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Theatrical release poster Directed by Ridley Scott Produced by Jon Spaihts
Damon Lindelof Starring Marc Streitenfeld Cinematography Dariusz Wolski Editing by Pietro Scalia Studio Scott Free Productions
Brandywine Productions Distributed by 20th Century Fox Release date(s)
- May 30, 2012 (Belgium,
France & Switzerland)
- June 1, 2012 (United Kingdom)
- June 8, 2012 (North America)
The film began development in the early 2000s as a fifth entry in the Alien franchise, with both Scott and director James Cameron developing ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott's 1979 science fiction horror film Alien. By 2003, the project was sidelined by the development of Alien vs. Predator, and remained dormant until 2009 when Scott again showed interest. A script by Spaihts acted as a prequel to the events of the Alien films, but Scott opted for a different direction to avoid repeating cues from those films. In late 2010, he brought Lindelof onto the project to rewrite Spaihts' script, and together they developed a separate story that precedes the story of Alien but is not directly connected to that franchise. According to Scott, though the film shares "strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak", and takes place in the same universe, Prometheus explores its own mythology and ideas.
The film entered production in April 2010, with extensive design phases developing the technology and creatures the film required. Principal photography began in March 2011, on an estimated $120–130 million budget, with filming taking place almost entirely on practical sets and on location in England, Iceland, Spain, and Scotland. The film was shot entirely using 3D cameras.
Prometheus was supported by a marketing campaign that included viral activities on the web. The campaign released three videos that featured stars from the film, in character, which expanded on elements of the fictional universe and received a generally positive reception. Prometheus was released on June 1, 2012 in the United Kingdom and was released on June 8, 2012 in North America.
PlotAs a hovering spacecraft departs, a humanoid alien drinks a dark bubbling liquid, and then starts to disintegrate. As its bodily remains cascade into a waterfall, the alien's DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction.
In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map among several unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners, or "Engineers". Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific vessel Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223. The ship's crew travels in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage. Arriving in 2093, they are informed of their mission to find the Engineers. Mission director Meredith Vickers orders them to avoid making contact without her permission. The Prometheus lands near a large artificial structure, which a team explores.
Inside they find numerous stone cylinders, a monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the corpse of a large alien, thought to be an Engineer. They find other bodies and presume the species is extinct. David secretly takes a cylinder, while the remaining cylinders begin leaking dark liquid. A rapidly approaching storm forces the crew to return to Prometheus, leaving crew members Millburn and Fifield stranded in the structure. In the ship, the Engineer’s DNA is found to match that of humans. Meanwhile, David investigates the cylinder and discovers a dark liquid. He then spikes a drink with the substance and gives it to Holloway. Shortly after Shaw and Holloway have sex.
Inside the structure, a snake-like creature kills Millburn, and it sprays a corrosive fluid that melts Fifield’s helmet, exposing him to the leaking dark liquid. The crew later returns to the structure and finds Millburn’s corpse. David separately discovers a control room containing a surviving Engineer in stasis, and a star map highlighting Earth. Holloway’s ingestion of the dark liquid leads to an infection that rapidly ravages his body and he is rushed back to Prometheus. Vickers refuses to let him aboard, and at his urging, burns him to death with a flamethrower. Later, a medical scan reveals that Shaw, despite being sterile, is pregnant with an alien offspring. Shaw uses an automated surgery table to cut it out. Weyland is revealed to have been in stasis aboard Prometheus, and explains to Shaw he wants to ask the Engineers to prevent his death from old age. As Weyland prepares to leave for the structure, Vickers calls him "Father".
A mutated Fifield attacks the hangar bay and kills several crew members before being killed himself. The Prometheus' captain, Janek, speculates that the structure was part of an Engineer military base that lost control of its biological weapon, the dark liquid. Janek also determines that the underground structure is in fact a spaceship. Weyland and a team return to the structure and awaken the Engineer. David speaks to the Engineer, who responds by decapitating him and killing Weyland and his team. Shaw escapes the spaceship as the Engineer activates it. David's still-active head reveals the Engineer is going to release the liquid on Earth. Shaw convinces Janek to stop the Engineer's spaceship. Vickers and her lifeboat are ejected before Janek crashes Prometheus into the Engineer's spaceship. The Engineer's disabled spaceship crashes onto the planet, killing Vickers. Shaw goes to Vickers' lifeboat and finds her alien offspring, still alive and has grown to gigantic size. David warns Shaw over the intercom that the Engineer survived the crash. The Engineer bursts into the lifeboat and attacks Shaw. She releases her alien offspring onto the Engineer; it thrusts a tentacle down the Engineer's throat, subduing it. Shaw recovers David's remains, and with his help, they launch another Engineer spaceship. She intends to reach the Engineers' homeworld in an attempt to understand why they created humanity and later wanted to destroy it.
In the lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the Engineer's chest.
- Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw:
- An archaeologist. Rapace described Shaw as a believer "in God" with a "very strong faith", but that "things happen and she changes into more of a warrior." To aid her method acting she developed a complete backstory for Shaw in her head, and worked with a dialect coach to help achieve an appropriate British accent, she also had her make-up artist apply extra blood and sweat during filming to more accurately portray her character. Rapace noted, "I was out there filming for about six months and it was super-intense, my body was in so much pain sometimes but it was absolutely amazing." She has dismissed comparisons to the Alien franchise's Ellen Ripley. Coming to director Ridley Scott's attention for her performance as Lisbeth Salander in the 2009 drama film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rapace met him in August 2010, and by January 2011 she had secured the role. Actresses Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Gemma Arterton, Carey Mulligan, and Abbie Cornish, were all considered for the role during development. Eight-year-old actress Lucy Hutchinson portrays Shaw as a child.
