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War of the Worlds (2005 film)
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For the Byron Haskin film, see The War of the Worlds (1953 film). For the David Michael Latt film, see H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds (2005 film). For the Timothy Hines film, see H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds (2005 film).
War of the Worlds
An alien hand holds Earth, that is engulfed in flame. A red weed surrounds the hand. Above the image is the film's title, WAR OF THE WORLDS and the main actor, TOM CRUISE. Below is the release date, JUNE 29, and the cast and crew credits.
The War of the Worlds
by H.G. Wells
(United States theatrical)
(International theatrical; United States home video)
June 28, 2005 (Kuwait)
June 29, 2005 (United States)
War of the Worlds is a 2005 American epic science fiction disaster film and a loose adaptation of H. G. Wells's novel The War of the Worlds, directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Josh Friedman and David Koepp. It stars Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier, a divorced dock worker estranged from his children (Dakota Fanning and Justin Chatwin) and living separately from them. As his ex-wife drops their children off for him to look after for a few days, the planet is attacked by aliens that come up out of the ground (loosely based on H. G. Wells' Martians) driving Tripods and as Earth's armies are defeated, Ray tries to protect his children and flee to Boston to rejoin his ex-wife.
The film was shot in 73 days, using five different sound stages as well as locations at California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. The film was surrounded by a secrecy campaign so few details would be leaked before its release. Tie-in promotions were made with several companies, including Hitachi. The film was released in the United States on 29 June and in United Kingdom on 1 July. War of the Worlds was a box office success, and became 2005's fourth most successful film both domestically, with $234 million in North America, and $591 million overall. At the time of its release it was the highest grossing film starring Tom Cruise.
3 Production 3.1 Development
3.3 Design and visual effects
4 Release 4.1 Secrecy
4.2 Marketing and home media releases
5 Reception 5.1 Box office
5.2 Critical reaction
6 See also
8 External links
An opening narration explains that in the beginning, humans were unaware that intelligent beings were watching them, and making plans to eradicate them. Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise) is a container crane operator at a New Jersey port and is estranged from his children. He is visited by his ex-wife, Mary Ann (Miranda Otto), who drops off the children, 10-year old Rachel (Dakota Fanning) and teenager Robbie (Justin Chatwin), as she is going to visit her parents in Boston. Meanwhile T.V. reports tell of bizarre lightning storms which have knocked out power in parts of Europe. Robbie takes Ray's car out without his permission, so Ray starts searching for him. Outside, Ray notices a strange wall cloud, which starts to send out powerful lightning strikes, disabling all electronic devices in the area, including cars, forcing Robbie to come back. Ray heads down the street to investigate. He stops at a garage and tells Manny, the local mechanic, to replace the solenoid on a dead car.
Ray reaches the place where multiple lightning bolts struck the ground and witnesses the ground heaving up as a massive machine with three long legs climbs out. The Tripod gives off a loud blaring sound before opening fire with heat-rays, vaporizing bystanders and destroying everything in its path. Ray manages to barely escape; he packs up his kids and leaves in the vehicle Manny repaired as the Tripod destroys the town. He drives to Mary Ann's house in suburban New Jersey to take refuge that night. With phone lines down and uncertain about the danger Ray decides that they should stay in the basement from where they hear loud explosions occur through the night. The next morning he discovers a crashed Boeing 747 in the street outside the house. He meets a small news team surveying the wreckage and scavenging the flight's meals. The female member of the team says that she was attached to a National Guard unit in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. She informs Ray that there are Tripods on the rampage all over the world saying that news feed was lost from New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C, London and numerous other cities when the attacks began. She also shows him footage of Tripods attacking an undisclosed city, with the unknown pilots entering the machines through the lightning strikes. She speculates that the machines were in place for thousands of years meaning the invasion had been planned for a long time.
Ray decides to take the kids to Boston to be with their mother. Robbie, trying to join the fight against the aliens, tries to leave with the U.S. military, but Ray and Rachel stop him. They are forced to leave their car after a mob surrounds them and takes the vehicle by force. They later survive a Tripod attack which causes the sinking of a Hudson River ferry. The family then comes across the Marine Corps and Air Force battling the Tripods. The military sets up a line of defense on a hill top with vehicles consisting of M1 Abrams tanks, LAV-25 armored vehicles, and HUMVEE trucks loaded with heavy soldier infantry along with mounted Browning M2 machine guns, along with air support from Apache helicopters and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets. Meanwhile Ray is forced to choose between being separated from Rachel and preventing Robbie from joining the fight, Ray lets him go with the soldiers. The tripods advance and the military moves in their last stand to delay them. They fight valiantly, but the Tripods destroy all military resistance, presumably also killing Robbie. The Tripods are shown to be protected by an energy shield that makes them invulnerable. While escaping, Ray and Rachel are offered shelter by Harlan Ogilvy (Tim Robbins), who vows revenge on the aliens after his family was killed by them.
While hiding in Harlan's basement, they witness the Tripods spreading a strange red weed substance everywhere. They all hide from a snake-like probe and a group of four aliens who explore the basement. The next morning, Ogilvy suffers a mental breakdown while witnessing a Tripod harvesting blood and tissue from a human. Concerned that Ogilvy's yelling and ranting will attract the Tripods, Ray reluctantly kills Ogilvy to silence him. The basement hideout is exposed when a second probe catches them sleeping. Ray cripples the probe using an axe, but a panicked Rachel runs outside and is caught by the Tripod. As he chases after the Tripod and Rachel, Ray finds a grenade bandolier with several hand grenades in a destroyed Humvee and throws one of them at the Tripod to attract its attention. He is captured as he planned and placed in the same basket with Rachel, a disarmed soldier, and several other prisoners. Ray discovers Rachel is now in shock after she witnessed captives being sucked up one at a time into the ship to be harvested. As Ray finally calms her down, the aliens select Ray to pull him inside for harvesting, but the other prisoners manage to pull him back. The bandolier he was wearing was left inside the Tripod and Ray was able to pull all of the pins, causing a massive internal explosion, destroying the Tripod and freeing the captives.
Ray and Rachel arrive in a devastated Boston, where the red weeds are dying and the Tripods have been behaving erratically and crashing; infected by Earth pathogens, both the red weeds and the aliens are dying out. Ray notices that the force fields are down on a Tripod, prompting nearby soldiers to attack and destroy it. As a crowd approaches the downed machine, a hatch opens, revealing an alien that lets out a final growl before it dies. Ray and Rachel reach Mary Ann's parents' house, where they are reunited with Mary Ann and find to their surprise, Robbie, who has somehow survived the hilltop massacre. The closing narration reveals that with the cost of one billion lives "Man had earned his immunity, his right to survive".
Tom Cruise as Ray Ferrier
Dakota Fanning as Rachel Ferrier
Justin Chatwin as Robbie Ferrier
Miranda Otto as Mary Ann Davis
Tim Robbins as Harlan Ogilvy
Rick Gonzalez as Vincent
Yul Vázquez as Julio
Lenny Venito as Manny the Mechanic
Lisa Ann Walter as Cheryl
Ann Robinson as Grandmother, played a lead role in the 1953 film.
Gene Barry as Grandfather, played a lead role in the 1953 film.
David Alan Basche as Tim
Roz Abrams as Herself
Camillia Sanes as News Producer
Amy Ryan as Neighbor with Toddler
Danny Hoch as Policeman
Morgan Freeman as the Narrator
Channing Tatum as Boy in Church Scene (uncredited)
Dee Bradley Baker as Alien vocals (uncredited)
After collaborating in 2002's Minority Report, Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise were interested in working together again. Spielberg stated about Cruise, "He's such an intelligent, creative partner, and brings such great ideas to the set that we just spark each other. I love working with Tom Cruise." Cruise met with Spielberg during the filming of Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002) and gave three options of films to create together, one of them being an adaptation of The War of the Worlds. Spielberg chose The War of the Worlds and stated, "We looked at each other and the lights went on. As soon as I heard it, I said `Oh my God! War of the Worlds – absolutely.' That was it."
