If you’ve not yet seen Prometheus, just stop now. The rest of this post contains discussions of the movie — much of it spoiler-ish. Prometheus: The Art of the Film is a new book from Titan Books that offers up a ton of photos, sketches, paintings, and interviews with Ridley Scott and many other folks who are responsible for what you see on screen in this film. So, again… stop reading now if you wish to avoid any details related to the story.
First, the details — the book is 192 pages, full-color, and oversized. It comes with a Foreword written by director Ridley Scott along with two essays (one by Scott, the other by Production Designer Arthur Max). The Foreword and two essays are both enjoyable — Scott’s essay, A Return to Science Fiction, is his summary of why he made the film, how the story’s progression was planned, and a solid explanation of why this movie isn’t about the Alien. It contains some interesting bio bits, too — I was unaware that Scott wasn’t raised on a diet of science fiction, and I now understand why his films have such a strong feeling of being there. Arthur Max’s essay, Designing Prometheus, is a fast but detailed explanation of the movie’s development in terms of the technology and alien life — there are some interesting stories there, including a full-sized screening of the original film that reinforced the idea that even the tiny details were important in the original and, now, the new film.
While watching the film, I must admit that it was information overload. There were so many times I wanted to pause the film and study some of the things I was seeing. Much of this happened with the in-ship scenes. The Prometheus is the means to get to the planet, and therefore much of the details of the ship are often seen only as characters walk by a door or set of controls. With the book, however, you get some beautiful full-page photos of a variety of places around the ship. Look close and you can see cabling snaking through the machine’s open slots. You can take a look at the overhead screens in the mess hall. I don’t even remember the piano and bookshelf full of books, but there it is in the photos!
As for the bridge of the Prometheus, there’s one clear photo of a control station — the level of detail seen on the screens is matched by the text you can almost make out on the buttons and dials. The Prometheus was originally named the Magellan, but the basic design stays the same after the name change — page 56 has a sketch of where all the various locations of the ship are with respect to one another. And the same page has a nice full-color painting of the original Magellan that I’d love to have as a screensaver. The details of the lifeboat show just how much thought was put into not only its location on the Prometheus, but also how it clamped to the ship and where it’s key systems are located.
One nice little fact that the section on the planet provided was that Scott consulted a specialist in space geology to help create the look of the new planet. I never thought about a storm of glass shards, did you? The book contains half a dozen full-page illustrations of how the planet was developed — and the book continues with equal coverage of suits, vehicles, the Pyramid, and all the interior locations including the Ampule Chamber and the Bridge. And all the different aliens seen in the movie — snake-thing (Hammerhead), mutated-man thing (Fifield), Engineers, octopus-thing (Trilobyte), and the proto-Alien (called The Deacon) — they’re all here in both full-color photos and painting/sketches.
And by the way — the photos and paintings and sketches are all great, but the accompanying text is worth the price of the book alone with the behind-the-scenes secrets. The movie is sure to open up a range of debates, including questions that are unlikely to ever be answered. Ridley Scott can never be accused of not providing his own theories or outright answers to his films (Blade Runner comes to mind), and there is information in this book related to key scenes that aren’t necessarily explained in detail (such as the opening scene with the Engineer and the Big Round Ship). What might seem like a big plot hole in the movie is the complete opposite with the plot explanations that are provided here. And there’s a hint at the end of the book from Ridley Scott himself that seems to leave open the door to further developments with this story.
I wrote a few weeks ago about two books that provide background material on Alien and Aliens. For fans of those films, these are great resource books. And now, for fans of Scott’s newest film, Prometheus: The Art of the Film provides a matching amount of details about the making of the film and the director’s thoughts on the film’s meaning as well as some answers to questions that the film is certain to leave with its viewers.
I’d like to thank Tom at Titan Books for the review copy of Prometheus: The Art of the Film.