- Michael Fassbender as David:
- An android designed to be indistinguishable from humans. The ship's butler and maintenance man, it begins to develop "its own ego, insecurities, jealousy and envy". Fassbender stated: "David's views on the human crew are somewhat childlike. He is jealous and arrogant because he realizes that his knowledge is all-encompassing and therefore he is superior to the humans. David wants to be acknowledged and praised for his brilliance". Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film's events, saying "what does the movie look like from the robot's point of view? If you were to ask him, 'What do you think about all of this? What's going on? What do you think about these humans who are around you?' Wouldn't it be cool if we found a way for that robot to answer those questions?" In developing his character, Fassbender avoided watching the android characters of Alien and Aliens (1986), and instead observed the replicants in Scott's 1982 science fiction film Blade Runner, with a focus on Sean Young's character Rachael, whose "vacancy" and longing for a soul interested him. He drew further inspiration from the voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the "funny walk and economy of movement" of Olympic diver Greg Louganis, and the performances of David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Dirk Bogarde in The Servant, and Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. David's blond hair was modeled after T. E. Lawrence. Scott favored Fassbender for the role; by January 2011 he was confirmed to join the cast, despite earlier reports his agents had sought too high a fee for their client.
- Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland:
- The billionaire founder and CEO of Weyland Corp. Lindelof described him as having a massive ego and suffering from a god complex. Pearce has claimed that his appearance in the movie is brief, saying "I'm only [in the film] for a minute". It took five hours to apply the necessary prosthetics and make-up to transform Pearce into the elderly Weyland, and one hour to remove it. Pearce observed old people to gain insight into the movement for his character, as he found replicating the impeded physical movement the most difficult part of the role. Max von Sydow was Scott's original choice to play Weyland, but Pearce was cast to allow him to portray both an elderly and young Weyland who appeared in early script drafts.
- Idris Elba as Janek:
- The captain of the Prometheus. Elba described the character as "a longshoreman and a sailor", with a military background. He noted "[being the captain is] his life and the crew is his responsibility," and said "he's a realistic, pragmatic character. He has to get involved...in a film with huge ideas, you need a character like this, who can go 'Wait...why are we doing this?'".
- Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway:
- An archeologist and Shaw's love interest. Marshall-Green was cast after being seen performing on stage "off-off-off Broadway". He described Holloway as the "X Games type scientist", explaining that he liked the character's "leap-before-looking" philosophy. He further noted that Holloway "doesn't want to meet his maker. He wants to stand next to his maker. He's willing to go to the edge to get that." Describing the character's motivation, he stated: "he goes to the extreme in everything he does, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse of the [Prometheus crew]. I think what drives him is the thrill of the search." He contrasted Holloway to Shaw, saying "she’s the believer. I’m the scientist. I’m the skeptic. I’m the atheist".
- Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers:
- A Weyland Corporation employee, sent to monitor the expedition. Theron described the character as "a suit who slowly sheds [her] skin through the film", and also as "somewhat of a villain ... [who] definitely has an agenda". She stated "Vickers is pragmatic, and desperately wants to control the situation." Scott wanted the character to lurk in the background of scenes watching other characters instead of being the focus. Theron stated that it helped layer her character because "you're just so suspicious of her, instantly." The similar appearances and mannerisms of Vickers and David were intended to raise the possibility that David was based on Vickers's DNA, or that Vickers is an android herself. After Theron's casting, she developed three new scenes with Scott and Lindelof to expand her character. Physical action scenes were an issue for Theron because of scenes that involved her running through sand in 30 pounds (14 kg) boots, and her cigarette habit. Theron was intended to portray Shaw, but a prior commitment to Mad Max 4: Fury Road prevented her involvement. When that film was delayed, she was able to rejoin Prometheus. Michelle Yeoh and Angelina Jolie were considered for the role.
- Rafe Spall as Millburn:
- A biologist. Spall auditioned for another role, but Scott wanted him to play Millburn. On his casting, Spall said "Alien is one of the best films ever made, and it’s a real buzz to be in a space suit on an 'Alien' set with Ridley Scott coming and speaking to you. It’s incredible. That’s why I wanted to be an actor, to be in a space suit on an 'Alien' set".
- Sean Harris as Fifield:
- A geologist who has become unstable after many missions. Harris described the character as "someone who can sense when things are up. He's your audience guy, going, 'Don't go in that tunnel. We should not be doing this!'". Fifield's bright red mohawk hairstyle was designed by Harris and Scott, based on Scott's sketch of a man with a "severe haircut".
DevelopmentDevelopment on a fifth film in the Alien franchise was in progress by 2002. At the time, Scott was considering returning to the series he created with his 1979 science fiction horror film Alien, to pursue a sequel that would explore the engineered origins of the series' Alien antagonists, and the "space jockey"—the extraterrestrial being, who briefly appears in Alien, as the deceased pilot of a derelict spaceship. Alien star Sigourney Weaver also expressed interest in returning to the series. Aliens director James Cameron discussed the potential for a sequel with Scott, and began working with another writer on a story for the film. It was then that 20th Century Fox approached Cameron with a script for a crossover film that would pit the series' monsters against the titular characters of the Predator films; what would become the 2004 science fiction film Alien vs. Predator. After Fox confirmed that it would pursue the crossover, Cameron stopped working on his own project, believing the crossover would "kill the validity of the franchise". In 2006, Cameron confirmed that he would not return to the project, believing that the series was Fox's asset, and he was unwilling to deal with the studio attempting to influence the potential sequel.