The film is Spielberg's third on the subject of alien visitation, along with Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Producer and longtime collaborator Kathleen Kennedy notes that with War of the Worlds, Spielberg had the opportunity to explore the antithesis of the characters brought to life in E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. "When we first started developing E.T., it was a much edgier, darker story and it actually evolved into something that was more benign. I think that the edgier, darker story has always been somewhere inside him. Now, he's telling that story." Spielberg stated that he just thought it would be fun to make a "really scary film with really scary aliens", something which he had never done before. Spielberg was intent on telling a contemporary story, with Kennedy stating the story was created as a fantasy, but depicted in a hyper-realistic way.
"For the first time in my life I'm making an alien picture where there is no love and no attempt at communication."
– Steven Spielberg
Josh Friedman delivered a screenplay, which was then rewritten by David Koepp. After re-reading the novel, Koepp decided to do the script following a single narrator, "a very limited point of view, from someone on the very periphery of events rather than someone involved in events", and created a list of elements he would not use due to being "cliché", such as the destruction of landmark buildings. Some aspects of the book were heavily adapted and condensed: Tim Robbins' character was an amalgalm of two characters in the book, with the name borrowed from a third. While changing the setting from 19th century to present day, Koepp also tried to "take the modern world back to the 1800s", with the characters being devoid of electricity and modern techniques of communication.
Spielberg accepted the script after finding it had several similarities to his personal life, including the divorce of his parents (Ray and Mary Ann's divorce), and because the plight of the fictional survivors reflects his own uncertainty after the devastation of the September 11 attacks. For Spielberg, the characters' stories of survival needed to be the main focus, as they featured the American mindset of never giving up. Spielberg described War of the Worlds as "a polar opposite" to Close Encounters, with that movie featuring a man leaving family to travel with aliens, while War of the Worlds focused on keeping the family together. At the same time, the aliens and their motivations would not be much explored, as "we just experience the results of these nefarious plans to replace us with themselves".
Although accepting the script, Spielberg asked for several changes. Spielberg had been against the idea of the aliens arriving in spaceships, since every alien invasion movie used such a vehicle. The original Martian cylinders were discarded, where Spielberg replaced the origins of the Tripods with stating they were buried underground in the Earth long ago.
Destroyed Boeing 747 used on the War of the Worlds set. Currently, visitors can view the destroyed airliner set during the Universal Studios's back-lot-tour.
Filming took place in Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, California, and New York. The film shooting lasted an estimated 72 days. Spielberg originally intended to shoot War of the Worlds after Munich, but Tom Cruise liked David Koepp's script so much that he suggested Spielberg postpone the former while he would do the same with Mission: Impossible III. Most of Munich's crew was brought in to work on War of the Worlds as well. In 2004, the production crews quickly were set up on both coasts to prepare for the start date, scouting locations up and down the Eastern Seaboard and preparing stages and sets which would be used when the company returned to Los Angeles after the winter holiday. Pre-production took place in only three months, essentially half the amount of time normally allotted for a film of similar size and scope. Spielberg notes, however, "This wasn't a cram course for War of the Worlds. This was my longest schedule in about 12 years. We took our time." Spielberg collaborated with crews at the beginning of pre-production with the use of previsualization, considering the tight schedule.
The scene depicting the first appearance of the Tripods was filmed in Newark, New Jersey. Later, Spielberg filmed several scenes in Virginia. The continuous scene was filmed in California.
The ferry scene was filmed in the New York town of Athens, and Mary Ann's parents house was located in Brooklyn (but was featured in the film in Boston). For the scene involving a crashed Boeing 747, the production crew bought an out-of-use airplane, with transportation costs of $2 million, destroyed it into pieces, and built houses around them. The destroyed plane was kept for the Universal Studios back-lot tour. Ray's house was filmed in Bayonne, New Jersey (with a soundstage doubling the interior); meanwhile, the valley war sequence was filmed in Lexington, Virginia and Mystery Mesa in California. The scene where the tripod is shot down and crashes through a factory was filmed in Naugatuck, Connecticut. The scene of the bodies floating down the river was filmed on the Farmington River in Windsor, Connecticut by a second unit using a stand in for Dakota Fanning (the back of her character) with the portion showing the faces of the credited actors cut in later. Some filming was shot on the Korean War Veterans Parkway in Staten Island, NY.  The film used six sound stages, spread over three studio lots.
Design and visual effects
Industrial Light & Magic was the main special effects company for the movie. While Spielberg had used computers to help visualize sequences in pre-production before, Spielberg said, "This is the first film I really tackled using the computer to animate all the storyboards." He decided to employ the technique extensively after a visit to his friend George Lucas. In order to keep the realism, the usage of computer-generated imagery shots and bluescreen was limited, with most of the digital effects being blended with miniature and live-action footage.
The design of the Tripods was described by Spielberg as "graceful," with artist Doug Chiang replicating aquatic life forms. At the same time, the director wanted a design that would be iconic while still providing a tribute to the original Tripods, as well as intimidating so the audience would not be more interested about the aliens inside than on the vehicle itself. The visual effects crew tried to blend organic and mechanical elements in the Tripods depiction, and made extensive studies for the movements of the vehicle to be believable, considering the "contradiction" of having a large tank-like head being carried by thin and flexible legs. Animator Randal M. Dutra considered the movements themselves to have a "terrestrial buoyance", in that they were walking on land but had an aquatic flow, and Spielberg described the Tripods as moving like "scary ballet dancers". Most of the alien elements revolved around the number three – the Tripod had three eyes, and both the vehicle and the aliens had three main limbs with three fingers each. Visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman considered depicting the scale of the Tripod as challenging, considering "Steven wanted to make sure that these creatures were 150 feet tall", as it was the height described by Wells in the novel. The aliens themselves had designs based on jellyfish, with movements inspired by red-eyed tree frogs, and an amphibian quality particularly on the wet skin. A styrofoam alien was used as a stand-in to guide the actors in the basement scene. Spielberg did not want any blood or gore during the Heat-Ray deaths; in the words of Helman, "this was going to be a horror movie for kids". So the effects crew came up with the vaporization of the bodies, and considering it could not be fully digital due to both the complexity of the effect and the schedule, live-action dust was used alongside the CGI ray assimilation and particles. Digital birds followed the Tripods in most scenes to symbolize the presence of death, which Chiang compared to vultures and added that "you don't know if these birds are going to the danger or away from it, if you should follow them or run away."
During the scene where Ray's minivan is attacked by a mob, Janusz Kaminski and Spielberg wanted a lot of interactive lights, so they added different kinds of lights, including Coleman lamps, oil lanterns, flashlights and Maglights. The IL&M crew admitted that the destruction of the Bayonne Bridge was the toughest scene to be made with heavy usage mix of CGI effects and live action elements, and a four-week deadline so the shot could be used in a Super Bowl trailer. The scene originally had only a gas station exploding, but then Spielberg suggested blowing up the bridge as well. The scene involved Tripods shooting a Heat-Ray towards the minivan and minivan escapes from it involved a lot of CGI layers to work out. Over 500 CGI effects were used in the film.
Costume designer Joanna Johnston created 60 different versions of Ray's leather jacket, to illustrate the degrees to which he is weathered from the beginning of the journey to the end. "He begins with the jacket, a hoodie, and two t-shirts," explains Johnston. One piece of Dakota Fanning's costume that takes on a special importance is her lavender horse purse: "I wanted her to have something that made her feel safe, some little thing that she could sleep with and put over her face," Johnston notes. "That was the lavender horse purse. We tied it up on a ribbon and Dakota hung it on her body, so it was with her at all times." Johnston dressed Robbie for an unconscious emulation of his father, "They're more alike than they realize, with great tension on the surface," Johnston says.
War of the Worlds: Music from the Motion Picture
Film score by John Williams
John Williams chronology
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith War of the Worlds Memoirs of a Geisha
AllMusic 3/5 stars
Filmtracks 3/5 stars
SoundtrackNet 3.5/5 stars
Longtime Spielberg collaborator John Williams composed the music score of War of the Worlds. It was the first time Williams had to compose with an incomplete Spielberg film, as only the first six reels, totalling sixty minutes, were ready for him to use as reference. He considered the score "a very serious piece," which had to combine "necessary frightening atmosphere" with "propulsively rhythmic drive for the action scenes" – the music would be symbolically "pulling forward" vehicles in chase scenes such as Ray driving out of Bayonne or the Tripod attacking the Hudson ferry. Williams added small nods to classic monster movie scores by having orchestras doing a "grand gesture" in scenes overlooking Tripods. To increase the scariness, Williams added a female chorus with a crescendo resembling a shriek – which would "humanize" the track representing "victims that go out without saying an 'ouch' – they're gone before they can say that" – for the Tripod attacks, and a nearly inaudible male choir – which Williams compared to "Tibetan monks, the lowest known pitch our bodies can make" – for the aliens exploring the basement. The only deviation from orchestras were electronic sounds for the opening and closing narrations.
