Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Prometheus - 3D.'
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Prometheus - 3D.'
While I enjoy the first two 'Alien' movies, I'm no fanatic of the series. My opinion of 'Prometheus' is based solely on 'Prometheus.' If you still have not yet seen 'Prometheus,' rest assured knowing that my review is mostly spoiler-free. I will not explain the reveals.
Having seen the movie or not, if you know about 'Prometheus,' you know that it is a prequel – of sorts – to the 'Alien' franchise that Ridley Scott kicked off in 1979. The more you know about the 'Alien' movies, the more that you will see it as a prequel – but if you know nothing about the franchise, if you haven't seen a single of the 'Alien' or 'Alien vs. Predator' movies, you can still watch 'Prometheus' and follow it with ease. It carries the ability to function as a 100 percent stand-alone film. Not a single element of 'Prometheus' hinges on you knowing the 'Alien' movies – but the more you know about them, the more you'll enjoy revisiting the franchise from an angle you've never considered.
The first time I watched 'Prometheus,' I saw it functioning just as much as a remake as a prequel. The manner in which the story unfolds originally seemed similar to that of the first 'Alien,' but after four viewings (once theatrically on a standard 3D screen, another time on an IMAX 3D screen, on a standard 2D Blu-ray and also on Blu-ray 3D), I no longer view it that way. I have put a lot of thought into this film (especially after watching it four times and seeing all seven-plus-hours of special features that appear on the 3D Blu-ray release – not this one) and realized that it's a completely original formula with ties and imagery connecting it to 'Alien.' With each viewing, I learn something new about it, something that makes me appreciate it even more – so much more that I have been tempted to boost my original rating up to five stars. Perhaps I'll be inclined to do so on my fifth viewing.
Like all good science fiction, 'Prometheus' is a story about the morals of science. When science fiction films exploded in the early days of film, many of them were cautionary tales disguised at entertainment. Think about it. I'll use 'Godzilla' as an example. Think of what was going on at the time that Godzilla was made. Man invents the atomic bomb – this horrible weapon whose fallout is atrocious, immoral and inhumane. The radiation – something that scientists barely knew anything about at the time – resulted in mutations. This was taken to the far end of the spectrum in 'Godzilla,' the result being a monster of enormous size. Who created it? Man. What does it do? It destroys man. Science was scary in those days. It held unknown consequences. Many people thought that perhaps we were playing with something that we should not have been playing with.
While 'Prometheus' is an ensemble film led by Noomi Rapace's character Elizabeth Shaw, when you look at it in terms of themes, there are two groups of characters: Shaw and her boyfriend, and everyone else. The story of Shaw focuses on religion, creation, the beginnings of human life. In some ways, her story is like that of The Tower of Babel in the Old Testament. She's seeking God and just-so-happens to find a way to get to him – but we all know how well that turned out for the Babylonians.
The story that belongs to the remainder of the characters is brilliant. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the old tycoon who is funding Shaw's deep space mission, has sent a few of his own employees along with Shaw and her boyfriend. The most important and interesting of them all is David (Michael Fassbender), a humanoid robot. (If you know the 'Alien' movies, then you know already know this type of character.) The story that David commands is not unlike that of 'Godzilla' – man, or a robot in this case, is toying with science, unsure of what the consequences will be. When these two stories collide, 'Prometheus' fires on all levels.
Four months after it's release, 'Prometheus' is still sitting pretty with a 74 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating – but it seems to be pretty polarizing between those who like it and those who do not. While it's apparent that more people like it than dislike it, those who dislike it really dislike it. A few of my family members and friends who I thought would love 'Prometheus' ended up hating it. A few who I thought would dislike it, wound up loving it. Knowing this, no matter how you perceive it prior to seeing, this is one of those films that you need to see for yourself because not a single person can judge how you're going to take it based on your taste and preferences. Considering how damn amazing this Blu-ray release is, you definitely deserve to give it a shot.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
I may be wrong, but I believe that this is the first 3D Blu-ray release to feature a massive bonus disc that isn't included with the 2D release. Seeing a title get same-day basic and "special edition" Blu-ray releases isn't anything new, but so far as I know, this is the first time that a 3D Blu-ray release has been given an extra disc that's unavailable in the standard 2D Blu-ray packaging. In this instance, you pay for what you get and the $5 difference between the two releases is well worth it – but we'll get into that below.
The 2D Blu-ray release of 'Prometheus' consists of one Region A BD-50 and a dual DVD/Digital Copy disc found in an average blue Elite keepcase. The artwork for the 2D release is different from that of the 2D release (see below - the 3D release is on the left, 2D on the right). The same artwork is featured on the glossy, metallic and reflective cardboard slipcover.