In May 2009, Fox first reported the project as a "reboot" to the Alien franchise, which was soon afterwards expressed as a then untitled prequel to Alien. Development stalled in June 2009, when Fox clashed with Scott over his selection of former commercial director Carl Erik Rinsch as director. Fox was only interested in pursuing the project if Scott directed. By July 2009, Scott was attached to direct the film, and screenwriter Jon Spaihts was hired to pen the script based on his pitched idea for a direct Alien prequel. With both director and writer in place, and pleased with Spaihts' pitch, Fox scheduled a release date for December 2011, but this was eventually dropped. In June 2010, Scott announced that the script was complete and that pre-production would begin, with a filming date set for January 2011. However, by July 2010, Lindelof had been hired to redevelop Spaihts's screenplay into a more original work. In October 2010, Lindelof submitted his refined screenplay to Fox. The studio was pleased because it had contested Scott's proposed budget of $150–160 million and found Lindelof's screenplay to be more budget-conscious; Scott had initially requested a $250 million budget and an adult oriented product, but Fox was reluctant to invest this amount of money, and wanted to ensure the film would receive a lower age-rating to broaden the potential audience.
In December 2010, it was reported that the film would be called Paradise, named after the John Milton poem Paradise Lost, but Scott considered that it would convey too much about the film. Fox CEO Thomas Rothman suggested Prometheus, which was confirmed as the title in January 2011. A release date was scheduled for March 9, 2012, but weeks later the date was pushed back to June 8, 2012. With the name confirmed, the production began to publicly distance the film from its Alien origins. The filmmakers were deliberately vague about the connection between the films, believing it would build audience anticipation for Prometheus. Scott stated that "while Alien was indeed the jumping-off point for this project, out of the creative process evolved a new, grand mythology and universe in which this original story takes place. The keen fan will recognize strands of Alien's DNA, so to speak, but the ideas tackled in this film are unique, large and provocative." In June 2011, Scott and Lindelof confirmed that Prometheus takes place in the same universe as the events of the Alien series. In July 2011, Scott stated that "by the end of the third act you start to realize there’s a DNA of the very first Alien, but none of the subsequent [films]".
WritingSpaihts met Scott in late 2009, where they discussed Scott's desire to pursue an Alien prequel. Spaihts offered his concept, including a "bridge" that would connect the film's "human story" to the Alien saga. He was quickly hired, which he credited to the reception of his "bridge" idea. Spaihts claimed his concept was created in the moment, and he had no ideas planned in advance. Spaihts set about writing a 20-page "extremely detailed outline", and within three and a half weeks his first draft was complete, and submitted to the producers on Christmas Day, 2009. Within 12 hours, Scott returned the script with notes for changes, and Spaihts spent the Christmas holiday redrafting.
Spaihts was tasked with exploring unresolved mysteries from Alien such as the Space Jockey. He saw the driving mysteries of Alien as "alien in nature", stating "all the mysteries have alien players: the exoskeleton nightmare and... the elephantine titan that was called the 'space jockey'... How do you make anyone care about events between creatures like this?" He found a solution in tying the alien mysteries to the past and future of human history. He explained: "if that story is somehow ours, and deeply enmeshed with the human story. That story changes meaning within our own life, things of such significance that we think of our own lives differently". He found translating Scott's stylistic visual concepts to text difficult, and he periodically had to rein in some of the director's ideas such as reminding Scott that in the scene they were discussing, the characters were subject to gravity and so could not simply float. By April 2010, the script was on the fourth draft. Scott described the script, saying "we are talking about gods and engineers. Engineers of space. And were the aliens designed as a form of biological warfare? Or biology that would go in and clean up a planet?" In June 2010, Scott stated that the script was complete and ready for filming.
However, Scott instead contacted Lindelof and requested that he review Spaihts' script. Within the hour, a messenger delivered the script to Lindelof and informed the writer that he would be waiting outside to take it back as soon as Lindelof had finished reading it. Unaware of what the producers liked about the existing script, Lindelof informed Scott and the producers that he found the general concept appealing, but that the story relied too heavily on elements of the Alien films, such as the general concept of the Alien creatures life-cycle. As a direct prequel to Alien, it was focused on leading into that film's story, and recreating the familiar cues of that series, and Scott was adamant that he avoid repeating previous accomplishments. Lindelof clarified, "If the ending to [Prometheus] is just going to be the room that John Hurt walks into that's full of [alien] eggs [in Alien], there's nothing interesting in that, because we know where it's going to end. Good stories, you don't know where they're going to end." "A true prequel should essentially proceed [sic] the events of the original film, but be about something entirely different, feature different characters, have an entirely different theme, although it takes place in that same world."
 He offered that the film could instead run parallel to those films, such that a sequel would be Prometheus 2 and not Alien, and submitted an idea for how such a sequel could work. He met with the producers the following morning, and was hired shortly afterwards in late 2010. Under Lindelof, the script began to divert from Spaihts' Alien prequel into a more original creation. Scott and Lindelof worked together five days a week between July and August 2010, trying to piece together exactly what vision Scott was trying to convey and how the script needed to change, including scaling back the Alien symbology and tropes. Beginning in August, Lindelof spent four to five weeks writing his first draft before submitting it mid-September 2010. Inspired by Blade Runner and Spaihts' script, Lindelof thought that it would be possible to combine an Alien story of action and horror with "the Blade Runner thematic", to ask bigger questions that he felt were normally posed in science fiction films. Lindelof explained:
Scott's story concept was partially inspired by the work of Chariots of the Gods? author Erich von Däniken's writings about the theory of ancient astronauts, suggesting that life on Earth was created by aliens. Scott said, "NASA and the Vatican agree that [it is] almost mathematically impossible that we can be where we are today without there being a little help along the way... That’s what we’re looking at [in the film], at some of Erich von Däniken’s ideas of how did we humans come about." Spaihts originated the idea that David, the android, is like humans, but does not want to be anything like them, eschewing a common theme in "robotic storytelling" such as Blade Runner. He also developed the theme that while the human crew are searching for their creators, David is already among them. Scott liked these ideas and had them explored further in Lindelof's rewrite. For Shaw, Lindelof felt it was important that she be distinct from Alien's Ripley, to avoid inevitable comparisons between the two female leads. In Spaihts' draft, Shaw was directly responsible for the events of the plot because of her desire to seek out potentially dangerous knowledge. As with David, Lindelof further expanded this facet of the character during his rewrites. Lindelof spent approximately eight months developing the script, finishing in March 2011, as filming began.Blade Runner might not have done well [financially] when it first came out, but people are still talking about it because it was infused with all these big ideas. [Scott] was also talking about very big themes in Prometheus. It was being driven by people who wanted the answers to huge questions. But I thought that we could do that without ever getting too pretentious. Nobody wants to see a movie where people are floating in space talking about the meaning of life ... That was already present in [Spaihts'] original script and [Scott] just wanted to bring it up more.—
Pre-productionPre-production had begun by April 2010, with a team developing graphic designs for the film's requirements. Scott convinced Fox to invest millions of dollars into the hiring of scientists and conceptual artists to develop a vision of the late 21st century. Production of Prometheus was marked by a high degree of secrecy with story details "extremely under-wraps." Determined to maintain the secrecy of the plot, Scott required the cast to sign clauses to prevent them disclosing story details, and the cast were only allowed to read the script under supervision in Scott's production office. One exception was made when a courier flew to one of the actors in a foreign location and then stood guard while the actor read the script. Concerning the confidential nature of the script, Scott stated: "I was insistent that the script not leak onto the internet, where it gets dissected out of context, which spoils it for everyone."
