Date Released: June 1, 2012
Directed By: Ridley Scott
Tagline: The Search For Our Beginning Could Lead To Our End
Length: 124 Minutes
Michael Fassbender … David
Charlize Theron … Vickers
Noomi Rapace … Elizabeth Shaw
Logan Marshall-Green … Holloway
Idris Elba … Janek
Emun Elliot … Chance
Benedict Wong … Ravel
Guy Pearce … Peter Weyland
Kate Dickie … Ford
Sean Harris … Fifield
Rafe Spall … Milburn
Emun Elliot … Chance
A team of scientists travels through the universe on the spaceship “Prometheus” on a voyage to investigate alien life forms. The team of scientists becomes stranded on an Alien world, and as they struggle to survive it becomes clear that the horrors they experience are not just a threat to themselves, but to all of mankind.
Alien 5 was rumoured for years after Alien Resurrection was released. Ridley Scott always said if he were to make a new Alien film, he would explore the mysterious Space Jockey creature we saw in Alien and Sigourney Weaver showed some interest in returning as Ripley. James Cameron had discussed doing an Alien sequel with Ridley Scott and started writing a new story for another Alien movie in the early 2000s. 20th Century Fox told him that they had a crossover script which would later become 2004’s Alien vs Predator, and James Cameron stopped work on his project, saying that Alien vs Predator would “kill the validity of the franchise”.
In 2006, James Cameron said he wouldn’t another Alien film because the franchise belongs to Fox and he didn’t want to have the studio interfering in the film. In May 2009, 20th Century Fox said they were doing a reboot of the Alien franchise but afterwards, they clarified, it was a prequel to Alien. In June 2009, it was revealed that Ridley Scott wanted Carl Rinsch to direct the film but the studio would only greenlight the project if Ridley Scott was directing. In July 2009, it was confirmed that Ridley Scott was the director and Jon Spaihts was hired to write the script after he pitched a story bridging the characters to the Alien series.
Spaihts wrote a 20-page outline of the script and took him only three weeks to finish his first draft. He submitted it to the producers on Christmas Day, 2009 and Scott returned it with notes so Spaihts could rewrite certain parts. He was asked to explore the unsolved mysteries of Alien such as the Space Jockey.
Fox’s original release date was December 2011 and in June 2010, Ridley Scott said the script was complete and filming would begin in January 2011. Scott then contacted Damon Lindelof and asked him to look over Spaihts’ script. Lindelof liked the script but thought it relied too heavily on elements from the Alien series such as the alien life cycle and it was a direct prequel to Alien, pushing the story to the events in that film. Lindelof thought the script could survive as a standalone story without the Alien elements and that the film could instead run parallel to the Alien series.
He claimed that a sequel to Prometheus would be Prometheus 2 and not Alien. Lindelof met the producers the day after reading the script and by July 2010, Damon Lindelof had been hired to rewrite Spaihts’ script. Lindelof and Scott worked together for five days a week between August and September 2010 and it took Lindelof five weeks to write his first draft. Scott’s ideas were partly inspired by Erich von Däniken’s theory, Chariots of the Gods?, that life on Earth was created by an alien race.
Scott also expanded David the android as he is like a human, but at the same time, doesn’t want to be. Lindelof submitted his draft to Fox in October 2010 but spent until March 2011 developing the script. Ridley Scott requested a $250 million budget and wanted the film to have an 18 certificate (Hard R Rating) but the studio was hesitant about this. In December 2010, it was revealed the film was going to be called Paradise, named after John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost but Ridley Scott that would give away too much about the film so Fox CEO Tom Rothman suggested Prometheus. The release date was slated for March 9, 2012 but was later changed to June 8, 2012.
You can read a comprehensive breakdown of the earlier days of Prometheus and it’s development from an Alien prequel to a side-squel in our article Engineering Prometheus – From Jon Spaihts to Damon Lindelof.
Pre-Production officially began in April 2010 and details of the film were kept under wraps. Cast members had clauses in their contracts preventing them from disclosing story elements of Prometheus. Ridley Scott took steps to make sure the script didn’t leak onto the internet so the cast were only allowed to read the script under supervision. Numerous actresses were considered for the role of archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw including Anne Hathaway, Natalie Portman, Gemma Arterton, Carey Mulligan, and Abbie Cornish.
In the end, the role went to Noomi Rapace after director Ridley Scott was impressed with her work on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. To prepare for her role, she developed a backstory for her character and received coaching from a dialect coach to get a British accent. Michael Fassbender (X-Men First Class) was cast as the android David. Fassbender said he avoided watch the androids in Alien and Aliens, and instead watched the replicants in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. He was also inspired by the voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Olympic diver Greg Louganis, David Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth, Dick Bogarde in The Servant and Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. David’s hair was actually based on T.E. Lawrence.
