Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Prometheus.'
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of 'Prometheus.'
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 accompany this 3D Blu-ray release) 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 four-disc Blu-ray 3D release consists of three Region A BD-50s – a Blu-ray 3D containing the main feature, a 2D Blu-ray disc with the main feature and some special features (see below for specifics) and a bonus 2D Blu-ray with exclusive extras - and a dual DVD/Digital Copy disc. The slightly-fatter-than-normal blue Elite keepcase contains two hinged arms that hold all four discs. The artwork for the 3D 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.
If you've followed my theatrical reviews, you know that I'm not a fan of theatrical 3D – which is why it really meant something when I not only highly recommended seeing 'Prometheus' in 3D on the big screen, but went back to see it embiggened on the IMAX screen. Between theatrical and Blu-ray review screenings, I rarely have time for recreational theatrical outings, but I made time to see 'Prometheus' on IMAX. Just as I recommended seeing it on 3D screens, I highly recommend the 3D Blu-ray. The 1080p/MPEG-4 MVC transfer is absolutely perfect.
The 3D look of 'Prometheus' is astounding. My first experience with the latest and greatest polarized 3D was 'Monster House.' I remember sitting there with my jaw agape because, unlike the old red/blue 3D of my childhood, polarized 3D created a depth that made me feel like I was looking into a stage, not having objects unnaturally protrude from the screen toward me. (Too bad the 3D live-action films that followed it couldn't carry the 3D effect of the animated ones. From there stemmed my dislike of theatrical 3D.) Watching this 3D Blu-ray of 'Prometheus' reminded me of my 'Monster House' experience. The third dimension reaches deep into 'Prometheus,' never looking like a layered pop-up book but naturally and gradually transitioning to those great depths. It's so realistic that a few shots of the Prometheus space craft in flight are dizzying.
Having watched both the 2D and 3D discs, I can attest to the 3D carrying a brighter image to compensate for the darkening glasses. When I first watched 'Prometheus' on the big screen, I was worried about the 3D image because of how dark the underground settings were going to be. Luckily, Ridley Scott and his crew constantly monitored the brightness through real-time 3D monitors and split-image 2D monitors as they shot the film. Even in the darkest scenes, they managed the lighting so well that there is never a loss of third dimension. The brightness of these dark scenes permits the sharpest and finest details to be seen. There isn't an ounce of detail or depth loss.
My only complaint with the Blu-ray release is a personal gripe. On IMAX, 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 the 3D disc would have featured the IMAX 2:1 ratio.
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 4 - DVD
Here it is, folks – my new favorite demo disc. The four-disc 3D Blu-ray release of 'Prometheus' never stops wowing. Watching the film itself is a journey that I wish I could take again for the first time. Upon reflection and analysis (with the help of these hearty special features), it only gets better. Sure, there are those who loath '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. Although it's not adored by everyone and didn't warrant the greatest box office response, Fox has given it a huge release that's comparable to that of the extended edition of 'Avatar,' the only difference being that 'Avatar' recycled clips and interviews between it's several discs of special features and 'Prometheus' doesn't. The 3D 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. Do not settle for anything less than this four-disc set. Even if you have a Blu-ray player but not a 3D television, shell out the extra $5 for the four-disc set. You pay for what you get and this is definitely worth it.
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.