No one considered the Alien series was part of our origin species. It’s doubtful even its creators did back in 1979. They wanted to make a movie about a creature ransacking a crew in tight corridors, complete with a ferocious female heroine. Unbeknownst to us, they were making us human.
It’s important to toss aside elements of Alien. If anything, they almost detract from what Prometheus is capable of producing. For around an hour, the film is breathlessly pushed onto the viewer, moving through the crew of a research vessel, exploring corridors with intricate angles (and brooding, lingering shots) and ushering in a blend of technology that invests the viewer in this world.
Therein come the questions, not of the series but of life itself. There’s a philosophy professor and/or major thumbing their nose up at the barren landscape of human creation even being considered within the Alien universe. Mainstream audiences can be sucked in knowing that their creature feature suddenly has weight, bearing, and meaning outside of a blood fest. Seriously, screw you Alien Resurrection.
It’s hard to imagine losing a single image or scene from Prometheus, this sans two pilots who are created for emotional fodder come the third act. The film is expertly constructed on the backs of top tier talent, make-up artists, and visual effects wizardry. Certainly, those of a classically oriented film mindset would adore giving a hug to Ridley Scott for his insistence on utilizing live action suit work, not CG. The effects lose nothing with their physical highlights.
The problem with Prometheus, beyond franchise origins that fans will pick apart because that’s what they do, is the back half. It’s wonderful, majestic, and haunting, then frenzied, panicked, and terrified. The score, which begins so magical, adventurous, and exploratory quickly dwindles into screeches and riffs culled from the series. A lot of the magic, which seems almost inconceivable to create this late in a franchise’s life, is sucked away for a menagerie of gore, unspeakable surgery, and flamethrowers. Prometheus, at times, carries more of a connection with John Carpenter’s The Thing than the home films.
Wanting more, even if its carried by a shameless piece of sequel baiting in the closing moments, is never a sign of leaving a film with negative connotations. Prometheus has enough weight within its material that further directions can create even deeper, richer ideas. The base, which this film was clearly tasked with creating, is powerful. Michael Fassbender’s David, an android, is key to understanding why. Why do we push for answers? That’s the base for this film, a sign not to be frustrated by what Prometheus doesn’t tell us in regards to its questions, but to become enamored with the possibilities those questions created.
Prometheus will find itself stumbling on occasion visually, creating an opportunity to strike up a conversation with regards to this digital source. Employing the Red Epic, Ridley Scott crafts a world out of visual effects, although even the Earth-based photography shows signs of sharpening. Texture appears muddied, a halo will spring up from time to time, and the edgy quality cannot be ignored. It doesn’t seem consistent with the theatrical exhibition.
Sharpening is an exception rather than the rule, creating a rather confusing visual palette to work from. Why a select number of shots exhibit needless artifacts as opposed to nearly identical ones later is a mystery we will leave to the cinematography higher-ups. There is some aliasing that needs worked out, and noise can be pervasive within ship interiors if it gets away from the film. However, noise doesn’t lead to an obstruction of detail, becoming no more than an annoyance.
Muted for the effect of a dusty moon, the color palette won’t prove striking, although the minimal saturation does call attention to itself when blazing across the screen. Flesh tones have a clean presence that doesn’t bring any alarming color timing changes to the surface. Prometheus is quite natural, assuming one knows how fake movie planets are supposed to look.
Fox punches out an AVC encode ready for everything, including a massive storm that sends debris hurtling around the screen. The entire scene is complete without any noticeable artifacting. Bitrates hold to a high standard and work through any difficulty. Black levels help with superior depth, working in a little crush to add mystery, not block detail.
Facial detail maintains integrity even in the mid-range with few moments that reveal a digital side. Consistency is a strong suit for Prometheus in the home. Texture is expansive, and even when marred ever so slightly by sharpening, there’s always a sense of density to the landscapes. Ships look spectacular in their detail, pushing the idea of a future world and human expansion. That’s all maintained here.
This DTS-HD 7.1 mix goes berserk from the opening scene, bringing forth a beautifully orchestrated theme that swells into the rears before a waterfall and alien ship conquer all. LFE activity is relentless within this design, selling scale, power, and weight like few others. Ships landing, crashing, or taking off are outrageously powerful, and well within their right to be when the size is presented.
You could make the argument that there are few variances. Bass goes from 0-100 and nowhere in between. Subtly is not the disc’s strong suit, but how many are requesting it to be? Even if it’s delivering smarts, Prometheus remains a summer stunner, and it has the backbone to match that pedigree.
Surround use is a small miracle of activity, fitted with countless high spots and general ambiance. Hearing dripping and flowing water as the crew discovers a chamber is made all the more impressive when you realize how wide a space this is, and how well the mix is projecting the area. A surface storm will rumble the sub while making sure to hit every speaker as debris pings off the ship or stranded scientists. Design creates future gunfire that hits high and low at the same time, while flamethrowers do the dirty work. Almost flawless.
Two commentaries are up for your listening pleasure, Ridley Scott soloing the first, with writers Jon Spaiths and Damon Lindelof handling the work on track two. Fourteen deleted scenes have additional commentary, and given the often breathless pacing, some of these almost feel necessary. Peter Weyland Files are four viral marketing videos spread around the ‘net, now preserved on disc. A second screen app and BD-Live access are here too if you want to be technological with your films.