Studio: 20th Century Fox
Disc/Transfer Information: Region "A" (US/Canada); 1080p High-Definition 2.40:1 Widescreen
Video Codec: AVC MPEG-4
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio (Tested in 5.1 configuration)
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring Cast: Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender
NOTE: POSSIBLE PLOT/SPOILER DISCUSSIONS BELOW. PLEASE READ AT OWN RISK IF YOU HAVEN'T YET SEEN THE FILM.
BIG THINGS HAVE SMALL BEGINNINGS.
I realize I’m a little (shoot, a lot) late to the Prometheus party, but I just couldn’t for the life of me snag a Blu-ray copy of this title to review for quite some time; no matter, though – I will probably get most of the plot details about this overtly anticipated and hyped sci-fi/horror fusion either wrong or confused based on all the questions this film has garnered up and how we all individually interpreted the story and some of its holes. Depending on who you talk to, Ridley Scott’s (didn’t he throw himself off a bridge recently, or was that his brother?) Prometheus is either a loose prequel story to his ‘70s seminal classic Alien, or a gore-soaked horror/sci fi thriller that stands on its own as a tale about humans possibly finding our makers…or both. The buzz surrounding this film, and its subsequent plot holes and story head-scratchers, reached such a fevered pitch at one point, it was nearly as talked-about and anticipated amongst sci fi heads as Avatar; similarly, the online boards exploring all the questions and debate the film sparked exploded almost overnight before most of the world even viewed it.
For what it’s worth, I came out of the film entertained, but, like so many, absolutely dripping with unanswered queries about many parts…what were the actual aliens, the snake-like creatures or the more humanoid “Engineers”? Who was it that “created” us…the snake things or the humanoid figures? moo baby moo was that black goo all throughout the film, and why was it in containers and turning humans into infected mutations? What was going on in the opening sequence when the muscular pale-blue alien thing drinks the goo and collapses into an imploding body of water? Did these things actually create us…or were they simply an advanced, aggressive alien race looking to destroy Earth with the goo? If so, why did they want to destroy Earth? Why did the being in the sleep chamber towards the end on the alien race’s “home moon” decapitate Michael Fassbender’s “David” android character? And what of the thing that pops out of...well...one of the "characters" at the end and which looks like the creature from the Alien films…why did this come out of who or what it came out of? How does this tie into Scott’s Alien franchise?
Of course, this is merely scratching the surface – and I mean that – regarding the questions Prometheus forces viewers to ask and which go somewhat unanswered for the most part. I hopped onto some sites that attempted to explain these plot confusions, and much of it surprisingly made sense. An attempted answer, for example, to the question about what is going on in the opening frame of the film suggests that what we are witnessing is the creation of humans and Earth – and that when the alien is “disintegrated” by the fluid he takes in, this is actually forming the basis of human DNA. Pretty heady, somewhat scary stuff, but interesting and logical. The reason these “Engineers” want to attack Earth if they supposedly created human life? Well, one site suggested this is because these beings have been monitoring us for centuries and came to dislike humans because of how we are (not a far stretch at all, given the nature of most idiotic people on this planet, honestly), even going so far as to being responsible for putting Jesus on our planet and being “disappointed” when we crucified him…when the “David” android (I’ll get to all this) responds to the Engineer at the end in his native cryptic language and the alien rips his head off, it is believed that this is due to simple anger and rage towards the people of the Earth, nothing more. Why this sparked such a hate-driven attack with the black goo stuff, as the beings were planning supposedly at the end, is another story to be analyzed.
For those of you familiar with Scott’s directing and filmmaking style – most notably the odd, offbeat, futuristic feel of Alien – his influence is all over this project and you’ll sense it from the opening frame. After witnessing the aforementioned alien creature – humanoid in shape but massive in size with alien-like features – ingesting some kind of strange substance and disintegrating into a river of some kind (which, as I stated, some analysts believe depicts the beginnings of human DNA and the birth of our race), we are informed that the year is 2089 and we meet archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway, who have discovered a star map in Scotland depicted as an “alien cave painting” and which matches others from several unconnected ancient cultures. As a side note, I have always been fascinated and somewhat frightened, to be honest, by the notion of alien races or beings visiting our planet long before we were here and the kind of supernatural connection they have had with that element, as explored in the unsettling Fourth Kind. It’s suggested, in the beginning of Prometheus, that these cave paintings indeed indicate something or someone has been here before us, and that we’re being warned of giant beings that possibly have the power to crush us. Still, Shaw and Holloway take these paintings as an invitation by humanity’s forerunners which they dub “Engineers” and it isn’t long before the character of Peter Weyland – get the connection here to Alien, the “Bishop” android and perhaps the expedition seen in Alien vs. Predator? – is introduced as the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, and who funds the creation of the scientific space vessel Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223. The sequence which depicts the rag-tag crew assembled to take the journey to find the “Engineers” (so prevalent in Scott’s sci fi film style) gets way too thick and syrupy for its own good; a tattooed and strange mix of humans gather in a hangar to hear of the task they’re about to be sent on by Charlize Theron’s Meredith Vickers character, who leads the exploration crew for the journey. But the scene is overdone with a too-futuristic-ky approach, suggesting Weyland himself is dead (looks are deceiving) but appears to the group as a holographic image along with his dog. The whole sequence was strange. At any rate, the year is now 2093 and along for the ride is the prerequisite android passing as a human known as “David” (played by Michael Fassbender).
