Release Date(s)2012 (August 15, 2017)
Studio(s)Brandywine Productions/Scott Free (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: C-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: C
Ridley Scott’s Prometheus follows a pair of young archaeologists in the year 2089, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green), who discover a mysterious star map common to the excavated ruins of otherwise unrelated ancient human civilizations on Earth. This they believe to be an invitation left by an advanced alien race they call Engineers, which may have created the human race. Hired by the industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), Shaw and Holloway lead a scientific expedition aboard the spacecraft Prometheus to the planet indicated in the map, the moon LV-223 in the Zeta 2 Reticuli system. Also aboard Prometheus along with its crew are the android David (a terrific performance by Michael Fassbender) and an icy Weyland company watchdog (played by Charlize Theron). Upon landing on the moon, the crew finds not only the ruins of an ancient Engineer base but also the desiccated corpses of the Engineers themselves. As they grapple with these discoveries, David begins to reveal a hidden agenda as well as the cause of the Engineers’ demise, a devastating primordial lifeform that could wipe out the expedition… and all life on Earth.
Originally conceived as a straightforward prequel to Alien, Scott’s Prometheus continued to evolve throughout not just the writing phase but the entire filmmaking process into something very different – a film with clear ties to the Alien franchise but which obsessively strives to break new ground. Scott and his writers were pushing at every step to introduce Grand Ideas into this universe, and many of them are interesting indeed. But in their effort to think big, they unfortunately seem to have lost sight of many of the more mundane details of the story actually told on screen. As a result, the choices and actions of the film’s characters all too often defy basic logic and common sense.
For all its ambitions, Prometheus feels far too bloated and over-produced to do justice to the original Alien. Unlike that film, or Scott’s Blade Runner, where the limitations in visual effects technology at the time forced Scott to point his camera at an entirely real environment, here he makes the opposite mistake; he shows you too much and enhances every corner of the frame with CG detail. Too many of the Grand Ideas presented in this film are heavy-handed – they’re given away, rather than letting the audience discover them organically. At every stage, this film was over-worked to the point that the purity, edginess, and effectiveness of the original idea was lost. You can hear this in the writer’s commentary track, you can see it in the film’s conceptual design artwork. Things seem to have started well but, somewhere along the way, the production went off track. The creatures in the original film were nasty, deeply-unsettling, original, and barely seen. Here (with the sole exception of the Engineers), they’re squishy, squidy derivations of the monsters from any bad Alien clone, from Galaxy of Terror to your typical Japanese Hentai film, and they’re right out in the light so you see every slimy tentacle.
Prometheus was shot digitally using ARRI Alexa and Red Epic cameras in native 3D and finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. The film was released theatrically (in both 2D and 3D) in 2.39:1 scope and various IMAX ratios. It’s presented here on Ultra HD upsampled to 4K with a new High Dynamic Range color grade (HDR-10) in 2.39:1. The resulting image is very good looking – certainly this represents the film in its best possible 2D presentation – but it’s not quite at the level of more recent digital productions. Detail is very good, but there’s a little bit of edge haloing visible, especially in the opening landscape footage. One shot there, as the camera flies over a glacier, shows a bit of judder (this was true on the original Blu-ray as well). Beyond that, contrast is excellent, with deep shadows and bright highlights, both nicely detailed. Colors are bold and accurate. The real star here, image-wise, is the HDR. Not only does it greatly enhance the color palette throughout the film, all of its elaborate and detailed holographic imagery now has much greater pop and glow. Reflectivity and translucency is more natural as well, as seen in the bubble shields of spacesuit helmets, as well as the sinister and viscious “alien” goo that causes so many problems here. This isn’t a reference-grade image for this format overall, but it certainly is for this particular film.
Sonically, the 4K Ultra HD release offers the same English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation found on the previous Blu-ray release. The mix was great in 2012 and it’s still great now. Clarity of dialogue is excellent at all times. Imaging is precise, and the surrounds are used to full effect in creating a greater sense of immersion in the story space. This is a highly atmospheric mix and yet when the soundtrack needs to really pummel you with a wall of sound and thunderous sonic effects – such as when the Derelict crashes, for example – you’ll not want for bass, volume, or clarity. The mix supports the visuals perfectly. Note that optional subs are available in English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Mandarin (Simplified), Mandarin (Traditional), Norwegian, and Swedish.
The Ultra HD disc includes two extras: a feature length audio commentary by director Ridley Scott, and a second commentary by writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. The package also includes a regular Blu-ray Disc with the film in 1080p HD and both commentaries. It also adds the following video-based extras all in HD:
- 14 Deleted and Alternate Scenes (with optional commentary by Pietro Scalia and Richard Stammers – 36:51 in all – Arrival of the Engineers – 2:45, T’is the Season – 1:07, Our First Alien – :51, Skin – :51, We’re Not Alone Anymore – 1:32, Strange Bedfellows – 3:11, Holloway Hungover – 1:35, David’s Objective – :31, Janek Fills Vickers In – 3:43, A King Has His Reign – 3:56, Fifield Attacks – 2:14, The Engineer Speaks – 4:23, Final Battle – 5:51, and Paradise – 5:22)
- 5 The Peter Weyland Files segments (18:57 in all – Quiet Eye: Elizabeth Shaw – 2:37, Happy Birthday, David – 2:28, Prometheus Transmission – 7:08, and Ted Conference, 2023 – 6:58)
- Prometheus – Mobile App
This is essentially Disc Two of the previous and more elaborate Four-Disc Collector’s Edition BD release (reviewed here). Disc One (the Blu-ray 3D version) isn’t here, nor is Disc Three (the Blu-ray documentary disc) or Disc Four (the DVD). You do, however, get the usual Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the package. I’ve spoken in depth about the extras in my Four-Disc BD review, so do check that out if you’re interested. Not including at least the documentary disc here in this set was a missed opportunity, unfortunately. If you like this film, or even if you don’t, producer Charles de Lauzirika’s feature-length documentary, The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus, is both comprehensive and illuminating. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy of the Four-Disc release just for that alone.
Ridley Scott’s big return to science fiction filmmaking engenders very strong feelings among fans and at such moments it can be hard to remain entirely objective. Love it or hate it, Prometheus certainly left people talking. It’s a high-concept, gorgeous looking mess, a film that somehow manages to be extraordinary smart and incredibly klutzy at the same time. But whatever of your feelings, Fox’s 4K Ultra HD release – while again not reference-quality – benefits greatly from High Dynamic Range and is certainly the best way to experience the film at home.
- Bill Hunt