A soundtrack album was released by Decca Records, that featured the film's music and Morgan Freeman's opening and closing narration. The songs "Little Deuce Coupe" and "Hushabye Mountain" are also featured in the movie, the former sung by Tom Cruise, and the latter by Dakota Fanning.
War of the Worlds: Music from the Motion Picture
1. "Prologue" 2:52
2. "The Ferry Scene" 5:49
3. "Reaching the Country" 3:24
4. "The Intersection Scene" 4:13
5. "Ray and Rachel" 2:41
6. "Escape from the City" 3:49
7. "Probing the Basement" 4:12
8. "Refugee Status" 3:50
9. "The Attack on the Car" 2:44
10. "The Separation of the Family" 2:36
11. "The Confrontation with Ogilvy" 4:34
12. "The Return to Boston" 4:29
13. "Escape from the Basket" 9:21
14. "The Reunion" 3:16
15. "Epilogue" 3:11
The film was described as an anti-war film, as civilians run and only try to save themselves and their family instead of fighting back the alien Tripods. Debra J. Saunders of San Francisco Chronicle described the film as "If aliens invade, don't fight back. Run." Saunders compared the film to Independence Day, where the civilians do run, but they support the military efforts. Many reviewers considered the film tried to recreate the atmosphere of the September 11 attacks, with bystanders struggling to survive and the usage of missing-persons displays. Spielberg declared to Reader's Digest that beside the work being a fantasy, the threat represented was real: "They are a wake-up call to face our fears as we confront a force intent on destroying our way of life." Screenwriter David Koepp stated that he tried not to put explicit references to September 11 or the Iraq War, but said that the inspiration for the scene where Robbie joins the army were teenagers fighting at the Gaza Strip – "I was thinking of teenagers in Gaza throwing bottles and rocks at tanks, and I think that when you're that age you don't fully consider the ramifications of what you're doing and you're very much caught up in the moment and passion, whether that's a good idea or not." Retained from the novel is the aliens being defeated, not by men's weapons, but the planet's smallest creatures, bacteria, which Koepp described as "nature, in a way, knowing a whole lot more than we do".
War of the Worlds premiered at the Ziegfeld Theatre on 23 June 2005. There, Tom Cruise revealed his relationship with Katie Holmes. Six days later, on 29 June, the film was released in approximately 3,908 theaters across America.
Spielberg kept most of the parts secret in the filmmaking, as the cast and crew were left confused about how the aliens looked. When asked about the secrecy of the screenplay, David Koepp answered, "[Spielberg] wouldn't give [the screenplay] to anybody". Koepp explained he would e-mail it to him, and he would give a section of the script that was relating to whatever somebody was doing. Miranda Otto thought of not even discussing the story with her family and friends. Otto said, "I know some people who always say, 'Oh, everything's so secret.' I think it's good. In the old days people didn't get to know much about movies before they came out and nowadays there's just so much information. I think a bit of mystery is always really good. You don't want to blow all of your cards beforehand."
Spielberg admitted after keeping things secret for so long, there is in the end the temptation to reveal too much to the detriment of the story at the press conference of War of the Worlds. So, Spielberg only revealed the hill scene, where Ray tries to stop his son from leaving, stating "to say more would reveal too much." The secrecy caused The Sun to claim the film would surpass Titanic's 200 million budget, which at the time held the record for the most expensive film ever made. The actual budget of the film was US $132 million.
Marketing and home media releases
Paramount Pictures Interactive Marketing debuted a human survival online game on its official website, waroftheworlds.com, on 14 April to promote the film. Hitachi collaborated with Paramount Pictures for a worldwide promotional campaign, under the title of “The Ultimate Visual Experience”. The agreement was announced by Kazuhiro Tachibana, general manager of Hitachi’s Consumer Business Group. Kazuhiro stated, "Our ‘The Ultimate Visual Experience’ campaign is a perfect match between Spielberg and Cruise’s pursuit of the world’s best in film entertainment and Hitachi’s commitment to the highest picture quality through its digital consumer electronic products."
The film was released on VHS and DVD on 22 November 2005, with both a single-disc edition and a two-disc special edition featured production featurettes, documentaries and trailers. The film grossed $113,000,000 in DVD sales, bringing its total film gross to $704,745,540, ranking tenth place in the 2005 DVD sales chart. Paramount released the film on Blu-ray Disc on 1 June 2010.
On 29 June 2005, the film grossed approximately US$21 million worldwide, and earned the thirty-eighth biggest opening week gross with grossing $98,826,764 in 3,908 theatres, averaging $25,288 in each theater. Meanwhile, on Independence Day weekend, War of the Worlds grossed $64,878,725 in 3908 theatres also, giving an average of $16,601. This is the third-biggest film opening on Independence Day weekend. The film earned $200 million in 24 days, ranking thirty-seventh place in the list of fastest films to gross $200 million. The film has grossed $704,745,540 including DVD sales , making it the fourth highest grossing film of 2005, and the sixty-sixth highest grossing film worldwide.
The movie gained positive critical consensus. Review aggregator website Metacritic gave it an average score of 73 based on 40 reviews. On another website, Rotten Tomatoes, War of the Worlds currently garners a 74% "fresh" rating based on 250 reviews and the critical consensus stating [that] "Steven Spielberg's adaptation of War of the Worlds delivers on the thrill and paranoia of H.G. Wells' classic novel while impressively updating the action and effects for modern audiences."
James Berardinelli praised the acting and considered that focusing the narrative on the struggle of one character made the film more effective, but described the ending as weak, even though Spielberg "does the best he can to make it cinematically dramatic". Total Film's review gave War of the Worlds 4 out of 5 stars, considering that "Spielberg finds fresh juice in a tale already adapted for film, TV, stage, radio and record", and describing the film as having many "startling images", comparing the first Tripod attack to the Omaha Beach landing from Saving Private Ryan.
Los Angeles Times' Kenneth Turan, who felt the special effects were unusual, stated that Spielberg may actually have done his job in War of the Worlds "better than he realizes", showing how fragile the world is. Turan claimed Spielberg raised a most provocative question: "Is the ultimate fantasy an invasion from outer space, or is it the survival of the human race?" However, Broomfield Enterprise's Dan Marcucci and Nancy Serougi did not share Berardinelli and Turan's opinion. They felt that Morgan Freeman's narration was unnecessary, and that the first half was "great" but the second half "became filled with clichés, riddled with holes, and tainted by Tim Robbins".
Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune gave the film three and a half stars (out of four), saying "War of the Worlds definitely wins its battle, but not the war." Wilmington stated the film brought the viewers on a wild journey through two sides of Spielberg: the dark and the light. He also said the film contained a core sentiment similar to that of Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. About.com's Rebecca Murray gave a positive review, stating, "Spielberg almost succeeds in creating the perfect alien movie", with criticism only for the ending. Jonathan Rosenbaum of Chicago Reader praised the special effects and Cruise's performance. Roger Ebert criticized the "retro design" and considered that despite the big budget, the alien invasion was "rudimentary" and "not very interesting", regarding the best scenes as Ray walking among the airliner wreckage and a train running in flames, declaring that "such scenes seem to come from a kind of reality different from that of the tripods."
The French film magazine Cahiers du cinéma ranked the film as 8th place in its list of best films of the 2000s. Japanese film director Kiyoshi Kurosawa listed the film as the best film of 2000-2009.
War of the Worlds was nominated for three Academy Awards, Visual Effects, Sound Mixing (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Ron Judkins), and Sound Editing, losing all to King Kong. The film was nominated for six Saturn Awards, and won Best Performance by a Younger Actor (Dakota Fanning). The film won a Golden Reel Award for Sound Effects & Foley, a World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Soundtrack, and three VES Awards for its special effects, and was nominated for three Empire Awards, three Satellite Awards, and an MTV Movie Award. In a less positive light, Cruise's performance was nominated for Worst Actor at the Razzie Awards.
