- "The search for our beginning could lead to our end."
- ―Prometheus tagline
Prometheus is a 2012 British-American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green and Charlize Theron. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, the story takes place in the late 21st century and centers on the crew of the spaceship Prometheus as they follow a star map discovered among the remnants of several ancient Earth cultures. Led to a distant world and an advanced civilization, the crew seeks the origins of humanity but instead discovers a threat that could cause the extinction of the human race.
The film began development in the early 2000s as a fifth entry in the Alien franchise, with both Scott and director James Cameron developing ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott's 1979 science fiction horror film Alien. By 2003, the project was sidelined by the development of Alien vs. Predator, and remained dormant until 2009 when Scott again showed interest. A script by Spaihts acted as 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, he brought Lindelof onto the project to rewrite Spaihts' script, and together they developed a separate story that precedes the story of Alien but is not directly connected to that franchise. According to Scott, though 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.
The film entered production in April 2010, with extensive design phases developing the technology and creatures the film required. Principal photography began in March 2011 at Shepperton Studios and Pinewood Studios, on an estimated $120–130 million budget. Filming took place almost entirely on practical sets and on location in England, Iceland, Spain and Scotland. The film was shot using 3D cameras.
Prometheus was supported by an extensive marketing campaign that included viral activities on the web. As part of this campaign, several original short films were produced featuring stars from the film playing their characters, expanding on elements of the fictional universe. These videos received a generally a positive reception. Prometheus was released on June 1, 2012 in the United Kingdom and was released on June 8, 2012 in North America. The film was followed by a sequel, Alien: Covenant (2017).
On prehistoric Earth, a humanoid alien stands above a waterfall as a hovering spacecraft departs overhead. The alien ingests a dark liquid, then starts to disintegrate. As its bodily remains cascade into the waterfall, the alien's DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction.
Many centuries later in 2089, archaeologists and partners Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover ancient star maps that are common to several unconnected, extinct human cultures. They interpret the presence of these maps as an invitation from humanity's forerunners and creators, or "Engineers". Sir Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, elects to finance a scientific expedition to follow the maps, constructing the advanced research vessel Prometheus for this purpose. The ship's crew makes the long journey in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage. The crew arrive at their destination in the year 2093, a moon designated LV-223, where the crew are informed of their mission to find the Engineers. Mission director Meredith Vickers issues orders to avoid making direct contact with any sentient lifeforms. The Prometheus lands near a large artificial structure on the moon's surface, and a team heads inside to explore.
Inside they find several ampules, a monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the corpse of a giant humanoid alien, thought to be one of the Engineers. Other bodies are later found and the species is presumed to be extinct. David secretly steals one of the ampules for study, while the remaining cylinders begin leaking a dark liquid. A rapidly approaching storm forces the crew to return to the Prometheus; however, Millburn and Fifield become lost inside the structure and are left to fend for themselves overnight until they can be rescued. In the ship, the deceased Engineer's DNA is analyzed and found to match that of humans. Meanwhile, David investigates the ampule and discovers the black liquid within. He intentionally infects Holloway with the substance; unaware, Holloway engages in sexual intercourse with Shaw.
Inside the structure, Fifield and Millburn are attacked by two snake-like creatures. Millburn is killed, while corrosive fluid from one of the creatures melts Fifield's helmet, exposing him to the leaking dark liquid in the room. The next day, the crew returns to the structure and finds Millburn's corpse. David discovers a room containing a surviving Engineer held in stasis and a star map highlighting Earth. Holloway's infection rapidly ravages his body, and he is rushed back to the Prometheus. Vickers refuses to let him aboard, citing the need for quarantine, and eventually euthanises him with a flamethrower at his own request. Shaw begins to feel physical discomfort in her abdomen, and a medical scan reveals that, despite being sterile, she is somehow pregnant. She quickly discovers the offspring is alien in origin, and uses an automated surgery table to remove it from her body. Staggering through the ship after the surgery, Shaw discovers Weyland is aboard the Prometheus, and he explains that he intends to ask the Engineers to prevent his impending death from old age.
A now monstrous and mutated Fifield attacks the hangar bay and kills several crew members before being killed himself. The Prometheus' captain, Janek, speculates that the structure they have found was part of an Engineer military base that lost control of its biological weapon, the mutagenic black liquid. Weyland and a team return to the structure where they awaken the surviving Engineer. David attempts to speak to the Engineer to explain what Weyland wants: the Engineer responds by decapitating David and killing Weyland and his team. Shaw escapes, but the Engineer ship is activated by the Engineer. The still-active David communicates with Shaw and reveals that the Engineer is going to release the black liquid mutagen on Earth. Shaw convinces Janek to stop the Engineer spaceship, which he does by crashing the Prometheus into it, killing himself and his remaining crew, who willingly stayed with him. Only Vickers escapes the ship, ejecting in an escape pod; only for the disabled Engineer spaceship to come crashing back down to the moon, with the wreckage crushing and killing Vickers.
Shaw makes it to Vickers's lifeboat and finds the alien offspring she had removed, now grown to enormous size, trapped inside the medical bay. David reveals to her that the Engineer has survived the crash of the ship. Moments later, the infuriated Engineer then forces open the lifeboat's airlock and attacks Shaw, but she unleashes the alien offspring upon it and flees. After a struggle, the Engineer is subdued by the huge creature, which thrusts an ovipositor down the Engineer's throat. Shaw recovers David's body from inside the wrecked Engineer ship and, with his help, the pair launch in another similar craft, heading for the Engineers' homeworld, hoping to discover why they created humanity only to later attempt to destroy it.
