Alien Dimensions: Prometheus in 3D

It has been 30 years since Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner, and he hasn’t lensed an indelible image since. That is, until Prometheus, the Alien prequel which resurrects H.R. Giger’s oozingly organic set and creature design. Scott has never had a more brilliant collaborator, and filming the late Giger’s vision in elegantly executed 3D makes for an immersively entertaining spectacle, opening up the dank corridors of Alien into deepening chasms and high-vaulted chambers. It’s a 3D film with depth effects in every frame, one of the rare blockbusters to fully take advantage of the technology.

The story is starry-eyed pulp, as God-fearing scientist Elisabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) believes that the symbols from ancient cave paintings point to a distant planet that may hold the secret to the origins of human life. She and her douchey husband Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are hired by the demonstrably evil Weyland Corporation to explore said planet, and discover that its inhabitants, instead of divulging the secrets of the universe, might want to implant wriggling monsters into their chests.

There’s a lot of convoluted mythmaking here, along with a tossed off religion vs. science debate, but in its most basic form it follows the template popularized by The Thing From Another World (1951), where a small group of adventurers are trapped in an isolated area and threatened by a malevolent force. In the hands of Howard Hawks, the setup is an excuse to explore the dynamics of a group at work, while It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958) is a B-movie spin on the material more concerned with streamlined thrills. It is the latter that was one of the main influences onĀ Alien, although initially unacknowledged. The ’58 Edward L. Cahn film is about an exploratory space ship in which a monstrous alien stowaway hitches a ride on the return trip to Earth. Screenwriter Jerome Bixby said, “I feel like the grandfather of Alien“, because of all of the similarities between the two films, and even consulted his lawyer about taking legal action against Dan O’Bannon’s script (Which is all very silly, considering how much he admittedly lifted from the Hawks film).

Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihths’ script for Prometheus, despite all its gestures towards the mystical, retains the structure of Thing and It! and Alien. It is almost a beat for beat remake of the latter, opening with a steadi-cam tour of an emptied out ship, its inhabitants still in stasis. Then there is the touch down onto the strange planet, the growing realization that something is “off” (including a foreboding storm in both), with chaos soon ensuing. The only departure Prometheus takes from Alien and It! is that the main action occurs on the alien planet, not the ship. This allows for grand landscape shots of a dramatic mountain valley (shot in Iceland), that opens up the film and creates a nice tension with the tight dark hallways that dominates the rest of the action inside what is thought to be a hollowed out hill. These interiors eventually open up themselves, revealing intricately designed, bone-edged chambers. These grand crevasses and dark hallways are perfect for 3D, and Scott and his collaborators take full advantage.

Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski was instrumental in getting Scott to shoot in 3D, convincing him that they could shoot at the same tempo as 2D with new “atom” rigs from 3ality Technica (see below) that are half the size of usual stereoscopic setups. This allowed them to attach them to tripods, dollies and steadicams, enabling the same freedom of motion as 2D cameras. Stephen Pizzo from 3ality describes the setup: “They had the four studio cams working continuously and they would bring in the steadicam rig as required. The crew moved the rigs around just as if they were regular cameras, and other than the addition of a convergence puller for that shoot, it looked very much like a standard crew compilation.” The results are often stunning, as the film adds the cavernous dropoffs of waterfalls and mountain valleys to add to the depth effects of the narrow passageways of Alien. Further enhancing the effect is the sparing use of green screen, with the majority of scenes shot in massive sets constructed by Scott’s long time production designer Arthur Max. This gives the 3D a tactility gone missing in most of the all-CG 3D blockbusters. According to Wolski in Variety, Scott reacted to the new technology by saying, “Guys, we’ve been shooting 3D all our lives. We always think three-dimensional, now we just have a tool to enhance it.”

0 Response Alien Dimensions: Prometheus in 3D
Posted By SeeingI : June 12, 2012 4:07 pm

I’d argue that the final image of Thelma & Louise’s convertible going off the cliff has a legit claim to indelibility.

Posted By SeeingI : June 12, 2012 4:07 pm

I’d argue that the final image of Thelma & Louise’s convertible going off the cliff has a legit claim to indelibility.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : June 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Bixby wasn’t the only one. A.E. Van Vogt sued “Alien”s producers for ripping off his story “Black Destroyer” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939). He won a modest settlement and probably could have gotten a much bigger one had he chosen to fight it through the courts.

Posted By John Maddox Roberts : June 12, 2012 4:40 pm

Bixby wasn’t the only one. A.E. Van Vogt sued “Alien”s producers for ripping off his story “Black Destroyer” (Astounding Science Fiction, July 1939). He won a modest settlement and probably could have gotten a much bigger one had he chosen to fight it through the courts.

Posted By swac44 : June 12, 2012 5:11 pm

Saw Prometheus in IMAX 3D yesterday, thoroughly enjoyed it. Love how it ties into the original Alien and “solves” some of its mysteries (obviously Weyland Corporation knew there was something on that planet, now we know how they knew), and from what I’ve read, Scott toned down the spiritual mumbo jumbo from what was in the original script, and for that we should be thankful.

The film’s not perfect–the Johnny Rotten-esque geologist made me wonder why he wasn’t ditched from the mission from the get-go, how could a sociopath like that ever wind up in the crew of a space mission?–and although it shares themes with 2001: A Space Odyssey (even on the fake Weyland Corp. website where you can find quotes from Nietzche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra), it’s probably best not to try and hold it up for comparison to Kubrick’s masterpiece.

But considering how spotty Scott’s filmography gets after Thelma & Louise (I do like Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and American Gangster), it’s great to see him chalk up one more title on the “good” list.