The War of the Worlds (1953 film)
Deus ex machina
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Prometheus (2012 film)
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A female figure in silhouette stands before an enormous statue of a humanoid head. Text at the middle of the poster reveals the tagline "The Search For Our Beginning Could Lead To Our End". Text at the bottom of the poster reveals the title, production credits and rating.
Theatrical release poster
Scott Free Productions
20th Century Fox
May 30, 2012 (Belgium,
France and Switzerland)
June 1, 2012 (United Kingdom)
June 8, 2012 (North America)
Prometheus (/prəˈmiːθɪəs/ pro-MEE-thee-uhs) is a 2012 British-American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott, written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, and starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, and Charlize Theron. It is set in the late 21st century and centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as it follows a star map discovered among the artifacts of several ancient Earth cultures. Seeking the origins of humanity, the crew arrives on a distant world and discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.
Development of the film began in the early 2000s as a fifth installment in the Alien franchise. Scott and director James Cameron developed ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott's 1979 science-fiction horror film Alien. By 2003, the development of Alien vs. Predator took precedence, and the project remained dormant until 2009 when Scott again showed interest. Spaihts wrote a script for 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, Lindelof joined the project to rewrite Spaihts's script, and he and Scott developed a story that precedes the story of Alien but is not directly connected to that franchise. According to Scott, although 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.
Prometheus entered production in April 2010, with extensive design phases during which the technology and creatures that the film required were developed. Principal photography began in March 2011, with an estimated US$120–130 million budget. The project was shot using 3D cameras throughout, almost entirely on practical sets, and on location in England, Iceland, Spain, and Scotland. It was promoted with a marketing campaign that included viral activities on the web. Three videos featuring the film's leading actors in character, which expanded on elements of the fictional universe, were released and met with a generally positive reception and awards. Prometheus was released on June 1, 2012, in the United Kingdom and on June 8, 2012, in North America. It grossed over $403 million worldwide. Reviews praised both the film's visual aesthetic design and the acting, most notably Fassbender's performance as the android David. However, the plot drew a mixed response from critics, who criticized plot elements that remained unresolved or were predictable.
4 Production 4.1 Development
4.4 Principal photography
5 Design 5.1 Costumes and sound
5.2 Sets and vehicles
5.3 Creature effects
5.4 Visual effects
6 Marketing 6.1 Viral campaign
7 Release 7.1 Pre-release
7.2 Box office
7.3 Critical reception
7.5 Home media
10 External links
As a hovering spacecraft departs an Earth-like world, a humanoid alien drinks a dark, bubbling liquid, then starts to disintegrate. The alien's remains cascade into a waterfall. His DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction.
In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map in Scotland that matches others from several unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity's forerunners, the "Engineers". Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds an expedition to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223 aboard the scientific vessel Prometheus. The ship's crew-members travel 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 the crew not to make contact without her permission.
The Prometheus lands on the barren, mountainous surface near a large artificial structure, which a team explores. Inside they find numerous stone cylinders, a large, monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the decapitated corpse of a large alien, thought to be an Engineer; Shaw recovers its head. Other bodies are found, leading the crew to surmise that the species is extinct. Crew members Millburn and Fifield grow uncomfortable with the true nature of the mission and attempt to return to Prometheus, but are left stranded in the structure when they get lost. The expedition is cut short when a rapidly approaching storm forces the crew to return to the ship. David secretly takes a cylinder from the structure, while the remaining ones begin leaking a dark liquid. Back in the ship's lab, the Engineer's DNA is found to match that of humans. David investigates the cylinder and the dark liquid inside. He intentionally taints a drink with the liquid and gives it to an unsuspecting Holloway after he states that he would do anything for answers. Shortly after, Shaw and Holloway have sex.
Inside the structure, a snakelike creature kills Millburn, and sprays a corrosive fluid that melts Fifield's helmet. Fifield falls face-first into a puddle of dark liquid. When the crew return, they find Millburn's corpse. David separately discovers a control room containing a surviving Engineer in stasis, and a star map highlighting Earth. Meanwhile, Holloway sickens rapidly. He is rushed back to Prometheus, but 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. Fearing the worst, she uses an automated surgery table to extract a squid-like creature from her abdomen. Shaw then discovers that Weyland has been in stasis aboard Prometheus. He explains that he wants to ask the Engineers to prevent his death from old age. As Weyland prepares to leave for the structure, Vickers addresses him as "Father".
A monstrous, mutated Fifield attacks the Prometheus's hangar bay and kills several crew members before he is killed. The Prometheus's captain, Janek, speculates that the structure was an Engineer military installation that lost control of a virulent biological weapon, the dark liquid. He also determines that the structure houses a spacecraft. Weyland and a team return to the structure, accompanied by Shaw. David wakes the Engineer from stasis and speaks to him in an attempt to explain what Weyland wants. The Engineer responds by decapitating David and killing Weyland and his team, before reactivating the spacecraft. Shaw flees and warns Janek that the Engineer is planning to release the liquid on Earth, convincing him to stop the spacecraft. Janek ejects the lifeboat and rams Prometheus into the alien craft, sacrificing himself and his two pilots. Vickers flees in an escape pod. The Engineer's disabled spacecraft crashes onto the ground; its wreckage crushes Vickers. Shaw goes to the lifeboat and finds her alien offspring is alive and has grown to gigantic size. David's still-active head warns Shaw that the Engineer has survived. The Engineer forces open the lifeboat's airlock and attacks Shaw, who releases her alien offspring onto the Engineer; it thrusts an ovipositor down the Engineer's throat, subduing him. Shaw recovers David's remains, and with his help, launches another Engineer spacecraft. She intends to reach the Engineers' homeworld in an attempt to understand why they wanted to destroy humanity.
In the lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the Engineer's chest.
Top to bottom: Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron and Idris Elba star in the film as, respectively, Elizabeth Shaw, Meredith Vickers and Janek
Noomi Rapace as Elizabeth Shaw:
Rapace described Shaw, an archaeologist, as a believer in God with a very strong faith, and said that, "In the middle of the movie, things happen and she changes into more of a warrior. And in the end, she’s such a survivor." To aid her method acting, she developed a complete backstory for Shaw, and worked with a dialect coach to achieve a British accent. She also asked her make-up artist to apply extra blood and sweat during filming to more accurately portray her character. Rapace said, "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 dismissed comparisons to the Alien franchise's Ellen Ripley. Rapace came to director Ridley Scott's attention for her performance as Lisbeth Salander in the 2009 drama film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She met Scott 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. Lucy Hutchinson, who was eight years old in 2012, portrays Shaw as a child.Michael Fassbender as David:
David is an android that acts as the ship's butler and maintenance man. It is designed to be indistinguishable from humans, and begins to develop "its own ego, insecurities, jealousy and envy". Writer Damon Lindelof stated that the character provides a non-human perspective on the film's events, and said, "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?" Fassbender said, "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". In developing his character, Fassbender avoided watching the android characters of Alien (1979) 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. Fassbender 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 on that of T. E. Lawrence. Scott favored Fassbender for the role; by January 2011 he was confirmed to have joined the cast, despite earlier reports his agents had sought too high a fee.Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers:
Vickers is a Weyland Corporation employee who is 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 said that this helped layer her character because "you're just so suspicious of her, instantly." The similarities between the 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 was cast in the role, she developed three new scenes with Scott and Lindelof to expand her character. Physical action scenes, some of which involved her running through sand in 30-pound (14 kg) boots were a problem for Theron. It was intended that Theron would portray Shaw, but a prior commitment to Mad Max: 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.Idris Elba as Janek:
Janek is the captain of the Prometheus. Elba described the character as "a longshoreman and a sailor", with a military background. He said, "[being the captain is] his life and the crew is his responsibility," and "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?'".Guy Pearce as Peter Weyland:
Weyland is the billionaire founder and CEO of Weyland Corp. Lindelof described him as having a massive ego and suffering from a god complex. Applying the necessary prosthetics and make-up to transform Pearce into the elderly Weyland took five hours, and an 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 the casting of Pearce made it possible for him to portray Weyland as both an elderly character, and a younger man who appeared in an earlier script draft.Logan Marshall-Green as Charlie Holloway:
Holloway is an archaeologist and Shaw's love interest. Marshall-Green was cast after he was seen performing on stage "off-off-off Broadway". He described Holloway as the "X Games type scientist", and said that he liked the character's "leap-before-looking" philosophy. He also said 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 said: "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." Marshall-Green contrasted Holloway with Shaw, and said, "she’s the believer. I’m the scientist. I’m the skeptic. I’m the atheist".Sean Harris as Fifield:
Fifield is a geologist who has become mentally 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".Rafe Spall as Millburn
Millburn is 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".