Michelle Yeoh and Angelina Jolie were considered for the role of Meredith Vickers, the Weyland Corporation employee in charge of the expedition. It eventually went to Charlize Theron who was originally going to play Shaw but she was busy with Mad Max: Fury Road at the time. When that movie was delayed, she was cast as Vickers. Ridley Scott wanted her character to lurk in the background which Theron thought helped her character as it makes you suspicious of her. Vickers and David had similar mannerisms in order to make you think that she could be an android herself.
Theron also helped Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof with three scenes that helped expand her character. Max von Sydow was Ridley Scott’s first choice to play Peter Weyland, the billionaire who funds the expedition. Guy Pearce was then cast in the role so he could play both an elderly version of Weyland and a younger version of him which appeared in an earlier draft of the script. The younger version did appear in a viral video, however. Guy Pearce had to undergo five hours of makeup to transform his appearance.
He also studied elderly people so that he could walk like them. Logan Marshall-Green was cast in the role of Holloway after he was seen performing on stage. Sean Harris plays Fifield and his unique hair cut was designed by Harris and Ridley Scott. Rafe Spall plays Mollburn and Idris Elba was cast as Janek, the captain of the Prometheus. 7’1″ Ian Whyte, who is well-known for playing the Predator in both Alien vs Predator films, was cast as the Last Engineer.
Filming for Prometheus began on March 21, 2011, lasting 82 days on a budget of $120-$130 million. They started filming at Shepperton Studios and Pinewood Studios in England and used 8 sound stages. Five of them were used for 16 different sets. On July 11, 2011, filming was moved to Iceland for two weeks and these shots were used for the planet’s surface. Filming took place at the bottom of the Hekla volcano in Southern Iceland and at Dettifoss, a huge waterfall, which was used in the film’s opening sequence.
It involved 160 crew members from Iceland and another 200 crew members from elsewhere. Originally, the filmmakers were going to film is Morocco but had to reconsider the location due to the 2010 Arab Spring protests. They considered filming in the Majave Desert but Iceland was eventually chosen due to its unique and Jurassic-like environment. Some filming was done in Alicante, Spain at the Cludad de la Luz audiovisual complex in September 2011. Work there lasted for three month, involving around 250 people and it generated over €1 million for the local economy. Some filming also took place in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan.
Green screens were used sparingly throughout filming and Ridley Scott used items to help the actors know where they should be looking if a CGI element was going to be added in post-production. Ridley Scott was persuaded by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski to film the movie in 3D. The filmmakers received the rigs and equipment from 3ality Technica who also provided training the crew to use the equipment. According to Scott, the filming of 3D added $10 million to the film’s budget. Ridley Scott used the 3D footage to add depth to elements. 3D films need high levels of set lighting for them to work efficiently so the dark visuals of Prometheus were added in the post-production process using colour grading.
Production designer Arthur Max was in charge of constructing the sets on Prometheus which had to be designed as a precursor to Alien. They looked back at various concept artwork from H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Ron Cobb for inspiration. Digital 3D models and miniatures were used to help the set designers know how they would connect with each other and where the CGI elements could go. For the Prometheus spaceship, Arthur Max researched NASA and European Space Agency spacecraft designs which gave him inspiration as to how a futuristic spacecraft might look like. Vickers’ room aboard the Prometheus was furnished with expensive items like a piano and a chandelier. The ship’s cargo area was constructed in Pinewood Studios in England and the vehicles were made to look futuristic and traverse on any kind of terrain. It took 11 weeks to construct them.
The large pyramid was constructed by Arthur Max and had many tunnels, corridors and chambers. So many, that some crew members frequently got lost inside it. It was further expanded in post-production. The main chamber where the crew find the humanoid head was made to look similar to a cathedral with many religious overtones. H.R. Giger also designed the murals you see in the chamber, particularly the one depicting a xenomorph. Ridley Scott decided to use spherical helmets for the spacesuits after reading Steve Jobs’ biography as he wanted the helmets to have 360 vision.
Inside of the helmets had video screens, lights, air supply and battery packs. The outside of the suit featured video cameras with a transmitter and recorder, and external lighting. The spacesuit was designed so it would be comfortable to wear and flexible enough to move around in. The outfit under the outer spacesuit was a neoprene suit. Each of the characters had a unique set of clothes aboard the Prometheus. Vickers was dressed in silver suit, Holloway had more relaxing clothes like a hoody while Janek wore a canvas jacket.
