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This review is from: Prometheus (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Prometheus is the first half of a very interesting film. I'll have no idea if it's a great one until I see the sequel.
First off it's gorgeous to look at. The space scenes are beautiful, the ship is realistic and weighty, and the inside of the engineers installation looks suitably menacing with it's hieroglyphic control panels, grainy hologram projectors and alien murals. One of the characters compares a pile of engineer bodies to a holocaust painting. The whole film has a beautifully crafted look and from the beginning and the gloomy claustrophobia of the Alien films is absent. I loved the opening sequence which shows shows the desolate landscape of prehistoric earth. The camera travels up river until we reach a waterfall and we see an alien in robes and a departing saucer shaped ship. The alien consumes a mysterious black substance and his body disintegrates, seeding earth with the first biological life.
There is a limit to how many times the Alien premise can be used in an interesting way. Alien was dark and claustrophobic, while Aliens added the horrors (and courage) of war. Alien 3 was bleak and bitter, killing beloved characters off screen and equipping its protagonists with stone age weapons. Alien Resurrection felt like the odd one out to me. Suddenly the creatures moved like Jurassic Park raptors, and Ripley is no longer entirely human (or as sympathetic or heroic as she used to be). So I, for one, am delighted that Ridley Scott is not just contriving another Ripley resurrection to battle the same foe with a updated look. The creatures in Prometheus are totally new and add mutation and disease to the possible dangers the characters face.
Prometheus wants ask questions about the meaning of life. Why are we here, what makes us human? David the android, walks through an empty ship, reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey, trying out human behaviours. Holloway and Shaw are practically bursting to meet their creators. And yet not a lot has been made of these elements by the end of the film. David still doesn't understand humanity, and Shaw's only encounters with an engineer are brief and violent. This leaves the film on an unsatisfying note. The last scenes feel almost too brief in comparison with the loving attention payed to the setup, implying to me that some really terrifying moments have been saved up for the sequel. The feel is one of tragedy rather than visceral terror, but then Prometheus is an example of cosmic horror. It's production resulted in the mothballing of Guillermo Del Toro's film version of At the Mountains of Madness (though I have no idea why given Hollywood's tendency to make and release very similar films in twos (Armageddon and Deep Impact, the Prestige and the Illusionist, Two Truman Capote biopics, etc).
I hope the sequel is going to make more of these elements, that David can become fully human and that the new creatures spawned by the black liquid are going go through some more interesting changes before becoming the monsters that we know and love. I hope also that the motives of the Engineers, still unexplained, turn out to be something thought provoking, drawing from the Lovecraftian tradition. I liked Michael Fassbender's characterisation of David and Noomi Rapace makes Shaw a fresh character rather than a Ripley knock-off. Shaw has a vulnerability and uncertainty that contrasts sharply with Ripley's solid common sense, but what they share is courage that enables them to do what has to be done in order to survive.
I enjoyed this film more the second time I watched it, which is a good sign, and I find that I'm genuinely excited about what will happen next. The best thing about Prometheus is that it is not just a join the dots exercise ending up where the crew of the Nostromo arrive, but a change of tone and pace that is intended to expand that universe.
The 2D blu-ray transfer and sound are excellent and the release comes with an code for a digital copy (including the option of an itunes version), and plenty of extras for those who want them. The redemption process can be a little confusing, but basically you use your code to go to [...] where you get a choice of formats. One of those options gives you another code to download the film from itunes.