When my wife asked me if I might like the Blu-ray version of “Prometheus” for Christmas, I shrugged and said “Sure.” I normally give her a few ideas to spur her Christmas shopping, but had not put the movie on my list. If I’m honest (and I always am), I hadn’t been that impressed with the movie when I saw it in the theater. While I found it interesting, I cannot say that I truly enjoyed the experience. But watching a movie at home is different from seeing it in the theater. And repeated viewings are different from seeing a movie for the first time.
I found watching the movie at home a liberating experience. Instead of going to the theater, and wondering if the movie was going to live up to the hype, or prove too intense for my wife, I could sit back on my own and enjoy it. I noticed a lot about the characters, settings, and the story that I missed the first time around. The first viewing was like following a guide through a museum, my journey dictated by those items that most intrigued my host, before he left me in the museum gift shop and picked up a new tour group. On my second viewing, I had no preconceptions, and I knew the basic story, having received my initial tour at the cinema. So I could just sit back, immerse myself in the world, and drink in the story.
The wealth of extras included in the 4-disc Blu-ray set helped me appreciate the tremendous backstory that undergirded the narrative. Jon Spaihts, the first screenwriter to work on the movie, shared many of the ideas and elements that he developed with Ridley Scott. Many of these were discarded, but countless others became embedded in the story’s foundation. Spaihts even designed his own "Prometheus" game, including board and pieces, to help him work out the logistics of how each character interacted within the narrative. The more experienced Damon Lindelof then came on board, honed Spaihts’ narrative, and strengthened its three-act dramatic structure. Ridley guided each writer’s efforts with comments and sketches (affectionately called “Ridleygrams”) that showed them how he could visually interpret their words. All these ideas and concepts, arising from words and rough images, inspired the production team to interpret the world through more detailed drawings and sculptures.
Art involves not just what the artist puts into his creation, but also what he leaves out. It was interesting to hear Ridley Scott echo Roger Zelazny’s philosophy (in “Steven Brust: The Complete Package”), speaking repeatedly in regards to communicating everything he wanted to say, while not explaining too much. Through watching “Prometheus” again, and studying the extras, what becomes apparent is that Ridley Scott and company created a rich tapestry of people, technology, and worlds that enrich their story. Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway's adventures fashioned them into interesting and compelling characters. The elaborate space stations Peter Weyland constructed capture the best dreams of Science Fiction. The Weyland base on Mars, glimpsed in the background during the crew briefing, likewise beckons. The fictional universe Ridley Scott, Dan O'Bannon, and Ronald Shusett created for “Alien” spawned numerous sequels, comic books, novels, toys, and other tie-in products. I can only imagine all that “Prometheus” may eventually give birth to.
Even after watching it several times, I look forward to watching the movie again. Not because "Prometheus" is cool, fun, scary, or exciting (although it's all those things), but also because it’s so rich in ideas, and makes me wonder about the questions it asks. But then, what else should I expect from a movie named after the Greek god credited with the creation of man, and who represents our best efforts to learn more, to achieve more, and to become more.
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