Neal Scanlan and Conor O’Sullivan were in charge of coming up with the alien creatures in Prometheus and they were generally based on real-life plants and sea creatures. Instead of the black colours of Giger’s iconic creature, concept artist Carlos Huante made them much lighter because these creatures are supposed to be the precursor of Alien. He was asked to design an early version of the facehugger and the xenomorph but these were changed when Prometheus moved away from alien prequel territory.
For the Engineers, Ridley Scott wanted them to be similar to Greco-Roman gods and told designer Neville Page to look at the Statue of Liberty, Michelangelo’s David, and Elvis Presley for inspiration. The actors who played the Engineers had full-body prosthetics applied to themselves and their facial expressions were severely limited so as a result, their facial featured were added digitally.
The snake-like creature known as the Hammepede was based on real sea creatures with translucent skin and cobras and was created using both CGI and an actual puppet. In the scene where Fifield chops the alien’s head off, it was digitally animated in post-production to grow its head back. In the scene where it bursts out of Milburn’s body, Ridley Scott controlled a puppet on wires and actress Kate Dickie was unaware what was going to happen, similar to Veronica Cartwright in the chestburster scene in Alien.
The initial designs for the Trilobite creature was similar to an octopus or squid but Neville Page redesigned the creature as something that was in the early stages of development and its tentacles would split creating new ones. On the set, they used a animatronic creature with silicon skin while CGI were used for some elements. The adult Trilobite was inspired by 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. Ridley Scott called the final creature in the film, the Deacon which had a long, pointed head that he thought resembled a bishop’s mitre. The Deacon’s inner jaw was based on the goblin shark. The mutated Fifield was created by using makeup and prosthetics but because the filmmakers thought the effects would be unrealistic, they made an alternative version of a mutated Fifeld through CGI only. It had elongated limbs and a translucent head and was much more alien-like in appearance.
In January 2012, some new scenes were shot including on the Isle of Skye in Scotland and inside a cave in the Scottish mountains. These scenes was where Shaw and Holloway first find the hieroglyphics. In the scene where the Prometheus first enters the atmosphere of LV-223, visual effects art director Steven Messing researched various NASA imagery of things like cloud structures and aerial pictures of places in Iceland and Wadi Rum. Ridley Scott wanted the descent to give a sense of amazement instead of the dark gloomy descent onto LV-426 in Alien. Most of LV-223’s exteriors were based on LV-426 but it was scaled back. There are also elements from the Martian mountain Olympus Mons and a few other mountains on Earth. NASA also provided the crew with concepts of alien worlds and what they would potentially look like.
There are 1300 visual effects shots in Prometheus with 420 of them created by Moving Picture Company while the rest were done by Weta Digital, Fuel VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Luma Pictures, Lola Visual Effects, and Hammerhead Productions. In the opening scene when the Engineer disintegrates, the visual effects were created by WETA Digital. They found the whole process quite challenging as they had to make it clear to the audience that the Engineer’s DNA is breaking down and combining with Earth DNA.
In order to see what destruction of DNA looks like, the visual effects crew carved veins from silicone and put black ink and oils into them while filming the changes over a long period of time. The huge 3D hologram that David sees in Prometheus, known as the Orrery, was based on the 1766 Joseph Wright painting A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery where a scientist displays a mechanical planetarium by candlelight. Ridley Scott spoke to writer Jon Spaihts about the painting though at the time he didn’t know the name of it so Spaihts then researched more about it. The hologram is one of the most complicated visual effects in the film, containing up to 100 million polygons and it took a few weeks to create a single shot.
Marc Streitenfield, who previously worked with Ridley Scott on American Gangster and Robin Hood, was the music composer for Prometheus. He originally started writing ideas for the score after he had read the script before filming had started. He also wrote out the sheet music backwards, and digitally flipped it after it had been recorded which gives Prometheus an usual sound. The score was released on iTunes on May 15, 2012 and on CD on June 4, 2012. Ridley Scott made it clear from the outset that he wasn’t making the movie for any specific rating in mind and was going to make the most aggressive film he could.
Fox CEO Tom Rothman said that Ridley Scott won’t have to compromise the film’s quality in order to make a PG13 version. Ridley Scott wanted to be able to make a PG13 cut of the film if 20th Century Fox wanted one. On May 7, 2012, 20th Century Fox confirmed Prometheus had been given an R rating without making any cuts. According to Scott, the main scene that causes the R rating was the Shaw caesarean scene which they would have had to cut out entirely if they wanted a PG13 rating.