Other cast members include Kate Dickie as the ship's medic, Ford; Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong as, respectively, ship pilots Chance and Ravel; and Patrick Wilson as Shaw's father. Ian Whyte and Daniel James portray Engineers.
The central theme in Prometheus concerns the eponymous Titan of Greek mythology who defies the gods and gifts humanity with fire, for which he is subjected to eternal punishment. The gods want to limit their creations in case they attempt to usurp the gods. The film deals with humanity's relationship with the gods—their creators—and the consequence of defying them. A human expedition intends to find God and receive knowledge about belief, immortality and death. They find superior beings who appear god-like in comparison to humanity, and the Prometheus crew suffer consequences for their pursuit. Shaw is directly responsible for the events of the plot because she wants her religious beliefs affirmed, and believes she is entitled to answers from God; her questions remain unanswered and she is punished for her hubris. The film offers similar resolution, providing items of information but leaving the connections and conclusions to the audience, potentially leaving the question unanswered. Further religious allusions are implied by the Engineers' decision to punish humanity with destruction 2,000 years before the events of the film. Scott suggested that an Engineer was sent to Earth to stop humanity's increasing aggression, but was crucified, implying it was Jesus Christ. However, Scott felt that an explicit connection in the film would be "a little too on the nose."
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. David is created in the image of humanity, and while the human crew of the Prometheus ship are searching for their creators expecting answers, David is among his creators and is underwhelmed. David in turn questions his creators about why they are seeking their own. Lindelof described the ship as a prison for David. At the conclusion of the film, David's creator (Weyland) is dead and his fundamental programming is ended without someone to serve. Lindelof explained that David's programming becomes unclear and that he could be being programmed by Shaw or his own sense of curiosity. David holds an attraction to Shaw, watching her dreams as she sleeps in the same manner that he repeatedly watches Lawrence of Arabia. Following Weyland's death, David is left with Shaw, and is sincere and interested in following her, partly out of survival and partly out of curiosity.
Another theme is creation and the question of "Who Am I? Who Made Me? Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?" Development of the in-universe mythology explored the Judeo-Christian creation of man, but Scott was interested in Greco-Roman and Aztec creation myths about gods who create man in their own image by sacrificing a piece of themselves. This creation is shown in the film's opening in which an Engineer sacrifices itself after consuming the dark liquid, acting as a "gardener in space" to bring life to a world. One of their expeditions creates humanity, who create artificial life (David) in their own image. David then introduces the dark liquid to Holloway who impregnates a sterile Shaw, and the resulting child impregnates an Engineer, creating the child of all three generations. Scott likened the Engineers to the dark angels of John Milton's Paradise Lost, and said that humanity was their offspring and not God's.
Shaw is the only religious believer in the crew and openly displays her religious belief with a necklace of a Christian cross. Lindelof said that with her scientific knowledge, her beliefs felt outdated in 2093. Shaw is excited when she learns that she was created by the Engineers and not a supernatural deity, but it does not cause her to lose her faith, it reinforces it. Lindelof said that asking questions and searching for meaning is the point of being alive, and so the audience is left to question whether Shaw was protected by God because of her faith. Scott wanted the film to end with Shaw's declaration that she is still searching for definitive answers. Despite the religious themes, Lindelof said that Prometheus is pro-science and explores whether scientific knowledge and faith in God can co-exist.
Beside drawing several influences from Paradise Lost, The Atlantic's Govindini Murty noted further influences, and wrote that "[t]he striking images Ridley Scott devises for Prometheus reference everything from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 to Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and Mario Bava's Planet of the Vampires. Scott also expands on the original Alien universe by creating a distinctly English mythology informed by Milton's Paradise Lost and the symbolic drawings of William Blake."
Development on a fifth film in the Alien franchise was in progress by 2002. Scott considered 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's Alien creatures, 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's monsters against the titular characters of the Predator films; this project became 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 Alien sequel project, believing that the series was Fox's asset, and he was unwilling to deal with the studio's attempts to influence the potential sequel.
In May 2009, Fox said that the project was a "reboot" of the Alien franchise, and soon afterwards was reported as an untitled prequel to Alien. Development stopped in June 2009 when Fox clashed with Scott over his selection of former television advertisement director Carl Erik Rinsch as director. Fox was only interested in pursuing the project if Scott directed. By July 2009, Scott was contracted to direct the film, and screenwriter Jon Spaihts was hired to write the script based on his pitched idea for a direct Alien prequel. With the director and writer in place, and pleased with Spaihts's pitch, Fox scheduled a release date for December 2011, but this was eventually canceled. In June 2010, Scott announced that the script was complete and that pre-production would begin, and a filming date was set for January 2011. Fox eventually pushed to develop the project into an original work, and by July 2010, Lindelof had been hired to redevelop Spaihts's screenplay. In October 2010, Lindelof submitted his rewritten screenplay to Fox. Scott had initially requested a $250 million budget and an adult oriented project, 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 John Milton's poem Paradise Lost, but Scott considered that this would convey too much information 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 release was postponed until June 8, 2012. With the name confirmed, the production team began to publicly distance the film from its Alien origins, and 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]."
"...We're exploring the future... away from Earth and [asking] what are people like now? ... Space exploration in the future is going to evolve into this idea that it's not just about going out there and finding planets to build colonies. It also has this inherent idea that the further we go out, the more we learn about ourselves. The characters in this movie are preoccupied by the idea: what are our origins?"
—Damon Lindelof, concerning the scope of Prometheus.
Spaihts met Scott in late 2009 and they discussed Scott's desire to pursue an Alien prequel. Spaihts offered his concept, including a "bridge" that would connect the story of the film's human characters to the Alien saga. Spaihts was quickly hired, which he credited to the reception of his "bridge" idea. Spaihts claimed he created the concept spontaneously, without preconception. Spaihts wrote a 20-page "extremely detailed outline"; within three and a half weeks he had completed his first draft, and he submitted it 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 considered the mysteries of Alien to be alien in nature, and said, "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?" His solution was to link the alien mysteries to the past and future of humanity. He said: "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." Spaihts found translating Scott's stylistic visual concepts to text difficult, and he periodically constrained some of Scott's ideas. He reminded 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 said about the script, "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 announced that the script was complete and ready for filming.
However, Scott instead contacted Lindelof and asked him to review Spaihts's script. Within the hour, a messenger delivered the script to Lindelof and informed him that he would wait outside to return it as soon as Lindelof had finished reading it. Lindelof was unaware of what Scott and the producers liked about the existing script, and informed them that he found the general concept appealing, but that the story relied too heavily on elements of the Alien films, such as 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 wanted to avoid repeating his previous accomplishments. Lindelof said, "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 precede 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."
Writer Damon Lindelof promoting Prometheus at WonderCon in 2012. Lindelof was hired to rewrite Jon Spaihts's original script.
Lindelof said that the other parts of the script were strong enough to survive without the Alien hallmarks, such as the Alien creature, which he believed had been diluted by the exposure it had received. He said, "[The producers] were just looking for someone to say to them, Hey, we don’t need the Alien stuff in here. It shouldn’t be about that. It can be a part of this movie, but it shouldn’t be what it’s about." Lindelof said that the film could instead run parallel to the Alien series, and that a sequel would be Prometheus 2 and not Alien, and submitted an idea for how such a sequel could work. Lindelof met with the producers the following morning, and was hired shortly afterwards in late 2010. Under Lindelof, the script diverged from Spaihts's Alien prequel into an original creation. Scott and Lindelof worked together five days a week between July and August 2010 to construct the vision Scott wanted to convey and decide what script changes were needed, including scaling back the Alien symbolism and tropes. In August and September 2010, Lindelof spent almost five weeks writing his first draft, which he submitted in mid-September 2010. Inspired by Blade Runner and Spaihts's 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 than he felt were normally posed in science fiction films. Lindelof said,
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's] original script and [Scott] just wanted to bring it up more.
