Ridley Scott’s Prometheus: The Movie, the H.R. Giger-inspired Art Book, and More
Ridley Scott’s blockbuster sci-fi horror flick "Prometheus" has divided critics and audiences alike and become something of a Rorschach test in that viewers seem able to come up with multiple interpretations for elements of every scene. Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and The New York Times have all enjoyed the film to varying degrees. Roger Ebert called it “a magnificent science-fiction film, all the more intriguing because it raises questions about the origin of human life and doesn't have the answers. It's in the classic tradition of golden age sci-fi.” Variety was less kind, citing cardboard characters and clichéd dialogue. The Atlantic called the movie “a gorgeous mess.”Within the geek and science fiction subcultures, debate has raged fast and furious over every aspect of "Prometheus," with a clear sense of ownership on display. SFX felt the film fell short, concluding that “unfortunately having fanboys pick holes in it rather than debate its grand ambitions is probably not what the filmmakers intended.” Farther afield, writer Genevieve Valentine, a rising star in the fantasy field, more or less ridiculed the movie in her post “Ten Things You Should Know About Prometheus,” saying the movie is like being trapped by a magician who promises wonders but never delivers. Meanwhile the iconic weird fiction writer Caitlin R. Kiernan mounted a vigorous defense, refuting some fans’ issues with the movie’s logic in one post and expanding on her thoughts in a second post. (Note: both posts contain R-rated language.) There have even been running battles about the male-only medical bed in Prometheus. To me, it clearly had to do with the secret purposes of the Weyland corporation, especially given the contemptuous way Charlize Theron’s character introduces it, but your mileage may vary. As with prior Ridley Scott films, including, of course, "Alien" and "Blade Runner," it may take a few years for the dust to settle and for any of us to get a real sense of the merits of Prometheus—especially since the director’s cut might include up to 30 minutes of additional footage.
What does everyone agree on? First, that actor Michael Fassbender is brilliant as the android in the movie. And, second, that it’s hard to deny the stunning nature of the visuals, inspired by the work of H.R. Giger.
Luckily, there’s a great 187-page art book you can buy that captures the essence of the movie: Prometheus: The Art of the Film. It includes 3D renderings of the spaceships and alien life-forms, costume design, behind-the-scenes conceptual art, detail about the design work, and section on the Engineers. Not only that, it features an introduction and fascinating commentary from Ridley Scott—including information that some viewers might have missed. For example, that the black slime is a bio-weapon the Engineers ultimately could not control. After reading through it, too, you’ll have a much better understanding of how Scott was able to make a movie that looks real and visceral despite the presence of CGI.
You can also pick up the soundtrack to the movie, if so inclined, and should you be interested in some of the underpinnings of the movie, you might go classical with a book like Prometheus: Archetypal Image of Human Existence by Carl Kerenyi. If that’s too old-school for you and you want to roam well beyond the known universe, check out Robert Anton Wilson’s Prometheus Rising, which is described as “trying to make sense of an amalgam of Timothy Leary's eight neurological circuits, G.I. Gurdjieff's self-observation exercises, Alfred Korzybski's general semantics, Aleister Crowley's magical theorems, and the several disciplines of Yoga; not to mention Christian Science, relativity, quantum mechanics, and many other approaches to understanding the world around us.”
The one thing you can’t buy, however, is a Prometheus movie tie-in novel. So beware of similar-sounding titles as you peruse the offerings...