Apparently, the “moon” the team was searching for and which supposedly is the home of the Engineers who designed humans wasn’t too far from Earth, as the Prometheus seemingly lands there in no time, just near a massive artificial structure. From this point on, things go from odd sci fi to graphic horror and downright terror as the team is exposed to what is really lingering on this dead space rock; included in this “downright terror” conglomerate is a nail-biting scene depicting an automated abortion done on Shaw’s character by the ship’s computer to get a squid-like alien out of her body and which definitely rivals the stomach-popping sequence from the first Alien film. Women will never look at abortions the same again – I guarantee that one. Anyway, key personnel of the team make their way, with space suits, to this massive structure where, once inside, they launch futuristic infrared probes that send information back to the Prometheus; the interior design of this set smacks very much of the first Alien yet again, with its skeletal formations and never-ending labyrinths. Things go from mysterious to chilling when the team encounter all sorts of nightmarish stuff including strange, shadowy holograms that pass over them depicting scenes of the aliens and their past; a massive statue of what appears to be a humanoid/alien head; jar-like formations containing a black gooey substance and the decapitated body of what appears to be one of the Engineers they’re looking for. Taking the creature’s head back to analyze, Shaw conducts some kind of strange experiment in which they induce stimulation to the head and which makes it come awake and start twitching with facial expressions, but which ultimately kills it by making it explode inside a chamber. As I said, really really strange. Meanwhile, we get the feeling something isn’t quite right with the android, David – he is seen moving about on his own inside the alien structure and eventually collects a sample of the black goo oozing all over the place on this moon; we later discover that he drops this stuff into a drink he gives to Shaw’s lover, Holloway, but why he does this has been a matter of the aforementioned debate surrounding Prometheus. What it does is transform Holloway into a mutant of some sort, but the whole thing gets convoluted and we start questioning what all this has to do with discovering who or what started life on Earth. It’s been suggested that David, secretly working for Weyland to try and find him a cure for his elderly disabilities, has his own agenda for testing this weird goop found on the alien planet and so he feeds it to Holloway – but this seems a bit far-fetched to me.
An approaching storm forces most of the team to retreat back to the ship while the Millburn and Fifield characters get stranded inside the alien structure. As tests being run indicate the Engineer DNA appears to be a match to human DNA, the two team members left behind are horrifically attacked by a snake-like creature which emanates from the rivers of black goo in the room they’re trapped in and burrows into their space suits and ultimately their bodies. Again – I found myself wondering…what is going on here? What are these snake things? Do they have any connection to the Engineers, who themselves appear as massive, muscular humanoids but with a hint of Frost Giant and perhaps Avatar characters? What does this have to do with the start of life on Earth? All of a sudden, Prometheus felt like its own horror flick, standing by itself as yet another “slimy alien attack” film rather than one connected to Scott’s own Alien or a way to suggest we have discovered the origins of life. Things go from bad to worse when Holloway and Shaw engage in intercourse and Holloway ends up transferring his tainted-with-alien-seed DNA to Shaw, who becomes shockingly pregnant with a squid-like creature even though she has been reported to not be able to carry any kind of life. What follows is a desperate attempt by Shaw to abort the birth as she runs to the futuristic infirmary aboard the Prometheus screaming in pain and determined to get this creature out of her – the sequence, as I mentioned, is harrowing and downright shocking in some moments as we witness Shaw get into a chamber and force the computer to perform a c-section abortion, ripping her stomach open and yanking out the baby squid thing, while concluding with an automated stapling of her open wound…wow, was this pretty gross. I don’t think I ever wanna knock my wife up after watching this.
We then discover that the elderly Weyland is actually alive and aboard the Prometheus, being kept in stasis, and he eventually comes out of hibernation to inform everyone about his true intentions of seeking out these “Engineers” and asking them to prevent his death from old age. This was a bit kooky and off-putting; we also hear Vickers (Theron) refer to him as “father.” What do we make of that?
