Prometheus is the first full feature film which I have seen in IMAX and it felt like being shouted at in the face for a full two hours… in a good way.
I’ve only ever seen one film previously in IMAX and that was a short film of around 40 minutes, many moons ago, the content of which I’ve completely forgotten about.
In fact, it’s probably the closest thing you can get to a theme park experience without travelling too far, and given how I’ve spent enough of my life in Alton Towers, it’s not somewhere I particularly want to go back to, so if I can get the same kind of thrill ride at the Odeon in Manchester, I’ll be a frequent visitor to that screen.
One of the earliest moments in the film to behold was a simple one, as we see Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, from the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy) uncovering something which we later find out to be a tomb containing a mysterious massive stone head, and scores of pods that look like enclosed lava lamps, but opaque ones (for which there wouldn’t really be much of a market). Anyway, imagine you have a big screen full of mud, and someone from the other side claws a small hole in it. Then you have Noomi’s face staring back at you, filling the screen as she tries to see what’s on the other side. Naturally, from her point of view, it’s not us.
Another moment comes when we see David (Michael Fassbender), this movie’s automaton, pottering about on the ship Prometheus, before waking everyone out of hypersleep. The camera has a fixed viewpoint but the 3D is very effective and it really makes you feel like you’re there, watching him.
So, what exactly is the film about? Well, everyone wants to know the answer to life, the universe and everything and in short, so do they. However, like a lot of other sci-fi films where you start exploring tombs that have remained silent for many centuries, accidentally stepping on something you shouldn’t, leads to disturbing something that should’ve stayed asleep and therefore, the end of the world as we know it is imminent. Basically, the safe money dictates that they should’ve stayed home, made a cuppa and put their feet up for Homes Under the Hammer, but then that wouldn’t make for engaging viewing, would it?
That said, Homes… wouldn’t be thrilling in IMAX, but we do see a segment of Lawrence of Arabia in 3D, of which David is clearly a big fan.
When it comes to the cast, leading the way are lovers Drs Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) who discovered a sort-of map a couple of years earlier on the Isle of Skye.
Well, they didn’t see it as a map, more of an “invitation” to head to the middle of nowhere in deep space and meet with the aliens.
Charlize Theron plays Meredith Vickers, owner of the Prometheus itself, and who has her own separate living quarters so she doesn’t have to associate with the hoy-poloi for as long as is necessary. Yes, she’s rather a snob and has such an expressionless face for most of the time that others think even she’s a robot, too.
Guy Pearce is the elderly Peter Weyland, founder of the Weyland Corporation, whose name is synonymous throughout the Alien saga, and who pops up early in to give a holographic lecture about what the team are about to face, once they’ve arrived at their desination. I didn’t realise it was Pearce as I was watching him as the make-up is done to make him look ancient, although he looks more like David Attenborough would in about another ten years.
The rest of the crew is made up of ship’s captain Janek (Idris Elba) and the other workers, agressive Fifield (Sean Harris), plus Millburn (Rafe Spall, with a dodgy American accent), Ford (Kate Dickie) – notable only for being the other female on board and for having an incomprehenisble Scots accent, plus Chance (Emun Elliott) and Ravel (Benedict Wong), the latter two who spend so little time onscreen it’s a wonder they were included in the script. Their only conversation is about a bet over something where the winner gets 100 credits. I lost track of what this bet was about, however.
Yes, Prometheus is technically an Alien prequel, but don’t think about that too much while watching it as you’ll be wondering why the computer graphics and terminals featured are far more advanced here than in the 1979 movie. For example, there, everyone used CRT monitors to display the information, whereas here they’re able to not only map an underground set of tunnels with some whizzo red sparkly things, but they also feed back to the ship with a 3D virtual map that completes in real time in front of the crew.
There are some moments which feel like they’ve come straight out of Alien which made me feel like we were treading water for a while, hence it’s not worth a 10 for the film itself, such as seeing the crew be brought out of hypersleep and share their first breakfast after coming round. Yes, these are essential scene-setting moments and there’s no way round that, but you do rather feel like you want to get to the meat of the story much sooner.
Once thing I wondered, however, was that I understand the IMAX screen ratio is 1.44:1, but there was a small black bar at the top, giving an impression of a 16:9 ratio, but tried to work out how will that version compare to a 2.35:1 conventional ratio for this film? I got the impression during the film that I was watching a mixture of cropped and open-matte shots, e.g. if a face filled the screen then it was cropped, but there were others that had the impression of being open-matte…
Thanks to Libretio on Digital Spy’s forums who answered my query: “In most cases, they letterbox the entire 2.35:1 frame across the middle of the IMAX screen, with large black bars top and bottom. Since the image is so big anyway, those bars aren’t that much of a problem. The IMAX version of The Polar Express was 2.00:1 and Apollo 13 was 1.66:1, so a few films DO opt for an ‘open-frame’ version for Large Format exhibition, especially for something like Prometheus which was shot 1.90:1 and framed for 2.39:1 (or both, in this case – which compromises both ratios, but that’s another discussion).”
Overall, Prometheus is a film well-worth seeing. It’s not perfect and, as such, just gets 8/10 from me, but if you get a chance to see it in IMAX then it quickly upgrades to a MUST-see. It took me a little while to get used to the IMAX effect, given how massive the screen is, and there are occasional moments where the effect is a little blurred, but overall it’s fantastically impressive, and when there’s text onscreen early on, it feels like it’s just floating in the air in front of realistic action. Just unbeatable.
Running time: 124 minutes
Released: June 1st 2012
Widescreen: 2.35:1 (3D, 2D) / 1.90:1 (IMAX 3D)
Director: Ridley Scott
Producer: David Giler, Walter Hill, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott
Screenplay: Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof
Music: Marc Streitenfeld
Elizabeth Shaw: Noomi Rapace
David: Michael Fassbender
Meredith Vickers: Charlize Theron
Janek: Idris Elba
Peter Weyland: Guy Pearce
Charlie Holloway: Logan Marshall-Green
Fifield: Sean Harris
Millburn: Rafe Spall
Chance: Emun Elliott
Ravel: Benedict Wong
Ford: Kate Dickie
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.