In July 2011, Lindelof stated that the film would be relying on practical effects, and employing CGI generally for on-set pre-visualization of external space visuals. Scott recalling advice special effects artist Douglas Trumbull gave him on the set of Blade Runner stated, "if you can do it live, do it live", with Scott claiming that although "you can pretty much do anything you want" with digital technology, practical effects are more cost effective. Cinematographer Darius Wolski convinced Scott that it would be possible to film in 3D with the same ease and efficiency of typical filming. 3D company 3ality Technica provided some of the rigs and equipment to facilitate 3D filming, and trained the film's crew in their proper operation. According to Scott, the decision to film in 3D added $10 million to the film's budget. Since 3D films need high lighting levels on set, the hallmark atmosphere of the Alien films with darkness and shadows was added in post-production through grading processes, while the 3D equipment was based on post-Avatar technology.
Principal photographyPrincipal photography began on March 21, 2011, on an estimated $120–130 million budget. Filming was scheduled to take place over six months, but it took longer than forecast: the film was still being shot in September 2011. Filming began at Shepperton Studios in Surrey, England, part of the Pinewood Studios group, where Scott used eight sound stages for filming, including the 007 Stage. Studio space was limited and the crew were forced to make the stages work for over 16 different sets, and also increase the size of the 007 stage by over 30%.
In July, filming moved to Iceland for two weeks, commencing at the base of the active Hekla volcano in southern Iceland on July 11, 2011. Speaking about working at the base of an active volcano, Scott stated "If one is afraid of nature in this profession then it would be best to find a different job". Filming also took place at one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, the Dettifoss waterfall in the north east of Iceland, in the Vatnajökull National Park. The Iceland shoot involved 160 Icelandic crew members and over 200 imported crew. Scott claimed that the Iceland filming comprised approximately fifteen minutes of footage for the film, and that the area represented the "beginning of time". Exterior shots of the alien world were shot in Iceland. Morocco had been an intended shooting location instead of Iceland, but the 2010 Arab Spring protests forced the change of venue. Alternatives including the Mojave Desert had been considered alongside Iceland, but Scott explained that the country was ultimately chosen because "here it is so rough and 'Jurassic-like' and that proved decisive".
In September 2011, filming moved to the Ciudad de la Luz audiovisual complex in Alicante, Spain. Shooting areas included the complex's large water tank, and a nearby Alicante beach. The complex was booked from August 22, 2011, through to December 10, with set construction occurring from August until late September. Approximately 250 people worked on the three month-long Spain shoot, generating over €1 million to the local economy. Filming also took place in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan.
Scott avoided using green screens unless necessary, instead employing various items to help the actors understand where they were meant to be looking in any particular scene on the practical sets that would have a CGI presence inserted in post-production. Rapace claimed that green screens were used less than six times during filming. The production used five 3ality Technical Atom 3D rigs, four of which were configured with Red Epic 3D cameras set up for use on camera dollies and tripods, which were continuously in use during filming. The fifth rig employed an Epic camera for use as a steadicam, which was only used as required.
Post-productionScott focused on using the 3D footage to increase the illusion of depth. Despite this being his first 3D film he found the process easy. He stated: "You can literally twiddle a knob and the depth will increase", "the trick is not to overdo it". Prometheus contains approximately 1,300 digital effect shots. Moving Picture Company (MPC) were the lead visual effect studio and produced 420 of the shots. Several other studios also produced the visual effects including Weta Digital, Fuel VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Luma Pictures, Lola Visual Effects, and Hammerhead Productions. In December 2011, Rapace undertook additional dialogue recordings for the film. Additional pick-up scenes were filmed during January 2012, including a one-day shoot on the Isle of Skye, Scotland, and a new scene shot at a cave in the Scottish mountains. For dark scenes with little lighting, the film was color graded to specifically compensate for the slight dimness introduced by wearing 3D glasses, to ensure the image was comparable to the 2D version.