The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'Prometheus' is astounding, doing perfect justice to the film's beautiful style. If you find the visuals as breathtaking as I do, then get ready for your next demo disc.
The video quality is crisp, clear, sharp, and detailed. Textures abound, from the smooth movements of the life-destroying black oil to the slimy skin of a ginormous face-hugger. The skin-tight "away team" space suits that the crew wear contain defined texture. When wicked winds pelt the ship and crew with metallic rocks, you can clearly see each of the thousands of rocks that blast across the screen. From CG to practical images, details aren't an issue. Despite being set in mostly dark locations, through creative and well-planned lighting and rich black levels, these details don't waiver. There is always an object or a set of objects on-screen worth gazing at. This, of course, is due to the amount of clarity and sharpness within the image. The massive sets are elaborate, especially within the bridge of the juggernaut.
Compression errors don't arise either. Bands, aliasing, artifacts and digital noise are absent. Edge enhancement and DNR are not applied.
My only complaint with the Blu-ray release is a personal gripe. On IMAX screens, the frame was opened up from the standard theatrical 2.40:1 ratio to 2:1. Because 'Prometheus' is such an epic film on a grand scope, more is better. My wish is that at least one of the two 'Prometheus' Blu-rays would have featured the IMAX 2:1 ratio – but neither do.
If I could give 'Prometheus'' 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track a rating higher than 5 stars, I would. Hearing it cranked up on a 7.1 system, I heard sounds that I never recognized during my theatrical viewings. The first time I screened 'Prometheus,' I was immediately reeled into the film by the beautiful score overlaying breathtaking landscapes during the opening credits. Hearing the score via this mix is just as wowing. It establishes a grand tone equal to that of the movie that you're about to see.
Once the film takes us into the flight deck of the Prometheus ship, the mixing of the effects makes itself apparent. The effects emitting from every channel are clearly audible. As quiet as some might be, you can easily hear them all - sensors beeping behind you, controls being toggled to the side of you, thrusters outside the ship causing a low bassy rumble. When we're taken to exterior shots of the ship cutting its way through the atmosphere, those same thrusters combined with the atmospheric friction create a deep and resonant LFE that will shake your theater room. One of my favorite sounds in the film is that of the LV-223 storm rolling in. The gusts blast small pieces of metallic rock through the air. As they collide with one another mid-flight, the high-pitch clanking sounds amazing. One thing that I never noticed until listening to this 7.1 mix was that when Prometheus lands on the surface of LV-223, the downward thrusters kick up that same metallic gravel and those same sounds can be heard.
The imaging effects of this mix are seamless and astounding. Take, for example, this same storm sequence. It's obvious that it was shot with the audio in mind because every shot of the storm shows the rocks blowing from left to right. Not a single frame shows it any other way. This causes the wind to relentlessly throw debris in that same direction. It's furious and never lets up. The non-stop left-to-right sound is unnerving. I found myself wanting the shot to switch angles just so that the left-to-right motion would let up. The level of detail put into these imaging sounds is phenomenal. It sounds as if you can literally track these individual blowing rocks from one side of the theater to the other – and there are hundreds, if not thousands, of them.
The vocal detail of this mix is also worth noting. The character that warrants the most attention vocally is David. Fassbender's voice resonates with a rich, deep bass. There's one effect applied to a certain character's voice that I'd like to explain to you, but I cannot because it would reveal a major plot point. (If you want to know, ask me in the forums.) Just like I did with the effects mixing, I heard vocals in the Blu-ray mix that I didn't know existed during my theatrical viewings. They say that no one can hear you scream in space; well, we can surely hear them scream on the surface of LV-223. I didn't hear the many screams Rapace and Charlize Theron let out throughout the film until now.
If you can't watch 'Prometheus' with the audio cranked up because the kids are in bed, don't watch it. This lossless 7.1 mix deserves to be heard as loudly as possible.
Disc 2 - DVD
Here it is, folks – my new favorite demo disc. Watching the film itself is a journey that I wish I could take again for the first time. Upon reflection and analysis, it only gets better with each viewing. Sure, there are those who loathe 'Prometheus' – and I've carried on extensive debate-like conversations defending the arguments – but I stand by my opinion that this is one of the very best contemporary science fiction films, a more-than-worthy chapter in the 'Alien'-verse. The video and audio qualities are perfect, not a single flaw to be found. Both offer environmental enhancements that take you deeper into the world of the film than you can imagine. Although I personally prefer the 3D release – not only due to the great 3D main feature presentation, but because of the several extra hours of bonus features – if I was strapped for cash, didn't have access to a 3D set-up or didn't care for bonus features, this 2D set would still be worth it. Highly recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.