineers, what they discover isn’t quite what they expected to learn. And it does not bode well for them.
Your expectations of what Prometheus should be will probably flavor your reaction to it. If you’re a die-hard Alien franchise nerd, it might leave you frustrated that they’ve gone and toyed with the universe, referencing some things differently than before, and then not mentioning others at all. If you’re only casually familiar with a couple of the Alien films, you’ll probably be more aware of some of the insider references that pop up in the film and should enjoy it at least as much as your memories of the old guard. If you’re new to the whole thing, I think you might actually be the prime audience for this new iteration.
After seeing it several times, I keep coming back to the idea of Prometheus feeling like a franchise reboot rather than a proper prequel. It seems to borrow structure and grander themes from previous films more than it tries to directly sync up with them. The characters, the worlds, the antagonists, all get a makeover that cherry-picks traits from the past while forging a new path. I don’t think it’s news that the Alien films began to yield diminishing returns the more they were stretched. Add to that the fact that Prometheus sequels are already in the works, and the seeds of change have been implanted (and sure to pop out of someone’s chest at a later date).
Because of that it’s pretty easy to come to this film with fresh eyes and enjoy it for what it is: a big summer action/horror film with at least an interesting philoso-scientific premise. It starts off with big ideas and wild theories – which frankly just get sillier the more you think about them – but at some point it defaults back to the Alien action template, and things start going to hell precisely when they’re supposed to, with more or less the characters you would expect either biting the dust or turning on someone. There’s a Ripley character, there’s a robot character, there are gory creature kills, all on an isolated spaceship/planet. But they do seem to change the overall motivation and goal of some of these in the film, and that is what will either intrigue you or frustrate you; or if you’re new will pass you by altogether.
Given that it’s largely a twist on a template, I think it ultimately succeeds. It’s big and beautiful and action-packed, with mostly successful acting performances and a powerful soundtrack. A deep look at the search for the meaning of life? Ehh, maybe not so much. But at least it tries to integrate some intellectual fodder, and as long as you keep in mind that that’s secondary to the action, it helps give at least an extra layer of depth to the film.
Video / Audio
Have you been looking for a new reference/demonstration disc to show off your tricked out home theater system? Then welcome to Prometheus. Just want something that looks good on the old LCD in the den? Also welcome. Prometheus at every turn yields an absolutely gorgeous image that is, well, almost perfect. Detail is stunning, computer graphics are seamlessly integrated, color is exceptional, and the many low-light scenes are surprisingly noise-free; minus one that had some slight aberrations, but even it was trivial. There really is nothing bad to report on this image, and the amazing cinematography/compositing (since half of every scene isn’t exactly real) is just stunning.
You can more or less change a few words in the above paragraph to also describe the sound. Prometheus features a winning DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track that is in every sense impeccable. Perhaps the nicest surprise was how well it performs in the small-room setting where most people will experience it. Too often with similar genre movies the sound can suffer from dialogue that is dialed way down and explosions that are cranked up. Prometheus is impressively well balanced, with quieter scenes building more favorably to all-out action sequences without having to constantly ride the remote (although you still have to do that a little). Surround activity is expertly handled, creating a handsomely immersive sonic experience, supplemented by brilliant LFE support. Again, this is simply a reference quality experience.
Although the standard Blu-ray release doesn’t contain quite the kitchen-sink level of extras that you’ll find on the expanded 3D release, all of the items it does contain are top-quality and add to the overall experience of the film.
There are two commentary tracks included, the first featuring director Ridley Scott. Scott provides a very interesting discussion on the making of the film, revisiting the franchise, his experience working with 3D, and all manner of nuts and bolts, delivered in his typical no-holds-barred style. The second commentary features writer Jon Spaihts and writer/executive producer Damon Lindelof. The two were recorded separately, each offering different and interesting takes on the construction of the story and several other versions of scenes that almost were (a good listen as long as you can handle Lindelof’s often rambling style). One extra interesting addition is that both commentaries are also offered as text-only subtitle options, in English as well as other languages.
A collection of “Deleted and Alternate Scenes” (HD, 36:51) are included, all of which are quite interesting. Some seem to have been cut simply for length, while a few offer alternate story angles that the team eventually decided to either leave unspoken or changed late in the the process. All are also available with optional commentary, mainly by the editor Pietro Scalia. “The Peter Weyland Files” (HD, 18:57) contain four video items. A couple of them appear to be archival tapes about the crew, while the last one is a TED Conference speech by a younger Peter Weyland, featuring some of his grand ideas and exploratory hubris.
Prometheus is overall a winning action movie that only lightly borrows from the past/future of the Alien universe, while forging its own path, and setting itself up well for its own sequels. Its insistence on hammering in half-baked, quasi-philosophical and -scientific ideas may grate on some, but as long as you remember that this is science fiction – with an emphasis on the latter – you should be fine. But what it really excels at is looking amazing, and those who give it a chance will be rewarded with a visual feast, carefully sculpted by captain Ridley Scott.