Posted By swac44 : June 12, 2012 5:11 pm

Saw Prometheus in IMAX 3D yesterday, thoroughly enjoyed it. Love how it ties into the original Alien and “solves” some of its mysteries (obviously Weyland Corporation knew there was something on that planet, now we know how they knew), and from what I’ve read, Scott toned down the spiritual mumbo jumbo from what was in the original script, and for that we should be thankful.

The film’s not perfect–the Johnny Rotten-esque geologist made me wonder why he wasn’t ditched from the mission from the get-go, how could a sociopath like that ever wind up in the crew of a space mission?–and although it shares themes with 2001: A Space Odyssey (even on the fake Weyland Corp. website where you can find quotes from Nietzche’s Also Sprach Zarathustra), it’s probably best not to try and hold it up for comparison to Kubrick’s masterpiece.

But considering how spotty Scott’s filmography gets after Thelma & Louise (I do like Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and American Gangster), it’s great to see him chalk up one more title on the “good” list.

Posted By Tammy : June 12, 2012 5:49 pm

Liked that this movie was somewhat layered in religious overtones and they contridicted each other. Aliens made us – God made the aliens. God vs aliens. Much better than ALien vs Predator.
Overall a good movie and a good idea to pre date ALien movies.

Posted By Tammy : June 12, 2012 5:49 pm

Liked that this movie was somewhat layered in religious overtones and they contridicted each other. Aliens made us – God made the aliens. God vs aliens. Much better than ALien vs Predator.
Overall a good movie and a good idea to pre date ALien movies.

Posted By Qalice : June 12, 2012 7:26 pm

Ridley Scott’s a formidable visual artist, but when he doesn’t have a good script he doesn’t make a good movie. Prometheus is an overcrowded version of The Idiot Plot — every character has to do the dumbest possible thing to make the movie go foward. I think the writers must have gotten hold of a Bible comic book with pages missing and taken it very seriously. It was a sad disappointment for this fan of both Alien and Bladerunner.

Posted By Qalice : June 12, 2012 7:26 pm

Ridley Scott’s a formidable visual artist, but when he doesn’t have a good script he doesn’t make a good movie. Prometheus is an overcrowded version of The Idiot Plot — every character has to do the dumbest possible thing to make the movie go foward. I think the writers must have gotten hold of a Bible comic book with pages missing and taken it very seriously. It was a sad disappointment for this fan of both Alien and Bladerunner.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 9:43 pm

I know what my dad and older brother with have to see this year! They go to the sci-fi movies every year one comes out! I’m sure they’ll want to go to this one and the rave or complain about it afterwards like they do every time they go to see these sci-fi films!

Posted By Juana Maria : June 12, 2012 9:43 pm

I know what my dad and older brother with have to see this year! They go to the sci-fi movies every year one comes out! I’m sure they’ll want to go to this one and the rave or complain about it afterwards like they do every time they go to see these sci-fi films!

Posted By dukeroberts : June 14, 2012 2:17 pm

I saw it in 2-D and liked it just fine. While it wasn’t as deep as I was hoping or was led to believe it would be, it was still a good movie. The characters were a little weak is all. I blame Damon Lindelof for that though. He wrote the darn thing.

I also like Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and American Gangster. I also liked A Good Year. I am apparently in the minority on that. Marion Cotillard weakened me. And another indelible image from a Ridley Scott movie is the scene of Ray Liotta being fed his own brain by Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 14, 2012 2:17 pm

I saw it in 2-D and liked it just fine. While it wasn’t as deep as I was hoping or was led to believe it would be, it was still a good movie. The characters were a little weak is all. I blame Damon Lindelof for that though. He wrote the darn thing.

I also like Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men and American Gangster. I also liked A Good Year. I am apparently in the minority on that. Marion Cotillard weakened me. And another indelible image from a Ridley Scott movie is the scene of Ray Liotta being fed his own brain by Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 15, 2012 4:06 pm

Duke Roberts:I cannot view 3-D fims like everyone else because I have a rare eye condition that paralyzed the muscles in one of my eyes. It’s sad, I know but I live with it. I have not seen the films you mentioned,more than a few moments on AMCtv. As for “Hannibal” if it is not the Hannibal who crossed the Alps on an elephant I don’t want to see him at all! As for Ray Liotta, I had,and still have a crush on him! I love the sci-fi movie he was in years ago that was similiar to “Escape from New York” and those “Death Race” movies. Do you by any chance know the film I’m talking about? All I know is that is used to be played a lot on TBS or TNT and certainly a lot on Syfy.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 15, 2012 4:06 pm

Duke Roberts:I cannot view 3-D fims like everyone else because I have a rare eye condition that paralyzed the muscles in one of my eyes. It’s sad, I know but I live with it. I have not seen the films you mentioned,more than a few moments on AMCtv. As for “Hannibal” if it is not the Hannibal who crossed the Alps on an elephant I don’t want to see him at all! As for Ray Liotta, I had,and still have a crush on him! I love the sci-fi movie he was in years ago that was similiar to “Escape from New York” and those “Death Race” movies. Do you by any chance know the film I’m talking about? All I know is that is used to be played a lot on TBS or TNT and certainly a lot on Syfy.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 15, 2012 4:33 pm

Juana- The Ray Liotta mkovie may be called No Escape.

Posted By dukeroberts : June 15, 2012 4:33 pm

Juana- The Ray Liotta mkovie may be called No Escape.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 15, 2012 6:50 pm

Duke Roberts:Thanks for writing me back! I see you have typos too. I hate those. I’ll try to find out if that is the one I saw all those years ago. Thanks again. Adios, mi amigo.

Posted By Juana Maria : June 15, 2012 6:50 pm

Duke Roberts:Thanks for writing me back! I see you have typos too. I hate those. I’ll try to find out if that is the one I saw all those years ago. Thanks again. Adios, mi amigo.

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