In July 2011, Scott stated that he was filming Prometheus with both adult-oriented R and more accessible PG-13 film ratings in mind, allowing the more adult content to be cut if necessary without harming the overall presentation. Scott claimed he had a responsibility to 20th Century Fox to be able to present a PG-13 cut of the film if the studio demanded, allowing it to be viewed by a wider potential audience. When asked about the rating, Scott explained "the question is, do you go for the PG-13, or do you go for what it should be, which is R? Financially it makes quite a difference...essentially it's kinda R...it's not just about blood, it's about ideas that are very stressful." Scott maintained that, regardless of rating, he would present the most "aggressive" cut of the film he could, while Rothman stated that Scott would not be forced to compromise the film's quality to avoid an R-rating. On May 7, 2012, Fox confirmed that the film had received an R-rating and would be released without any cuts being made. According to Scott, the scene of Shaw surgically removing her alien offspring was the significant cause of the restrictive rating, and it was suggested that removing the scene entirely would be the only way to gain a lower one. A fight scene between Shaw and the Engineer was edited out of the finale because Scott decided that Shaw wounding the Engineer diminished his role. Scott concluded work on the film in March 2012.
DesignProduction designer Arthur Max led the film's design. His art team were tasked with deconstructing the art and visuals of Alien and reverse-designing them for the earlier-time setting of Prometheus. Influence was drawn from the work of Alien creature designer H. R. Giger, and designers Ron Cobb and Chris Foss, including their designs for that film which Scott had been unable to develop at the time.
For the crew's space suits, Scott was inspired to include spherical glass helmets after reading a story in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' biography, about building an office out of Gorilla Glass, with Scott remarking "If I’m in 2083 and I’m going into space, why would I design a helmet that has blind spots. What I want is something where I have 360 [vision]. Glass, by then, will be light and you won’t be able to break it with a bullet." The interior of the prop helmets had nine functioning video screens, internal lighting, an oxygen supply provided by two fans, with battery packs concealed within a backpack. The helmet's exterior featured a functional light source and high-definition cameras with a transmitter and recorder. For the suit itself, Scott wanted to avoid the unwieldy NASA-style suit. His frequent collaborator, Academy award-winning costume designer Janty Yates, used medical research concepts relating to skin replacement treatments and materials to develop a design that could believably provide a flexible and comfortable garment. The outfit comprised a neoprene suit worn under an outer space suit, a base to which the helmet could be attached, and a backpack.
Aboard the ship, Yates gave the characters their own distinct look. Theron is dressed in an ice-silver, silk mohair suit, with Yates explaining: "[Theron] is the ice queen. It was always our vision to make her look as sculptural as possible". Fassbender's David is dressed similar to other crewmen, but his outfit was given finer lines to produce a more linear appearance. To create a casual, relaxed appearance, Marshall-Green's Holloway was dressed in hoodies, fisherman pants, and flip-flops, while Elba wore a canvas-greased jacket to represent his long career at the helm of a ship.
Sets and vehiclesMax designed the sets including the alien structures and the alien world landscape, and vehicles, including the Prometheus and Engineer ship. Digital 3D models and miniature replicas were built of each set, allowing them to see how sets should connect and to know where the sets would end and the CGI would begin. To better blend the practical and the digital, the design team took rock samples during the Iceland shoot, allowing them to match the graphical textures with the real rocks caught on film. Max researched NASA and European Space Agency designs and developed these concepts with his vision of how space travel would look in the future to create the Prometheus. He stated that he wanted "to do something that was state-of-the-art, which would represent a flagship spacecraft with every technology required to probe into the deepest corners of the galaxy."
Swarovski chandeliers and a Fazioli piano. The ship's garage was built on the backlot of Pinewood Studios in England. The vehicles within were built over 11 weeks and were designed to operate on difficult terrain while still possessing a futuristic aesthetic. Max created a large Pyramid structure for the alien world, with main interior areas connected by a series of chambers, corridors and tunnels, so expansive that some crew became temporarily lost within. The pyramid was enhanced in post-production to further increase its size. One of the key sets, the chamber where the crew find the humanoid-head statue, was designed to resemble the interior of a cathedral and convey a "quasi religious" impression. Giger designed the murals that appear within the chamber.
For the scene of the Prometheus descent to the alien moon LV-223, visual effects art director Steven Messing referenced NASA imagery including "vortex cloud structures" and aerial photography of locations in Iceland and Wadi Rum shot by VFX supervisor Richard Stammers and his team. Messing painted over these images and combined them with 3D set extensions to create a realistic altered landscape. Scott wanted the ships descent to have a massive scope and grandeur to contrast the dark and shrouded descent featured in Alien. Much of LV-223s world was drawn from the world visited in Alien, but scaled back as Scott felt some elements were too unrealistic. Other influences were found in Mars' Olympus Mons and other large mountain structures on Earth. NASA advisors provided concepts for the aesthetics of alien worlds which was incorporated into the design work. MPC developed a digital representation of Wadi Rum to appear in the film using the design material and then modified it to position the Pyramid, a landing area for the Prometheus, and resized the planet's natural features relative to the alien structures.
A key scene involving a large 3D hologram star map, dubbed "the Orrery", was inspired by the 1766 Joseph Wright painting "A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery", in which a scientist displays a mechanical planetarium by candlelight. While discussing the necessity of a star map with Spaihts, Scott mentioned the painting as how he saw the map being physically represented, although he was unaware of the name and described it only as "circles in circles with a candle lit image". To Scott's pleasure, Spaihts located the correct image based on his description. Spaihts stated: "making the leap from a star map, to an Enlightenment painting, and then back into the far future. [Scott's] mind just multiplexes in that way". The Orrery was one of the most complex visual effects, containing 80-100 million polygons and taking several weeks to render a single complete shot.
Creature effectsNeal Scanlan and Conor O'Sullivan developed the film's alien creatures, aiming to convey each creature as having a logical biological function and purpose. Scanlan stated that much of Scott's inspiration for creature design is drawn from natural life such as plants and sea creatures. Creature designer Carlos Huante chose to make the creature designs pale to contrast and compliment the black-toned, Giger-influenced aesthetic of Alien. Huante designed them as white and embryonic rationalizing that in the film chronology they appear before Giger's influence had taken affect, and also took influence from references Scott was using in designing the pale-skinned Engineers. Huante also referenced other Giger works, national monuments, large sculptures and the Crazy Horse Memorial statue in South Dakota. Part of his early design work also included developing precursors to Alien's Facehugger, and a primitive Alien creature, but these were cut. Scott and Huante referenced paintings by William Blake and J.M.W. Turner, and classical sculptures when designing the muscular Engineers.
