Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to go see Prometheus in Imax 3D. It was a friend’s birthday, and this was his choice of celebratory entertainment. I had seen previews for the movie previously but had not been aware of the controversy of whether or not this was an alien prequel. The trailers had made it rather obvious that this was, at minimum a prequel to Alien if not a retelling of that story with access to modern movie-making technology.
This was my first exposure to Imax 3D and I have to say that I was impressed. I have seen other movies presented in the standard realdD 3D, and for the most part it has not really looked any better. Those movies also suffered in my estimation as I would get a headache from watching the movie through two sets of glasses. This was not the case with Imax 3D. I didn’t get a headache just from the effect itself, though the two pairs of eye glasses was still annoying. It also added to the spectacle of an already visual engrossing movie. I will have to admit that if friends want to see a 3D movie again I will strongly suggest seeing it in Imax 3D.
My thoughts on the movie itself are quite mixed. It is visually stunning and I would expect nothing less from Ridley Scott. The opening sequences were gorgeous. We are treated to a majestic alien vista where we are shown how the Engineers work their magic of creation. This segues smoothly into a trip across a landscape that appears alien but is revealed to be an isolated island in Scotland in the future. The ship design was interesting as well despite the obvious resemblance to Firefly. The visual impact of the movie is felt from the beauty of these alien expanses to the visceral body horror that occurs later in the film.
My problems with the movie arises from the behavior of the supposed scientists on this expedition. The opening sequence I mention above is where the discovery of the Engineer’s planet is made and sets the expedition into motion. After a long interstellar journey, the group is awakened and prepped for their descent planet side. The impression that is given by the introduction of each character is that it is more of a mercenary band with a few scientists mixed in but this is not the case. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that outside of the captain and his crew, almost all of the other players are a scientist of one stripe or another. This group of scientists, exploring a unknown world with a toxic atmosphere have few compunctions about removing their helmets upon discovering a structure with a breathable atmosphere.
This is the point at which I wanted to call bullshit. The problem was that this would make the rest of the movie, at most tedious and I didn’t want to spend this time being annoyed. I had to take a different perspective. In order to better enjoy the movie, I watched it as if it were a Burning Wheel game. Instead of trying to be scientists, each character was trying to fulfill their own personal beliefs with varying degrees of success. This made the movie more enjoyable as I spent the rest of the movie trying to decide what beliefs David was pursuing. Whereas the other characters beliefs were obvious, Fassbender’s portrayal of David shows a depth of purpose that is lacking in the others.
This is not to say that this perspective made everything enjoyable. There are points in the movie where nothing truly makes sense. The scene where the two scientist who have gotten trapped in the alien edifice because they got lost is a prime example. They have left the group due to not being scientists that deal with biology or archaeology and are confronted with an alien life form that looks suspiciously like a penis. Instead of running in fear, this is the perfect time for these two scientist to become xenobiologists. In case you may be wondering, it doesn’t end well.
As an aside, when faced with an alien that looks like a penis the only option should be run. Just sayin’
In the end, the movie is enjoyable but flawed. It tries to deal with big themes and forgets that the characters need to be invested in these to communicate them in a believable fashion. The characters are treated as sock-puppets to deliver the plot as opposed to agents in which the audience can invest. If you are going to spend the money to see this movie now, I recommend seeing it in Imax 3D. Otherwise, wait for the cheap theater.