Scott's story concept was partially inspired by Chariots of the Gods?, Erich von Däniken's work about the theory of ancient astronauts which hypothesizes 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 its creators. Scott liked these ideas and further explored them in Lindelof's rewrite. For Shaw, Lindelof felt it was important that she was distinct from Alien's Ripley, to avoid inevitable comparisons between the two characters. In Spaihts's draft, Shaw was directly responsible for the events of the plot because she wants to seek out potentially dangerous knowledge. As with David, Lindelof expanded this facet of the character during his rewrites. He spent approximately eight months developing the script, finishing in March 2011 as filming began.
Pre-production began in April 2010. A team developed graphic designs for the film. Scott convinced Fox to invest millions of dollars to hire scientists and conceptual artists to develop a vision of the late 21st century. The production of Prometheus was marked by a high degree of secrecy and story details were kept "extremely under-wraps." Ridley Scott was determined to maintain the secrecy of the plot, and he 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 actor outside the US, and then stood guard while the actor read the script. Scott said, "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 said that the film would rely upon practical effects, and would use CGI generally for on-set pre-visualization of external space visuals. Scott said that, "you can pretty much do anything you want" with digital technology, and, "Doug Trumbull once said to me ‘If you can do it live, do it live.’ That was 29 years ago. Even though we have remarkable digital capabilities I still say do it live. It’s cheaper." Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski convinced Scott that it would be possible to film in 3D with the same ease and efficiency of 2D 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 dark and shadowy atmosphere of the Alien films was added in post-production using color grading processes, and the 3D equipment was based on post-Avatar technology.
The Dettifoss waterfall in Iceland was used in the film's opening scene showing an Engineer creating life.
Principal photography began on March 21, 2011, lasted 82 days, and had an estimated $120–130 million budget. Filming began at Shepperton Studios and Pinewood Studios in England. Scott used eight sound stages for filming, including the 007 Stage. Studio space was limited and the crew had to make five stages work for approximately 16 sets, and increased the size of the 007 stage by over 30%.
Exterior shots of the alien world were shot in Iceland, where filming occurred for two weeks. It commenced on July 11, 2011, at the base of Hekla, an active volcano in southern Iceland . Speaking about working at the volcano, Scott said, "If one is afraid of nature in this profession then it would be best to find a different job". Filming also took place at Dettifoss, one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe. The Iceland shoot involved 160 Icelandic crew members and over 200 imported crew. Scott said that the filming in Iceland comprised approximately fifteen minutes of footage for the film, and that the area represented the beginning of time. Morocco had been chosen as a location for these scenes, but the 2010 Arab Spring protests forced the change of venue. Alternatives including the Mojave Desert had been considered, but Scott explained that Iceland 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 beach. The complex was booked from August 22, 2011, through to December 10, 2011, and set construction occurred from August until late September. Approximately 250 people worked on the three month-long Spain shoot, generating over €1 million in the local economy. Filming also took place in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan.
Scott avoided using green screens unless necessary. Instead, he used various items so the actors would know where they should be looking in any particular scene on the practical sets where CGI elements would be inserted in post-production. Rapace said that green screens were used fewer 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 on camera dollies and tripods, which were continuously in use during filming. The fifth rig used an Epic camera as a steadicam, which was used only occasionally.
Scott 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 said, "You can literally twiddle a knob and the depth will increase", and, "the trick is not to overdo it". 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, the film was color graded to specifically compensate for the light loss of 3D glasses, to ensure the image was comparable to the 2D version.
In July 2011, Scott said 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 said 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 said, "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 also said that, regardless of rating, he would present the most aggressive cut of the film he could, while Rothman said 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 shortened because Scott decided that Shaw directly wounding the Engineer diminished his role. Scott concluded work on the film in March 2012.
See also: Prometheus (soundtrack)
Marc Streitenfeld, who had worked with Scott on earlier projects, composed the musical score for Prometheus. It took just over a week to record with a 90-piece orchestra at Abbey Road Studios in London, England. Streitenfeld began writing ideas for the score after reading the script before filming commenced. He used some unusual techniques to compose the score, and said, "I actually wrote out the sheet music backwards so the orchestra played it backwards and then I digitally flipped it. So you’re hearing the score as it’s written, the same melody, but with a backwards sounding orchestra which gives it a kind of unusual, unsettling sound." 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 and two supplemental tracks by Harry Gregson-Williams. Frédéric Chopin's "Raindrop prelude" (1838) is also featured in the film.
Production designer Arthur Max led the film's design staff. His art team were tasked with deconstructing the art and visuals of Alien, and reverse-designing them for the chronologically earlier 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.
Costumes and sound
For the crew's space suits, Scott was inspired to include spherical glass helmets after reading a story in Steve Jobs' biography about building an office out of Gorilla Glass. Scott said, "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 air supply provided by two fans, and battery packs concealed within a backpack. The helmet's exterior featured a functional light source and high definition video cameras with a transmitter and recorder. For the suit itself, Scott wanted to avoid the unwieldy NASA-style suit. His frequent collaborator, Janty Yates, used medical research concepts relating to skin replacement treatments and materials to develop a garment that would be believable, flexible and comfortable. 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 looks. Theron is dressed in an ice-silver, silk mohair suit. Yates said, "[Theron] is the ice queen. It was always our vision to make her look as sculptural as possible". Fassbender's David is dressed similarly to other crew members, 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.
Sound effects were generated with a variety of sources including Pop Rocks—a brand of popping candy—and a parrot. The glistening ice forming on the stone cylinders discovered in the film was created by applying the popping candy to materials such as wet metal and stone that was then sprayed with water to produce the "popping, cracking" sound. Sound designer Ann Scibelli's parrot was recorded over several weeks to document her variety of vocalizations which were then used as beeps, alarms and the cries of Shaw's alien offspring.
Sets and vehicles
Arthur Max designed the sets such as the alien world landscape and structures, and the vehicles, including the Prometheus and the Engineer's ship. Digital 3D models and miniature replicas of each set were built to allow the designers to envisage the connections between them and to know where the CGI elements would be inserted. To better blend the practical and the digital, the design team took rock samples from the Iceland location so they could match the graphical textures with the real rocks. To create the Prometheus, Max researched NASA and European Space Agency spacecraft designs, and extended these concepts with his own ideas of how future space vehicles might look. He said 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."
The interior of the Prometheus was built across a two-level structure, fronted by a large, faceted, wrap around windscreen. Theron's quarters were designed to represent her high status in the crew, and were furnished with modern and futuristic items, including Swarovski chandeliers and a Fazioli piano. The ship's garage was built on the backlot of Pinewood Studios in England. The vehicles inside were built in 11 weeks and were designed to operate on difficult terrain while having a futuristic aesthetic. Max created a large pyramid structure for the alien world, which had its main interior areas connected by a series of chambers, corridors, and tunnels; it was so large that some members of the film crew became lost inside it. 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. He also used aerial photographs 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 ship's descent scenes to have a sense of grandeur to contrast the dark and shrouded descent featured in Alien. Much of LV-223s world was based upon the world visited in Alien, but scaled back as Scott felt some elements were too unrealistic. Other influences were the Martian mountain Olympus Mons and several large mountain structures on Earth. NASA advisers provided concepts for the aesthetics of alien worlds which were incorporated into the design work. MPC developed a digital representation of Wadi Rum using the design material, modified it to locate the alien pyramid and a landing area for the Prometheus, and resized the planet's natural features relative to the alien structures.
The practical model for the Adult Trilobite, featuring multiple long tentacle-like appendages and a mouth in the centre of its body
Neal Scanlan and Conor O'Sullivan developed the film's alien creatures, aiming to convey that each creature has a logical biological function and purpose. Scanlan said 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 the black-toned, Giger-influenced aesthetic of Alien. Huante designed them to be white and embryonic because the events in the film occur before Giger's influence had taken effect. Huante took influences from references Scott was using to design 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 Huante's early design work included developing precursors to Alien's Facehugger, and a primitive Alien creature, but these were cut from the final release. When designing the Engineers, Scott and Huante referenced paintings by William Blake and J. M. W. Turner, and classical sculptures. Scott wanted the Engineers to resemble Greco-Roman gods, and instructed designer Neville Page to reference the Statue of Liberty, Michelangelo's David, and Elvis Presley. The 8-foot tall, humanoid Engineers were created by applying bulky, full-body prosthetics to the actors, whose facial features were diminished by the material, and were later digitally enhanced to preserve the "godlike" physical perfection. Scott described the Engineers as tall, elegant "dark angels".