The snake-like alien dubbed the "Hammerpede" was given life through a mixture of CGI and practical effects which included digitally removing wires controlling the practical puppet. For a scene where the Hammerpede is decapitated, the VFX team digitally animated and inserted the spontaneous growth of a replacement head. During a scene when the Hammerpede erupts from Spall's character's corpse, Scott was in control of the puppet using wires. Scott did not inform Dickie about what was to occur in the scene and her screaming reaction was real. The creature's design was partially inspired by translucent sea creatures with visible arteries, veins and organs beneath the skin's surface, and Cobras, creating a "smooth and muscular and powerful" appearance. For the tentacled offspring cut out of Rapace's Shaw, the "Trilobite", early designs resembled an Octopus or Squid until designer Neville Page redeveloped the concept as an embryo in an early state of development, with tentacles that began fused together and would gradually split as the creature developed, creating new tentacles. The practical creature was a remotely-operated animatronic creation with a silicone skin.
For its grown form, the "Adult Trilobite", Max found inspiration from an arthropod-like creature from Earth's Cambrian era, and the alien octopus illustrations of the Jean Giraud-illustrated The Long Tomorrow comic strip written by Alien writer Dan O'Bannon. The final inspiration for Max's design came after he found a formaldehyde-preserved giant squid, an image which met with Scott's approval. The film's last-unveiled creature, the "Deacon", was named by Scott for its long, pointed head that he considered resembled a "bishop’s mitre, the evil deacon’s pointed hat". Scanlan aimed to design the creature to represent its genetic lineage: beginning with Shaw and Holloway, who produce the Trilobite, which impregnates the Engineer. However, they focused on making the character feminine, claiming that "it was born of a female before being born of a male." Messing drew inspiration for the Deacon's birth scene from horse foal births, and created an iridescent-like appearance for its skin, based on the placenta from foal birth. The Deacon's protruding jaw was inspired by the Goblin shark.
MusicFrequent Scott collaborator Marc Streitenfeld composed the musical score for Prometheus. The score was recorded over one week with a 90-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London, England, where it was also processed by Scott after the fact. Streintenfeld began coming up with ideas for the score after reading the script prior to the commencement of filming. To create an "unsettling" sound, he provided the orchestra with reversed music sheets to have them play segments of the score backwards, before then digitally reversing it. The Prometheus (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) album was released on iTunes on May 15, 2012, and on CD on June 4, 2012. It features 23 tracks by Streitenfeld, plus two supplemental tracks by composer Harry Gregson-Williams.
Marketing's marketing campaign began on July 21, 2011, at the San Diego Comic-Con International, where images and footage from the film were presented by Lindelof and Theron, with Scott and Rapace participating via satellite contribution. A segment of the footage showed Theron performing "naked push-ups" which attracted much attention. A teaser poster was revealed on December 14, 2011, with the tagline, "The search for our beginning could lead to our end." A bootleg recording of an incomplete teaser trailer was leaked online on November 27, 2011, but was swiftly taken down by Fox. The teaser trailer was released on December 22, 2011.
On March 17, 2012, Scott, in partnership with AMC Theaters, hosted the premiere of the first full Prometheus trailer at the AMC Downtown Disney, during WonderCon in Anaheim, California. The event was streamed live via Facebook, Twitter, and the AMC Theater website, and the trailer was posted on AMC's Youtube channel immediately after its debut. Reaction to the trailer was considered to be positive among WonderCon attendees and on Twitter, and it received nearly three million views in the three days following its release. On April 10, 2012, media outlets were shown a 13 minute montage of scenes from the film's opening in 3D at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London. The screening was well received, with particular mentions given to the 3D visuals and the performances of Fassbender, Rapace, Theron, and Elba.
On April 29, 2012, the international launch trailer debuted in the United Kingdom on Channel 4 during the first advertisement break of the TV show Homeland. Viewers were encouraged to share their opinions about the trailer on Twitter, some of which were then shared in a live broadcast during a later break. This marked the first time that viewers' tweets were used in a broadcast advertisement. Alongside the trailer, a competition was launched on the social platform Zeebox, offering viewers a chance to win tickets to the film whenever Zeebox detected the advertisement airing. On May 8, 2012, the advertisement became subject to an investigation by the British broadcasting regulatory body Ofcom for allegedly breaching broadcast rules when a voice over encouraged viewers to book tickets while the advertisement played and with the Channel 4 logo onscreen. The act potentially broke a rule that advertising and teleshopping must be clearly distinguishable from editorial content.
Although marketers typically avoid collaborating with adult-oriented films to focus on reaching broader audiences, the film attracted several promotional partners including Coors, Amazon, and Verizon FiOS. The campaigns were estimated to have spent $30 million in marketing support. Amazon directed interested users to purchase tickets through Fandango, and placed promotional material in products shipped to customers; this was the first time that Amazon had allowed such marketing by an external company. The premiere in London, England, was streamed live via the film's website and the Verizon FiOS Facebook. The event was facilitated by BumeBox, which culled audience questions from social sites and delivered them to reporters to ask at the event. The National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) are developing a series of Prometheus action figures, scheduled for release in September 2012. Prometheus: The Art of the Film, a book containing production art and behind-the-scenes photos from the film, was released on June 12, 2012.
