Blu-Ray Review: Prometheus

Published on October 23rd, 2012 in: Blu-Ray, Current Faves, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movies, Reviews, Science and Technology, Science Fiction |

By Less Lee Moore

Oh Prometheus. If loving you is wrong I don’t want to be right. I didn’t think a movie could court as much controversy unless it was directed by Christopher Nolan. How naïve I was back then!

prometheus blu-ray

Four months after the “Prometheus sucks!” furor died down (just in time for the considerably less hysterical “Cloud Atlas sucks!” and “The Master sucks!’ outrage to begin), those of us who didn’t write petulant, ignorant letters to Damon Lindelof had to have our hearts trampled on all over again in preparation for the “Prometheus still sucks!” onslaught.

If you saw Prometheus and hated it, I would urge you to rewatch it on Blu-Ray. However, we all know how film critics are loath to change our minds on anything and (heaven forbid) admit we might be wrong. I saw Blade Runner in the late ’80s and honestly hated it. I was interested enough, however, to see the Director’s Cut theatrical release in 1992 and immediately changed my mind. Granted, the voiceover was removed in that version, but I also like to think I grew up a little bit.

With Blade Runner, I had the benefit of a few years to catch up, not four months. It’s doubtful that any of Prometheus‘s most vocal critics will give it a second chance, even if they get a free Blu-Ray to review. It’s also obvious that someone at Fox was paying attention because the cover states unequivocally that Questions Will Be Answered, which I’m sure provoked more than a few derisive snorts of laughter from the haters.

This is supposed to be a Prometheus Blu-Ray review though, so let’s get to the good part. While I doubt anything could compare to the nearly miraculous experience of seeing Prometheus in 3D, Blu-Ray on a big screen TV with a half-decent surround sound set up comes surprisingly close. It is a gorgeous, captivating piece of film; this cannot be denied.

On October 9, an Engineer took to the streets
of Toronto to promote the home video release.

Click on each thumbnail to see larger images.

There are a lot of little touches that push the disc into even cooler territory, like the intuitive menu selections and the consistent graphics. Yes, there are also extras and special features and these are what I most looked forward to, after the experience of watching the film again, of course.

There are 14 deleted and alternate scenes; these can be watched alone (with scene title and brief synopsis text included in the menu scrolling feature) or with commentary by editor Pietro Scalia and Visual Effects supervisor Richard Stammers. What’s fascinating is how almost every deleted scene or alternate scene is a direct response to the problems people seemed to have with Prometheus. I’m not going to list them all here, but after watching the movie three times and all 14 scenes twice, there are only four that I think might have been better included in the finished film.

This is not because I felt the story didn’t make sense told as it was in the theatrical cut, but because these scenes could only have added to what were already good moments.

Scene 47: Our First Alien
In this deleted scene, Millburn finds a worm in the inner chamber of the pyramid and is naturally delighted. Scalia explains that while this scene was great for showing how the crew works as a group, it was cut because it introduced an idea that they “couldn’t develop,” saying it was “great for character but didn’t go anywhere for story.” Including this would have possibly quieted the “why would a biologist approach a strange animal?” argument that ran rampant in conversations about Prometheus, even though the film works perfectly well without it, if you have a little bit of imagination. Scalia notes he was “really sad” to see this removed.

Scene 65: We’re Not Alone Anymore
This scene would have taken place after the crew (minus Millburn and Fifield) returns from the pyramid. Shaw toasts everyone and tells an African folk tale origin story she heard from her mother. Holloway acts like a jerk and she confronts him about it. Scalia says this was cut because it felt too “harsh” and “forced” in terms of the relationship between Shaw and Holloway. I think it would have been good to leave it in because it would clearly show Holloway’s disappointment before he gets drunk and hangs out by the pool table. Also, it indicates that Shaw is tougher than she looks, even though this is made clear later on in the film.

Scene 109AC: A King Has His Reign
This is an extended version of the scene between Weyland and Vickers when she derisively calls him “Father.” It was changed, according to Scalia, because it would have taken away from Shaw’s character progression (she was dealing with creature removal at the time). However, the dialogue is excellent and the tension between Vickers and Weyland, as well as insights into their relationship, would have been good to witness.

Scene 119:The Engineer Speaks
The title of this scene says a lot, if you’ll forgive the pun. When Weyland and David confront the Engineer in the Juggernaut (horseshoe-shaped ship), he actually carries on a brief conversation. Scalia explains that it was cut because it removed the mystery from the Engineer and made him “less godlike.” I agree with this, but I would still like to have seen Weyland’s dialogue included because it was very good, although perhaps too obvious and expository.

The Ridley Scott commentary is insightful and proves several things. 1) Ridley Scott had a huge hand in the production and costume design, art design, practical effects, and story development of Prometheus. 2) He is a tough bastard who doesn’t like people questioning his vision (and he admits that he hates to use that word). 3) He wants people to “get” Prometheus now and not “in 30 years.” Whether this commentary (or Scalia’s for that matter) was recorded before the film’s release or after, is not clear, so I am not sure if these comments are in response to criticism or merely in anticipation of criticism, but I’m guessing it’s a bit of both.

For me, the most significant commentary was that of screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, recorded separately, but edited together into one audio track. This commentary was recorded before the film was even released, and already Lindelof is defending his choices, as well as those of Scott and Scalia, in addition to explaining that not all of the changes and deletions were his idea.

He is clear that exposition is hard to write and he hates doing it. He adds that he loves to “not answer questions definitively” because although it may be “frustrating,” it makes people talk about the movie afterwards. I agree that too much exposition is boring and insulting and that I’d prefer to think about a movie than have everything explained to me.

His commentary is more proof that the alleged failure of Prometheus was not Damon Lindelof sabotaging Ridley Scott’s would-be masterpiece through his ineptitude as a storyteller and screenwriter.

In fact, I feel strongly that Lindelof’s changes (according to Scott’s express wishes) to reduce the explicit Alien franchise iconography in Spaihts’ original screenplay was a sound decision. I would have been hugely disappointed to see a bunch of chestbursters and xenomorphs running amok during Prometheus; it would have felt like pandering and probably, despite everyone’s best efforts, would not have matched the look and feel of the visual effects used in the first movie (or its sequels). The CGI xenomorphs in Alien 4: Resurrection were awful and I don’t want to get into the George Lucas Effect in detail but I’ll sum it up by saying that the extensive CGI in the Star Wars prequels did not fit the timeline of the story.

Serving the story is the most important part of any movie, except perhaps character development. Since Scott has been criticized for not doing this well in Prometheus and other movies, listening to all the commentary on the Prometheus Blu-Ray hints that perhaps he is more concerned with moving the story forward. Yet, because Prometheus is a big-budget, action-filled science fiction blockbuster, too many character development scenes and exposition would likely not have worked.

I do hope that people will give Prometheus a second chance because it deserves it. It is a masterpiece of filmmaking, which utilizes 3D to its current, fullest potential, in addition to provoking fascinating questions and displaying fantastic acting.

One more thing: Guy Pearce was cast before the scenes showing him a young man were cut so no more whining about “old man makeup,” okay?

The Prometheus two-disc Blu-Ray was released on October 9 through Twentieth Century Fox and includes a DVD and a digital copy of the film. The four-disc Collector’s Edition Blu-Ray has even more special features like a Making Of documentary and screen tests.

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