The snake-like alien dubbed the "Hammerpede" was given life through a mixture of CGI and practical effects, and the wires controlling the practical puppet were digitally removed. For a scene in which the Hammerpede is decapitated, the VFX team digitally animated and inserted the spontaneous growth of a replacement head. During the scene in which the Hammerpede erupts from Spall's character's corpse, Scott controlled 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. The designers gave the creature a smooth, muscular, and powerful appearance. Early designs of the "Trilobite", the tentacled offspring cut from Shaw, resembled an octopus or squid. Page redeveloped this creature as an embryo in an early state of development, with tentacles that began fused together and would gradually split, creating new tentacles, as the creature developed. The practical creature was a remotely-operated animatronic creation with a silicone skin.
The mutated Fifield effects were achieved mainly through the use of make-up and prosthetics. Due to concerns that the practical effects would be unsatisfactory, the filmmakers completed an alternative version of the sequence, in which Fifield was rendered as "a digital character with elongated limbs and an engorged, translucent head, incorporating a semblance of Harris's face". Three other variations of the mutated Fifield were modeled, but these were rejected as being too inhuman.
For its grown form, the "Adult Trilobite", Max found inspiration from an arthropod-like creature from Earth's Cambrian period, and the alien octopus in Jean Giraud's illustrations for the comic strip The Long Tomorrow. Further inspiration came after Max 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. Scanlan aimed to represent the creature's genetic lineage, beginning with Shaw and Holloway who produce the Trilobite which impregnates the Engineer, in its design. However, they focused on making the creature feminine, and said that "it was born of a female before being born of a male." Messing drew inspiration for the Deacon's birth scene from the birth of foals, and created an iridescent appearance for its skin, based on the equine placenta. The Deacon's protruding jaw was inspired by the goblin shark.
The film's star map sequence was inspired by Joseph Wright's painting A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery
Prometheus contains approximately 1,300 digital effect shots. The main effects studio was Moving Picture Company (MPC), which produced 420 of the shots. Several other studios, including Weta Digital, Fuel VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Luma Pictures, Lola Visual Effects, and Hammerhead Productions, also produced effects shots for the film.
The creation of life from the disintegration of an Engineer in the film's opening scene was created by WETA Digital. The scene was difficult to produce because it had to convey the story of the Engineer's DNA breaking apart, reforming and recombining into Earth DNA in a limited span of time. The team focused on making the DNA stages distinct to convey its changing nature. Scott requested the studio to focus on the destruction occurring within the Engineer. A light color scheme was used for the Engineer's DNA and decayed fish spines were used as an image reference, while the infected DNA had a melted appearance. To find methods of depicting the DNA destruction, the team carved vein-like structures from silicone and pumped black ink and oils into them while filming the changes occurring over an extended period of time.
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 that he envisaged a physical representation being similar to the painting, although he was unaware of its title and described it as "circles in circles with a candle lit image". Using Scott's description, Spaihts located an image of the painting. Spaihts said, "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, contained 80–100 million polygons, and took several weeks to render as a single, complete shot.
Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron, and Michael Fassbender promoting the film at WonderCon in March 2012
Prometheus' 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; Scott and Rapace participated via satellite contribution. A segment of the footage showed Theron performing naked push-ups, which attracted much attention. A teaser poster was released on December 14, 2011, with the tagline, "The search for our beginning could lead to our end." A bootleg recording of an incomplete trailer was leaked online on November 27, 2011, but was swiftly taken down by Fox. The 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. Reactions to the trailer from WonderCon attendees, and on Twitter, were generally positive, 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 in 3d from the film's opening at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London. The screening, and in particular the 3D visuals and the performances of Fassbender, Rapace, Theron, and Elba, was well received.
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 was the first time that viewers' tweets were used in a broadcast advertisement. A competition, offering viewers a chance to win tickets to the film whenever the social platform Zeebox detected the advertisement airing, was launched on that site. On May 8, 2012, the advertisement became the subject of an investigation by the British broadcasting regulatory body Ofcom for allegedly breaching broadcast rules when a voiceover encouraged viewers to book tickets during the advertisement with the Channel 4 logo onscreen. The broadcast potentially broke a ruling that advertising and teleshopping must be clearly distinguishable from editorial content.
Although marketers typically avoid promoting adult-oriented films to reach a broader demographic, the film attracted several promotional partners including Coors, Amazon, and Verizon FiOS, which 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 was streamed live via the film's website and the Verizon FiOS Facebook page. The event was facilitated by BumeBox, which took audience questions from social sites and gave them to reporters to ask at the event. The National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) is developing a series of Prometheus action figures, scheduled for release in September 2012. A book, Prometheus: The Art of the Film, containing production art and behind-the-scenes photographs, was released on June 12, 2012.
An advertisement for "David" (portrayed by Michael Fassbender) printed in newspapers. The advert highlights the viral website campaign and the film's marketing partnership with Verizon.
A viral marketing campaign began on February 28, 2012, with the release of a video featuring a speech by Pearce, in character as Peter Weyland, about his vision for the future. Set in 2023, the video presents a futuristic vision of a TED 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 said that the scene takes place in a futuristic stadium 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 the film's producers gain approval for the use of the TED brand, which had not previously been used for promotional purposes. Rielly was involved in designing the 2023 conference, and said that the association generated millions of unique visits 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, which would 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 telephone number. After calling the number, the caller was sent a text message from Weyland Corporation that linked them to a video that was presented as an advertisement for the "David 8" android, narrated by Fassbender. An extended version of the video, released on April 17, 2012, lists the android's features, including its ability to seamlessly replicate human emotions without the restrictions of ethics or distress. A full page "David 8" advertisement was placed in The Wall Street Journal; a Twitter account operated by a David8, that allowed Twitter users to ask the character questions, was included. 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, and debuted on the Verizon FIOS Facebook page. In a telephone call monitored by Yutani, a fictional company from the Alien series, Shaw requests Weyland's aid to seek out alien life. In France, the Saint-Martin ghost train station was converted to resemble alien architecture from the film, and was visible to passing commuters. The campaign continued after the film's release with a website that was listed during the film's end credits. The site referenced the philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, and featured a video of Weyland, who quotes from the book. Another video followed in September 2012, featuring Elba's Captain Janek preparing for a mission.
At the May 2012 Digital Hollywood conference, Lindelof said that the videos 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 any commentary about its connection to the Alien films. He also said that the videos needed to be cool enough to justify their existence, but not so important that their absence from the final film would be an issue for audiences.
The premiere of Prometheus took place on May 31, 2012, at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London. The film was released in the United Kingdom on June 1, 2012, and in North America on June 8, 2012. 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 audience during the film.
In 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, and become the most pre-booked film at that 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, but low among females. In the week before the film's release, predictions were conflicted on whether Prometheus or Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (the first family-oriented film of the summer), which were released simultaneously, would reach number 1 for that weekend. On June 6, 2012, Fandango reported that with 42% of daily sales Prometheus was beating Madagascar 3. The online tracking for Prometheus surged with each additional promotional footage. Prometheus was predicted to earn approximately $30 million, and Madagascar 3 around $45 million. As the weekend approached, tracking suggested a $55 million debut for Madagascar 3 and $50–$55 million for Prometheus. Prometheus was disadvantaged by Madagascar opening in 264 more theaters and its adult rating.
Prometheus was considered a financial success overall. After a strong start in North America, the film failed to meet the studio's expectations, but it continued to perform strongly in other territories until the end of its theatrical run. Prometheus earned $126,477,084 (31.4%) in North America and $276,877,385 (68.6%) elsewhere for a worldwide total of $403,354,469, making it the 15th highest grossing film of 2012, and the 159th highest-grossing film worldwide unadjusted for inflation.
Prometheus was released in 15 markets between May 30 and 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, which 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, and debuted at number 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, and was also successful during its opening weekends in Australia ($7.2 million) and South Korea ($4.2 million). During its late August opening in Japan, the film earned $9.6 million.