The captain piloting the Prometheus, Janek, conjures up a theory that attempts to give us some logical explanation for all the chaos that we have been witnessing: He suggests that this structure on the moon was an Engineer military installation that lost control of a virulent biological weapon (the dark liquid/goo) and determines that a part of the structure is a spacecraft. While I didn’t really buy the first part of his drivel, the second part ends up being true – the structure reveals itself to be a massive spacecraft piloted by the Engineers, but before it does, Weyland enters the structure along with his loyal android David, Shaw and some others to confront one of the Engineers still in a stasis sleep chamber. I won’t go any further into the details regarding the concluding frames of Prometheus, for those who haven’t seen it yet, but suffice to say the end opened up just a big a can of questions than any preceding frame – we have a definite connection to the birth of the “Alien” creatures as seen in Scott’s sci fi horror epic, but what in G-d’s name does this have to do with what these scientists were looking for? How can one of these things come from where it comes from in the final frame? What does it have to do with the so-called “Engineers”? And why is it suggested that this race of beings wanted to actually attack Earth even though they somehow supposedly created us? Were they going to do this with the black goop aboard their ship? As I stated earlier up, many of these questions are addressed by the many forums already dedicated to discussing and analyzing Prometheus, attempting to add some much-needed justification for many of the characters’ actions as well as the action/plot itself – in this way, Scott’s sci fi blockbuster is much like John Carpenter’s seminal The Thing which itself is a remake of The Thing From Another World, in that dozens of internet discussion boards have been started just to talk about and break down the possible plot directions, and what could have happened to some of the more questionable characters.
In a nutshell, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus was entertaining and unsettling in many areas – but I myself didn’t quite get the hoopla surrounding this project or the hype leading up to it. In the end, it had me scratching my head a bit – not for the desire to seek out something a bit more powerful than the requisite Nioxin Follicle Booster – but because I just didn’t get the connections between elements and visuals here. From a special effects point of view, the scope and power, visually, of this film was beyond reproach – perhaps something we haven’t seen since Avatar. Scott and crew lay on the CGI and special effects work expertly – most notably during the scenes depicting the “holographic flashback” occurrences, the interactive planetary exploration depictions and the graphic gore and violence on display.
On a side note – has anyone seen the official trailer for Iron Man 3 yet? It’s awesome, and promises to be one of the best comic adaptations ever – Ben Kingsley’s “Mandarin” villain, while cheesy in voice over, looks to be one of the greatest comic adversaries ever right up there with Batman’s “Bane,” and the Tony Stark character seems like he’s going to be pushed to limits perhaps beyond what Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) went through in Dark Knight Rises. Watch the trailer and tell me what you think!
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
The 1080p AVEC encode Fox prepared for Prometheus’ long-awaited arrival on the Blu-ray format looked stunning for the most part within its rather wide 2.40:1 frame; the visuals of the opening sequence suggesting the alien being is “digesting” and then regurgitating something back out looked jaw-dropping in detail on my display, almost cartoonish in fact, while the computerized rendition sequences including holographic images exploded with depth too. Some of – well, , most of – the interior shots inside the ships came off looking soft and very DVD-like, with a thin veiling over the visuals, rendering them less pleasing to look at while exhibiting a loss of depth and detail. Incredibly, much of this transfer didn’t knock me out video quality-wise – there was more than a moment or two of sheer softness and flatness, and the color scheme got hokey in some places (though this may have been intentional by the color timing and photography crew).
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS:
Let’s talk about the bass: The English DTS-HD MA track Fox equipped this title with, in a 7.1 channel configuration (but played back in 5.1 on my system), was armed with wallops of low, wall rattling LFE – so deep, in fact, it rendered by Auralex SubDude isolation platform overwhelmed and useless, as my sub pounded by room and vibrated the decorations on the walls and shelves to annoying, loud levels. This deep LFE “issue” got distracting at times, as the bass wasn’t really that accurate or clean in my room due to the “sloppy” nature of the bass drops; still, this is more likely related to the sub I desperately need to upgrade and my room treatments. I just wanted to point out that this track had monster bass that I can only imagine experiencing on a more capable subwoofer system.
Other than that, dialogue was a bit hard to catch – sequences inside the space crafts, for example, sounded nasally when characters were speaking amongst each other, and coupled with the thick foreign accents from many of the characters, some of the dialogue exchange was missed in my viewing (I don’t know if this is just a “Ridley Scott” thing, as I noticed this in Alien as well amongst the characters). Surround usage was aplenty, with cues including rushing water, alien attacks, scurrying of alien squid tentacles, ship alarms and all manner of background information coming through in sometimes alarming fashion. Still, something was still a bit “off” from making this a reference audio experience – now, it could be, as discussed in the past, the fact that my system is “dumbing down” these 7.1 mixes to 5.1 and collapsing the back surround information into the standard surrounds, but I just felt like Prometheus’ audio could have been slightly better…I am not sure how, but better.
Recommended, but be prepared to have some questions about this one. If anyone has any theories about the so-called plot holes or can answer any of the questions I had, I would love to hear from you – please, let’s discuss Prometheus!
I will be posting my review of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter after I view it tonight…look for it!