At an underground club called Cable London (in, you guessed it, London, England), we attended the Blu-ray release event for "Prometheus," Ridley Scott's return to both the sci-fi genre and the "Alien" franchise, which was met with more bemusement than amusement by audiences this summer.
Now that it's been released into the wilds of people's living rooms "Prometheus" has an opportunity to take on a second life, free from the ramped-up expectations of rabid fans who wanted more chestbursting facehuggery but wound up with a strange brew of existential angst and Lovecraftian creepy crawlies.
Though there's been talk of a sequel, the man who has more sway than Ridley Scott himself in that department is the Blu-ray's producer Charles De Lauzirika, whose content-packed disc (including a 3+ hour doc titled "The Furious Gods") promises that "questions will be answered." As the man who put together some of the best, most all-encompassing DVD supplemental features in history for Scott's other opuses "Alien" and "Blade Runner," only Lauzirika could work fans up into a lather for another trip into this very detailed but controversial universe.
"For a film as complicated as this you have to try to capture everything you possibly can and figure it out later," said Lauzirika during his presentation, "but along the way you're starting to identify interesting story threads in terms of the making of the film. What are more problematic issues, what are more interesting abandoned ideas. I always love that part of it, when you see so much work put into things and those get put off to the side because they didn't organically mesh with things as they were developing. To me that's always interesting. So I'm focusing on that, focusing on production problems, and I'm focusing on whatever the most important beats are for the overall story."
Besides some blooper footage of star Noomi Rapace fumbling with her egg-shaped space helmet, the set also includes a multitude of deleted scenes that shed light on some of the pesky questions that had some folk scratching their heads once "Prometheus" reached its open-ended conclusion. These scenes include an expanded opening in which the statuesque alien sacrifices himself by drinking the black goo, which now feels much more like a Teutonic ritual with added alien shamans. There's also an expanded ending in which Elisabeth Shaw (Rapace) learns that her not-so-gracious hosts were piloting their croissant-shaped ship to an alien Valhalla they call Paradise.
Lauzirika shot seven terabytes of footage from the conceptual period when "Prometheus" was still "a proper 'Alien' prequel" prior to skewing off into "Prometheus," through the movie's mixed reception in theaters. For him it was a dream come true.
"I was nine or 10 when I saw 'Alien' when it first came out," Lauzirika told us, "and I'm a lifelong 'Alien' geek. So for me the entire time I know exactly what I'm looking for from the 'Alien' perspective, but then I also have to factor in the 'Prometheus' story, which is its own thing."
After the killer presentation, we talked to several of the craftsmen who helped create the universe of "Prometheus," starting with Neal Scanlan, the creature designer responsible for the film's many beasties including the sinister Engineers and the final Xenomorph nicknamed The Deacon, which turned out to be quite rubbery and cute in person.
Scanlan's prosthetic creations for "Prometheus" are outstanding works of art, and proof positive that when something can be accomplished without the aid of CGI, it should be.
"It is quite a unique film because it's been a long time since a director has wanted so much to shoot on-camera," said Scanlan. "It was literally if we can get it in-camera we'll get it in-camera. The onus was to get on set, shoot it, find a way of making it work. There was never a moment in Ridley's world where you looked at something and said, 'That can't work!'"
Another man who lent the film some authenticity was Professor Anil Biltoo, a real-life linguistics expert who provided Scott with painstaking translations of Proto Indo European (PIE) to create the language of the movie's aliens.
Said Biltoo, "The first question that Charlie asked me was, 'Did you get any inspiration from 'Avatar'?' The first response and the most honest response was that was a tabula rasa, it wasn't started from any known human language. This one had to start on the basis that there was some obvious and rather deep connection between the speech of the aliens and terrestrial speech. Ridley didn't tell me why for a long time, and it wasn't until I read the script that I could see why he wanted to push the connection."
Arthur Max, the film's production designer, faced some daunting challenges creating a look that bridged the gap between "Alien" and the new story Scott was trying to tell.
"It was a very daunting for me as a designer with very little science fiction on my resume," Max admitted. "It was daunting for ANY designer because there was so much focus placed on Ridley coming back to the science fiction genre after sucha long break. It's the first kind of film I've done that's got a history and a fanbase. There was a responsibility."
Max took his cue for the Engineers from a mix of Neo-classical sculpture, Michaelangelo's David, and Elvis Presley's nose. When it came time to explain what he thought the purpose of the creatures in the domes was Max proved very illuminating.
"We'd always toyed with the idea of terraforming within the pyramid," said Max. "The scientists mistakenly take the idea that the whole place is a kind of atmospheric condenser to create life. That's the wrong impression. It really is a military weapons station manufacturing creature bombs to wipe us all out because we are a miscreant race of humanoids and a threat to the galaxy. Or it's a cautionary tale about, "Don't mess with genetic engineering, this is what can go wrong." We're doing that ourselves currently. The hubris of playing God. That's partly what we're about."
Finally we talked to Janty Yates, the genial costume designer who crafted the space suits out of whole cloth, literally. She emphasized the lengths she and Scott went to avoid the typical science fiction look for their characters.
"We didn't look at any films for inspiration," she admitted. "I watched as much as I could to see what to avoid, really. I think I learned a huge amount from that, and Ridley too. We just wanted to avoid the clichés. The problem is nearly everything's been done. You can go goth, you can go Chinese. I chose to go completely classic, as much as possible. "Star Trek" and their ilk are what we were trying to avoid. "
No worries, Janty, "Prometheus" is as far from the utopian optimism of "Star Trek" as you can get, but we're still not sure whether or not this franchise has the good will to continue or if Scott's movie is indeed the final frontier.
Brigitte's Home Movies tackles the "Prometheus" Blu-ray: