Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was a geek’s dream. Scott, who directed Alien in 1979, was one of the great science fiction filmmakers, but hadn’t done anything in the genre since 1982 – since Blade Runner. And though Alien spawned a franchise, Scott had never made his own sequel. Prometheus was sold as a semi-prequel, an “in universe” film that takes place before the events of the first film, but may not tie into them directly. After a series of great trailers, there was hope that the film (which was also rated R, rare for a huge summer movie) would be awesome, would be a great Scott film. Alas, it’s more of a mess. Our review of the Blu-ray of Prometheus follows after the jump.
The film starts with aliens descending on a planet, and leaving an Engineer (the film’s name for the alien species) to drink some black goo. That dissolves his body, but his DNA starts life on the planet. On Earth, two scientists (Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green) find a drawing in a cave, and then we cut to outer space. There we meet David (Michael Fassbender), an android who watches over the sleeping bodies and spends his time playing basketball and dyeing his hair to look like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. When the ship is woken up, Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) reveals that the cave paintings have been found throughout man’s history, and all point to the place where they’re going. Everything has been paid for by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), and he believes they might alien life, but the captain of the ship Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) thinks this is a wild and probably fatal goose chase.
On the planet they find an underground lair, and things from an alien species, but the clues don’t fit together, and there’s evidence that violence happened on the planet (there’s a headless Engineer body) and some black goo stuff from the opening. Two of the team gets lost in one of the stupidest plot points of the year, while David takes some of the black goo, and – later – puts it in Charlie Holloway’s (Marshall-Green) drink. From there everything goes bad.
When you think about Alien, you realize that it’s meticulously plotted, and has memorable characters. When you think about Prometheus, only Michael Fassbender’s character stands out, and the story is nonsense. Fassbender’s David gives the film its only thematic depth when he suggests how disappointing it might be to learn that your creators actually didn’t care about creating you, and that they might see you as just a toy or refuse, or may actively hate you, but it’s not enough to sustain the picture. The film opens really strong, and there’s at least one great sequence in the home stretch (where someone must perform surgery on themselves), but – though the film sold itself on having big ideas – there’s nothing going on under the surface. There was nothing going on under the surface of Alien, but it had no illusions about that. Alien is a slasher movie in space, but with brilliant art design, and actual great scares. Prometheus eventually reveals itself to be a slasher movie, but a bad one. The problem is that a smart movie is only as smart as its weakest link, and when a geologist who designed the maps of the caves they’re exploring gets lost in those caves, and then the people who are afraid of any living thing on the planet try to make nice with a penis monster, well… that’s just stupid.
On top of which, there are characters and reveals that just don’t work. Charlize Theron was original cast as Elizabeth Shaw, or was wanted for the part, but couldn’t do it because of scheduling issues, but then became available. And so – it seems – they wrote a part for her so she could be in the movie. But as captain of the ship, she does no actual captaining, that’s all handled by Idris Elba’s character, and if you remove her from the movie – everything she does and says – it wouldn’t change a thing. Indeed, you could also trim all that stuff with the lost scientists, as everything that happens to them proves that they were lost in the cave to have exciting scenes. None of the characters have interesting motivations once they get to the planet, nor do they make much of an impression. Noomi Rapace was courted by Hollywood after her turn as Lisabeth Salander in the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, and after this and her role in the Sherlock Holmes sequel, I still have no sense that she has much talent. But it’s also hard to blame her, because the roles she’s been playing have been blanks. Here she has to scream and be scared, and she does that okay, but there’s nothing about her or her performance that makes me think she’s a movie star, or makes me want to see her in more movies. Fassbender has fun walking the line between curious and menancing, but otherwise, the story is garbage. As it’s a Ridley Scott film, it’s a handsomely shot one with evocative framing and lighting, which makes it fun to sit through at least once.
And his visual sense is well represented on the Blu-ray. There are two versions available, with the 3D edition housing a bonus disc with all the great supplemental material. That four-disc set comes with the film in 3D, 2D, a bonus disc for supplements, a DVD and digital copy. And the presentation of the movie in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD master audio is demo material. In both 3D and 2D, the film looks stunning, and this is one of the better 3D movies out there, so that’s saying something. It’s one of the most impressive transfers you’ll find.
The 3D disc offers little supplements, but the 2D version houses two commentary tracks, one by Ridley Scott, the second by credited screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Scott is his fine normal self on the commentary track, though he does fall into the trap of describing what’s on screen from time to time, but Scott has proved himself one of the most lucid and interesting directors when it comes to these things. Spaihts and Lindelof are slightly more interesting, as Spaihts knows why he was not the last author on the project, and one also senses that he knows why the movie doesn’t work. Also on this disc are fourteen deleted scenes (37 min.) with optional commentary by editor Pietro Scalia and visual effects supervisor Richard Stammers. For those looking for pieces of the puzzle that might make the film better, it’s not here. The thing that has had most people excited is the idea that there were more engineers in the original opening, but Scott and company were right to cut them. It’s more striking in the theatrical cut, and the only addition that seems worth it is more of a conversation between the final engineer and David. For the most part things were cut for pacing, or they show alternate versions of scenes in the film, which were changed for mostly the right reasons. Also on this disc are “The Peter Weyland Files” (19 min.) which includes all the internet “in character” promo videos that were released, including the TED talk, and the advertisement for David.
On the Supplemental disc, there’s a documentary called “The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus” (221 min.) which also comes with enhancement pods (71 min.), so there’s – just there – nearly five hours on the making of the movie, and this covers everything you’d want to know that doesn’t get into what went wrong. From the decision-making process of whether the planet should be LV-426, to the casting, to everything in between, this walks through the entire making of the film. It was done by Charles De Lauzirika, who also did all the supplements for the previous Alien films, and it’s of a piece with that, along with his extensive work on all things Ridley Scott. They also address the fake script rumors, and virtually call out Harry Knowles. There’s a lot of enjoy here even if you don’t like the movie, and De Lauzirkia’s work here is on par with any other modern movie he’s covered.
That’s the main bonus, but there’s even more. In the “Weyland Corp. Archive” there are three sections. In “Pre-Production” there’s a still gallery section called “The Art of Prometheus” which features galleries for Ridleygrams, Giger and Gutalin, conceptual art, costume design, creatures, vehicles, props and Logos & Patches. There are also six Pre-Viz sequences (26 min.) that also include a version of the Medical Pod scene done for a PG-13 rating. In “Production” there are two screen tests, one for Noomi Rapace (10 min.) where Rafe Spall plays both Holloway and Michael, and a costume, hair and make-up screen test, which comes with optional cast commentary that seems to be made of interview clips (11 min.). There’s a Time-Lapse Sequence for the building of the Juggernaut (2 min.) with optional commentary by production designer Arthur Max, and five still galleries for the unit photography.
In the “Release” section, there’s two still galleries for poster explorations and key art, four trailers, twenty eight TV spots, and nine promotional featurettes (19 min.). Rounding out the set is an HBO first look at the movie (12 min.) That’s a lot of bonus content, and it’s a great set. Shame about the movie.