The marketing for Prometheus began on July 21, 2011 when some footage from the film was shown at the San Diego Comic-Con. An incomplete trailer was leaked online on November 27, 2011. The teaser poster with the tagline “The search for our beginning could lead to our end.” was released December 14, 2011. The first official trailer was released December 22, 2011. On March 17, 2012, Ridley Scott hosted the premiere of the full Prometheus trailer at the AMC Downtown Disney during WonderCon in Anaheim, California and it was released online straight after it premiered.
On April 10, 2012, various media companies were shown some 3D footage of the film’s opening scene at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London. On April 29, 2012 the international trailer made its premiere on Channel 4 in the UK during the first ad break of Homeland and viewers could tweet their thoughts about it. Some of these responses were shown in the following ad breaks. Promotional partners included Coors, Amazon, and Verizon FiOS, and they reportedly spent $30 million in marketing support. The film’s premiere in London was streamed live online.
Prometheus had a viral marketing campaign which started on February 28, 2012 when a viral video featuring Guy Pearce in his role as Peter Weyland gave a speech about the future. It was set in 2023 and is a futuristic version of a TED conference, which is a technology event held annually in California. The idea for the viral video was thought up by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof and directed by Scott’s son, Luke. Tom Rielly, the TED community director, helped the filmmakers with the project and was involved in designing the conference. The connection generated millions of visitors to the TED website. There was a fictional TED blog about the conference as well as a fictional website about Weyland Corporation. In March 2012, the website included a minigame where you could invest in Weyland Corporation.
During the 2012 WonderCon in March 2012, people who attended the event were given Weyland Corporation business cars that gave a website and a phone number. When you called the number, you were sent a text message from Weyland Corporation that linked you to an advertisement featuring Michael Fassbender as David the android. A longer version of the advertisement was released on April 17, 2012. A full-page advertisement about David 8 was seen in The Wall Street Journal. Another viral video, entitled Quiet Eye, starred Noomi Rapace as Shaw was released May 16, 2012 and it featured Shaw making a phone call asking Weyland to help find alien life.
In May 2012, an abandoned train station in France was converted to promote Prometheus with various props and features from the movie. After the film had been released, you could see another website in the film’s credits which featured a new video of Weyland with quotes from the novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. There was another viral video released in September 2012 that featured Idris Elba as Captain Janek preparing for a mission.
The premiere for Prometheus took place on May 31, 2012 at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London and released in the UK nationwide on June 1, 2012. It was released in 15 markets on June 1 in order to avoid competition with Euro 2012. It opened in North America and many other countries on June 8, 2012. Though some countries like Germany, Spain and Japan didn’t see the movie until August 2012.
Prometheus earned $34.8 million during its opening weekend in the first 15 markets and entered at number 1 in 14 of them. In North America, the film started strong but didn’t meet the studio’s expectations overall. Prometheus earned $3.561 million in midnight showings and went on to earn $21.4 million in its opening day. During its opening weekend, Prometheus grossed $51.05 million from 3,396 cinemas coming in at second behind Madagascar 3. It took $126,477,084 domestically but did a lot better overseas taking $276,877,385 with a worldwide total of $403,354,469.
Prometheus generally received positive reviews when it was released and received a Fresh rating of 73% on RottenTomatoes based on 269 reviews. The positive points were aimed at the visual style of the film as well Michael Fassbender’s performance as David the android which received universal acclaim. Many reviewers criticized the plot for leaving elements unsolved on the assumption that a sequel would be made. Prometheus did seem to polarize critics and fans alike with many people hating it, many loving it and others not even sure what to make of the movie.
James Cameron, director of Aliens, 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.”
Prometheus was first released on September 18, 2012 as a digital title on various platforms three weeks before the DVD/Blu-Ray was released. The DVD and Blu-Ray sets were released on October 9, 2012. The Blu-Ray set included a two-disc and four-disc Collector’s Edition set. Both sets included the theatrical version of Prometheus as well as a commentary by Ridley Scott and another by writers Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts, various deleted scenes and a DVD and digital copy of the film. The Collector’s Edition included a 3D version of the film as well 7 hours of bonus features. A DVD and Blu-Ray boxset called Prometheus to Alien: The Evolution Box Set was also released compromising of Prometheus and all four Alien films on 8 discs. 20th Century Fox had reportedly asked Ridley Scott for an extended version of the film for home releases but he refused, saying the theatrical version is his director’s cut.
NECA released Series 1 of Prometheus action figures in September 2012. NECA released Series 2 of their figures in February 2013 which included the Deacon and David the android. NECA released Series 3 of their Prometheus figures in September 2013 which included holographic Engineers. A behind-the-scenes book called Prometheus: The Art of the Film, was released June 12, 2012 and contained numerous production photographs.
Prometheus Production Stills
You can find more images on Prometheus Production Stills.