Viral campaignTED conference, an annual technology and design event held in Long Beach, California. The segment was conceived and designed by Scott and Lindelof, and directed by Scott's son, Luke. The production was made in collaboration with, and made available through TED because Lindelof wanted to introduce new audiences to the conference itself. Lindelof explained that the scene takes place in a futuristic stadium rather than the smaller locations of real TED conferences because "a guy like Peter Weyland—whose ego is just massive, and the ideas that he’s advancing are nothing short of hubris—that he'd basically say to TED, 'If you want me to give a talk, I’m giving it in Wembley Stadium.'"
TED community director Tom Rielly helped gain approval for the use of the TED brand, which had not previously been used for promotional purposes. He was involved in designing the 2023 conference, preparing an "extensive briefing on all the visual and audio aspects of a TEDTalk circa 2012 and a corresponding speculation on how things would work in the future", that included flying video cameras and "live Twitteresque feedback". Rielly claimed that the association generated millions of new visitors to the TED website. The video's release was accompanied by a fictional TED blog about the 2023 conference and a tie-in website for the fictional Weyland Corporation. On March 6, 2012, the Weyland website was updated to allow visitors to 'invest' in the company as part of a game to reveal new Prometheus media.
During the 2012 WonderCon, attendees at the film's panel were given Weyland Corporation business cards that directed them to a website and phone number. Calling the number resulted in the caller being sent a text message from Weyland Corporation that linked them to a second viral video. Narrated by Fassbender, the video is presented as an advertisement for the "David 8" android, portrayed by Fassbender. An extended version of the video was released on April 17, 2012. The advertisement details "David"'s features including its ability to seamlessly replicate human emotions without the restrictions of ethics or distress. Accompanying the video, a full page "David" advertisement was placed in The Wall Street Journal; a Twitter account operated by a David8 was revealed, allowing Twitter users to ask the character questions; and a partnership with Verizon FiOS was launched, offering a virtual tour of the Prometheus spaceship. Another video, "Quiet Eye", starring Rapace as Shaw, was released on May 16, 2012, debuting through the Verizon FIOS Facebook. In the video, Shaw requests Weyland's aid to seek out alien life, in a phone call monitored by Yutani, a fictional company from the Alien series. In France, the Saint-Martin ghost train station was converted in appearance to resemble alien architecture from the film, visible to passing commuters. The campaign continued following the film's release with a website highlighted during the film's end credits. The site referenced the philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, and featured a further video of Pearce's Weyland, quoting from the book.
Discussing the videos at the May 2012 Digital Hollywood conference, Lindelof claimed that they originated from the question of the film's status as an Alien prequel. It was decided that creating videos with the film's stars would generate more interest than anything that could be said in regards to its connection to the Alien films. He furthered that the challenge in creating the videos was that they needed to be good enough to justify their existence, but not so important that their absence from the final film would be an issue for audiences.
ReleaseThe premiere of Prometheus took place on May 31, 2012, at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London. The film was released on June 1, 2012, in the United Kingdom, and was released on June 8, 2012, in North America. It was simultaneously released in IMAX theaters and in 3D, and it is encoded for D-Box motion seats that provide physical feedback to the viewer during the film.
Pre-releaseIn the United Kingdom, approximately £1 million ($1.6 million) of tickets were pre-sold. 18,827 tickets pre-sold for the London IMAX, the largest IMAX screen in the country, which broke the theater records for the highest grossing week of pre-sales with £293,312 ($474,687), and the highest grossing first day of pre-sales with £137,000 ($221,717). It extended this record to 30,000 tickets sold and £470,977 ($737,588) earned, becoming the most pre-booked film at the theater, exceeding the performance of high-profile IMAX releases including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Avatar.
In North America, audience tracking showed high interest among males of all ages, but low interest among females. The week preceding release saw conflicting opinions on whether the film or Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted would place number 1 for the weekend during their simultaneous release. As of June 6, 2012, Fandango reported that Prometheus was leading with 42% of daily sales, while Madagascar 3 was responsible for 35% of daily sales. Additionally, the online tracking for Prometheus surged with each new piece of promotional footage. However, pre-release tracking is usually less reliable for animated films; since Madagascar 3 was the first truly family-oriented film of the summer, many speculated that there would be large demand for it. The official 20th Century Fox prediction placed Prometheus around $30 million, while DreamWorks Animation and Paramount placed Madagascar 3 at about $45 million. As the weekend came closer, pre-release audience surveys suggested a $55 million debut for Madagascar 3 and $50-$55 million for Prometheus. Prometheus was also in the disadvantage of a less wide release (3,394 theaters against 4,258 theaters for Madagascar 3). Furthermore, the R rating of the film was considered a limiting obstacle.
Box officeAs of June 17, 2012, the film has earned an estimated $88,858,000 in North America and $128,600,000 elsewhere for a worldwide total of $217,458,000.
Prometheus was initially released in 15 markets from May 30 to June 1, 2012 – about a week before its North American release. The earlier start in these countries was timed to avoid competition with the start of the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship the following week. On its opening day (it varies depending on the country), it earned $3.39 million in the United Kingdom, $2.2 million in Russia, and $1.5 million in France. The film earned $34.8 million during its opening weekend from 4,695 theaters in 15 markets, debuting at #1 in 14 of them, with an average of $7,461 per theater. Its overall rank for the weekend was third behind Men in Black 3 and Snow White & the Huntsman. Its opening weekends in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta ($10.1 million), Russia and the CIS ($9.80 million), and France and the Maghreb region ($6.68 million) represented its largest takings. By June 8, the film had opened in a total of 50 markets, seeing further success during its opening weekends in Australia ($7.2 million) and South Korea ($4.2 million).
In North America, the film earned $3.561 million in midnight showings at 1,368 theaters, including $1.03 million from 294 IMAX theaters, and went on to earn $21.4 million through its opening day. During its opening weekend, it earned $51.05 million from 3,396 theaters – an average of $15,032 per theater – ranking second behind Madagascar 3 ($60.4 million). The figure placed it as the second largest opening for a film directed by Scott (behind his 2001 thriller Hannibal), the third largest second-place opening, the ninth largest opening for a prequel, and the tenth largest for an R-rated film. The largest segment of the opening weekend audience was over the age of 25 (64%) and male (57%). 3D showings accounted for 54% of ticket sales, while IMAX contributed 18% – the majority of which was accounted for in the 3D figure.