In North America, Prometheus 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, the film earned $51.05 million from 3,396 theaters—an average of $15,032 per theater—ranking second behind Madagascar 3 ($60.4 million), which made it 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 demographic 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. The film closed on September 20, 2012 after 105 days (15 weeks) in release with a total gross of $126.4 million. The figure made it the number 43 highest grossing film to never finish a week as the number 1 film.
Michael Fassbender in 2012. Critics were near unanimous in praise for his portrayal of the android David.
The film garnered a 74% approval rating from 261 critics—an average rating of 6.9 out of 10—on the review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, which said, "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, which indicates "generally favorable" reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B" on a scale of A+ to F, with audience members under 25 rating it the highest at A-. Reviews frequently praised 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 mixed response from critics, who criticized 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, and praised the performances of Fassbender, Rapace, and Theron, but wrote that the film "caters too much to imagined audience expectations when a little more adventurous thought might have taken it to some excitingly unsuspected destinations." Time Out London's Tom Huddleston wrote that "the photography is pleasingly crisp and the design is stunning", but that, "[t]he script feels flat ... the dialogue is lazy, while the plot, though crammed with striking concepts, simply fails to coalesce. After an enjoyable setup, the central act is baggy, confusing and, in places, slightly boring, while the climax has flash and fireworks but no real momentum." Emanuel Levy wrote that the writing was his only complaint about the film, which, he said, "is not only uneven, but promises more original ideas and thematic provocations than it can possibly deliver." Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, labeling it a "seamless blend of story, special effects and pitch-perfect casting, filmed in sane, effective 3-D that doesn't distract." Ebert wrote that Rapace's performance "continues here the tradition of awesome feminine strength begun by Sigourney Weaver in Alien", but considered that Elba's Janek has the most interesting character evolution. Ebert thought that the plot raises questions and does not answer them, which made the film intriguing and parallel to the "classic tradition of golden age sci-fi". He later went on to name it as one of the best films of 2012.
Total Film's Jonathan Crocker wrote 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 wrote 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" and criticized the 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, and that the narrative's twists and reversals undermine its "lofty, mindblowing potential". He said the film has no revelations, just "bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance", and that Rapace is a "fine heroine, vulnerable and determined".
Variety film critic Justin Chang wrote that the film's narrative structure was unable to handle the philosophical dimension of the plot, and that Prometheus was lazily deferring key plot points under the presumption that a sequel would be made. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wrote that Prometheus was "more grandiose, more elaborate—but less interesting" than Alien, and lacked the latter's "central killer punch". Ian Nathan of Empire magazine was unimpressed by Rapace—whom he described as an unconvincing lead—and said that with "a lack of suspense, threadbare characters, and a very poor script, the stunning visuals, gloopy madness, and sterling Fassbenderiness can’t prevent Prometheus feeling like Alien's poor relation." The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton wrote that the film is "prone to shallow ponderousness", and that Scott "can still mimic the appearance of an epic, noble, important movie—but the appearance is all." He criticized Rapace and Marshall-Green for failing to instill interest in their characters' 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".
James Cameron said: "I enjoyed Prometheus. I thought it was great. I thought it was Ridley returning to science fiction with gusto, with great tactical performance, beautiful photography, great native 3D. There might have been a few things that I would have done differently, but that's not the point—you could say that about any movie."
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
Key Art Awards Digital "Weyland Industries" website Won 
Innovative Media Prometheus Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Art Direction Alex Cameron Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Best Visual Effects Richard Stammers, Charley Henley and Martin Hill Nominated
Satellite Awards Visual Effects Richard Stammers, Charley Henley and Martin Hill Nominated 
Sound (Editing and Mixing) Victor Ray Ennis, Ann Scibelli, John Cucci and Mark P. Stoeckinger Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Choice Movie Breakout Noomi Rapace Nominated 
Choice Summer Movie – Action Prometheus Nominated
Choice Summer Movie Star – Female Charlize Theron (also for Snow White & the Huntsman) Nominated
2013 Academy Awards Best Visual Effects Richard Stammers, Trevor Wood, Charley Henley and Martin Hill Nominated 
ADG Excellence in Production Design Award Fantasy Film Arthur Max Nominated 
BAFTA Awards Special Visual Effects Richard Stammers, Charley Henley, Trevor Wood, Paul Butterworth Nominated 
Critic's Choice Award Best Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Prometheus Nominated 
Golden Reel Awards Best Sound Editing — Sound Effects and Foley in a Feature Film Prometheus Nominated 
Visual Effects Society Outstanding Compositing in a Feature Motion Picture Xavier Bourque, Sam Cole, Simone Riginelli, Denis Scolan for "Engineers & the Orrery" Nominated 
Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture Julien Bolbach, Marco Genovesi, Martin Riedel, Marco Rolandi for "LV-233" Nominated
Outstanding Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Feature Motion Picture Paul Butterworth, Charley Henley, Allen Maris, Richard Stammers for Prometheus Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Awards Supporting Actor of the Year Michael Fassbender Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Science Fiction Film Prometheus Nominated 
Best Supporting Actor Michael Fassbender Nominated
In North America, Prometheus DVD and Blu-ray disc releases were listed for pre-order in partnership with Amazon on June 1, 2012, a week before the film was released in theaters. A limited number of cinema tickets for the film were offered as a pre-order incentive. In June 2012, FX obtained the rights to the film's network television premiere. On September 7, 2012, Fox announced that Prometheus would be the launch title of its new digital distribution initiative "Digital HD". The film was released on September 18, 2012, three weeks prior to its DVD, Blu-ray disc and Video on demand (VOD) release, for downloading and streaming through platforms including Amazon, iTunes, PlayStation Network and Xbox Live in over 50 countries. The film was released on Blu-ray disc and DVD on October 9, 2012. The Blu-ray disc edition of the film was released in a 2-disc set and a 4-disc "Collector's Edition". Both versions contain the theatrical cut of Prometheus, commentary by Scott, Lindelof and Spaihts, a DVD and digital copy of the film, alternate and deleted scenes, and other features. Additionally, the Collector's Edition contains the 3D version of the film and approximately 7 hours of supplemental features including a documentary on the film's production. On October 8, 2012, it was reported that Fox had requested an extended version of the film for home media, but Scott refused to edit cut scenes back into the theatrical version of the film, which he considered his director's cut. During its first week of sale in the United Kingdom, Prometheus was the number 1 selling film on DVD and Blu-ray Disc, outselling its nearest competitor by a factor of three.
During the March 17, 2012 WonderCon convention, Scott said that the film leaves many questions unanswered, and that these could be answered in a sequel. He said, "If we're lucky, there'll be a second part. It does leave you with some nice open questions." Asked whether a sequel would be a direct prequel to Alien, Lindelof said, "If we’re fortunate enough to do a sequel ... it will tangentialize even further away from the original Alien." In June 2012, Lindelof said that while plot elements were deliberately left unresolved so that they could be answered in a sequel, he and Scott had thoroughly discussed what should be resolved so that Prometheus could stand alone, as a sequel was not guaranteed. Scott said that a sequel would follow Shaw to her next destination, "because if it is paradise, paradise cannot be what you think it is. Paradise has a connotation of being extremely sinister and ominous." Lindelof cast doubt on his participation, and said, "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 said that an additional film would be required to bridge the gap between the Prometheus sequel and Alien. On August 1, 2012, it was confirmed that Fox was pursuing a sequel with Scott, Rapace, and Fassbender involved, and was talking to new writers in case Lindelof does not return. The film would be scheduled for a release no earlier than 2014. On December 19, 2012, it was reported that Lindelof had decided not to work on a sequel, citing other commitments. In June 2013, Jack Paglen was announced to be in negotiations to write the sequel. In October 2013, Scott confirmed that the script was complete.
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Free, Erin; Mottram, James; Pringle, Gill (April 2012). "Inner Space". Filmink (906).
Nashawaty, Chris (December 2, 2011). "Ridley Scott Returns to Space". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.) (1183).
McCabe, Joseph; Farley, Jordan; Edwards, Richard (May 2012). "Gods and Monsters / A Shaw Thing / He, Robot". SFX (Future plc) (222).
Nashawaty, Chris (May 18, 2012). "Birth of a New Alien". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.) (1207).
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Project Prometheus, a viral website about the film's human expedition
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