Critical responseaverage rating of 6.9 out of 10 – on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, whose consensus reads: "Ridley Scott's ambitious quasi-prequel to Alien may not answer all of its big questions, but it's redeemed by its haunting visual grandeur and compelling performances -- particularly Michael Fassbender as a fastidious android." Metacritic provides a score of 65 out of 100 from 42 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B" on an A+ to F scale, with audience members under 25 rating it the highest at A-. Reviews were frequently praising of both the film's visual aesthetic and design, and Fassbender's performance as the android David received almost universal acclaim. However the plot drew a more mixed response, with criticism of plot elements that remained unresolved or were predictable, tempered by appreciation for the action and horror set-pieces.
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy called the film's visuals vivid, stunning and magnificent on a technical level, singling out the performances of Fassbender, Rapace and Theron for praise, but lamented that the film catered too much to audience expectations, making it predictable. Time Out London's Tom Huddleston felt the plot was "flat" and "predictable", the characters "emotionless", and that while the film was "perfectly entertaining", it did not live up to pre-release expectations. Emanuel Levy cited the plot as his only complaint with the film, stating that it is unable to follow through with its philosophical ideas. Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, labeling it a "magnificent ... blend of story, special effects and pitch-perfect casting, filmed in sane, effective 3-D that doesn't distract." Ebert positively compared Rapace to Sigourney Weaver's performance in Alien as continuing "the tradition of awesome feminine strength", but considered Elba the most interesting performer. Ebert thought that the plot, in raising questions and not answering them, made the film "intriguing" and in the "classic tradition of golden age sci-fi".
Total Film's Jonathan Crocker however offered that the plot successfully integrated itself with Alien's mythology while offering its own original ideas. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum was positive towards the cast, particularly Rapace, and the cinematography. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir offered that the film was "somber, spectacular and ponderous," but that the " portentousness and grandiosity...is at once the film's great strength and great weakness" criticizing characters for lacking "common sense". O'Hehir also mentioned Wolski's cinematography and Max's production design. The New York Times' A. O. Scott criticized the story as weak, undermining its "lofty, mindblowing potential" with "bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance", but described Rapace as a "fine heroine, vulnerable and determined".
In a negative review, Variety film critic Justin Chang described the film's structure and genre as being unable to handle the philosophical undertow of the plot, and felt Prometheus was "lazily deferring" key plot points under the presumption that a sequel would be made. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw was less critical but thought that Prometheus "[lacked] the central punch of Alien", calling the film "more grandiose, more elaborate – but less interesting". Ian Nathan of Empire magazine was unimpressed by Rapace — whom he described as an unconvincing lead — and summarised the film as lacking suspense. The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton stated that the film is "prone to shallow ponderousness", that can "mimic the appearance of an epic, noble, important movie", but fails to "payoff". He criticized Rapace and Marshall-Green for failing to instill interest in their character relationship, but added: "there are a few set pieces here that will find a place of honor among aficionados of body horror and all things clammy and viscous". Jeff Bayer of The Scorecard Review noted that Prometheus reminded him more of The Matrix Reloaded than anything else, on account of how many unanswered questions were raised over the course of the film.
Writing in The Atlantic, Govindini Murty provided a comprehensive guide to the film’s mythological, literary and cinematic influences - from H.P. Lovecraft, to the drawings of William Blake.
|2012||Golden Trailer Awards||Summer 2012 Blockbuster Trailer||Prometheus / "Not Alone", 20th Century Fox, Wild Card||Nominated|||
|Best Sound Editing||Prometheus, 20th Century Fox, Skip Film||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Breakout||Noomi Rapace||Pending|||
|Choice Summer Movie - Action||Prometheus||Pending|
|Choice Summer Movie Star - Female||Charlize Theron (also for Snow White & the Huntsman)||Pending|
Home mediaIn North America, the DVD and Blu-ray disc versions of the film were listed for pre-order in partnership with Amazon, a week before the film had been released in theaters. A limited number of tickets to the film were offered as a pre-order incentive. The film is scheduled for release on Blu-ray disc and DVD on October 9, 2012. In a June 2012, interview Scott stated that the home release would feature an extended cut of the film featuring an additional 20 minutes of footage and up to 30 minutes of deleted scenes. In June 2012, FX obtained the rights to the film's network premiere.
SequelDuring the March 17, 2012, WonderCon, Scott stated that the film leaves many questions unanswered, and that these could be answered in a sequel, saying "If we're lucky, there'll be a second part. It does leave you with some nice open questions." Asked if a sequel would be a direct prequel to Alien, Lindelof said "if we’re fortunate enough to do a sequel... it will tangentialize [sic] even further away from the original Alien." In June 2012, Lindelof stated that while plot elements were deliberately left unresolved so that they could be answered in a sequel, he and Scott thoroughly discussed what should be resolved so that Prometheus could stand alone, as a sequel was not guaranteed. Further detailing his sequel concept, Scott stated that it would follow Shaw to her next destination, "because if it is paradise, paradise can not be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous." Lindelof cast doubt on his participation stating "if [Scott] wants me to be involved in something, that would be hard to say no to. At the same time, I do feel like [Prometheus] might benefit from a fresh voice or a fresh take or a fresh thought." Scott has stated that an additional film would be required to bridge the gap between the Prometheus sequel and the original Alien.
- Official website
- Project Prometheus
- Weyland Industries
- Prometheus at AllRovi
- Prometheus at the Internet Movie Database
- Prometheus at Metacritic
- Prometheus at Rotten Tomatoes