Meanwhile, inside the Prometheus lifeboat, an alien creature bursts from the Engineer's chest.
- Elizabeth Shaw .... Noomi Rapace
- David .... Michael Fassbender
- Meredith Vickers .... Charlize Theron
- Janek .... Idris Elba
- Peter Weyland .... Guy Pearce
- Charlie Holloway .... Logan Marshall-Green
- Fifield .... Sean Harris
- Millburn .... Rafe Spall
- Chance .... Emun Elliott
- Ravel .... Benedict Wong
- Ford .... Kate Dickie
- Mercenary 1 .... Branwell Donaghey
- Mercenary 2 .... Vladimir Furdik
- Mercenary 3 .... C. C. Smiff
- Mercenary 4 .... Shane Steyn
- Last Engineer .... Ian Whyte
- Ghost Engineer .... John Lebar
- Sacrifice Engineer .... Daniel James
- Shaw's Father .... Patrick Wilson
- Young Shaw .... Lucy Hutchinson
- Shaw's Mother .... Giannina Facio
- Linguist Teacher .... Dr. Anil Biltoo
- Greeting Message Violinist .... Louisa Staples
- Mechanic 1 .... James Embree
- Mechanic 2 .... Florian Robin
- Mechanic 3 .... Matthew Burgess
- Mechanic 4 .... Eugene O'Hare
- Archaeological Assistant .... Richard Thomson
- Archaeological Assistant .... Jenny Rainsford
- Archaeological Assistant .... Philip McGinley
- Archaeological Assistant .... Rhona Croker
- Automated Voice (Swahili) .... Wambui Wa Ngatho (voice)
- Automated Voice (Thai) .... Rienjang (voice)
- Automated Voice (Czech) .... Zed Sevcikova (voice)
- Automated Voice (Tibetan) .... Sonam Dugdak (voice)
- Automated Voice (Icelandic) .... Reynir Thor Eggertsson (voice)
- Automated Voice (Japanese) .... Shin-Ichiro Okajima (voice)
- Automated Voice (Greek) .... Charalambos Dendrinos (voice)
- Automated Voice (Amharic) .... Berhane Woldegabriel (voice)
- Ship Computer Voice ....
The origins of Prometheus stemmed from discussions between Ridley Scott and Aliens director James Cameron in the early 2000s regarding a potential fifth film in the Alien franchise. Scott's concept for a fifth Alien film was a sequel that would explore the engineered origins of the series' Alien antagonists and the "Space Jockey" — the extraterrestrial being who briefly appears in Alien as the deceased pilot of the derelict ship encountered by the Nostromo. Scott's story concept was partially inspired by the work of Chariots of the Gods? author Erich von Däniken's writings about the theory of ancient astronauts, suggesting that life on Earth was created by aliens; von Däniken's work would also influence Alien vs. Predator. Scott later elaborated, "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."
After discussing ideas with Scott, Cameron 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' monsters against the titular characters of the Predator films; what would become the 2004 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 project, believing that the series was Fox's asset, and he was unwilling to deal with the studio attempting to influence the potential sequel.
- See also: Alien: Engineers
In May 2009, Fox first officially reported the project as a "reboot" of the Alien franchise, which was soon afterwards expressed as a then untitled prequel to Alien. Development stalled in June 2009, when Fox clashed with Scott over his selection of former commercial director Carl Erik Rinsch as director; Fox was only interested in pursuing the project if Scott himself took the director's chair. By July 2009, Scott had agreed to helm the film, and later that year met with writer Jon Spaihts to discuss the project. Spaihts offered his concept — a direct prequel to Alien, a "bridge" that would connect the film's "human story" directly to the events of the Alien saga. Spaihts was quickly hired, which he credited to the reception of his "bridge" idea. With both director and writer in place, and pleased with Spaihts' pitch, Fox scheduled a release date for December 2011, although this was eventually dropped.
Spaihts was tasked with exploring unresolved mysteries from Alien, such as the Space Jockey. He saw the driving mysteries of Alien as "alien in nature", stating "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?" He found a solution in tying the alien mysteries to the past and future of human history, to ensure that the story "is somehow ours, and deeply enmeshed with the human story". He found translating Scott's stylistic visual concepts to text difficult, and he periodically had to rein in some of the director's ideas such as reminding 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 its fourth draft. Scott described the script, saying, "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 stated that the script, titled Alien: Engineers, was complete and ready for filming. However, Scott later elected to further develop the script with a different writer.
By July 2010, Damon Lindelof was hired to redevelop Spaihts' screenplay into a more original work, removing the direct connections to Alien. Lindelof was of the opinion that Spaihts' story relied too heavily on elements of the Alien films, such as the general concept of the Xenomorph creature's life cycle. Furthermore, as a direct prequel to Alien, it was focused on leading into that film's story and recreating the familiar cues of that series, whereas Scott was adamant that he avoid repeating previous accomplishments. Lindelof clarified, "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." He also wanted to remove the Alien because he believed the creature's impact had been diluted by the exposure it had received since 1979.
Inspired by Blade Runner and Spaihts' 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 that he felt were normally posed in science fiction 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.
In October 2010, Lindelof submitted his refined screenplay to Fox. The studio was pleased as it had contested Scott's proposed budget of $150–160 million and found Lindelof's screenplay to be more budget-conscious; Scott had initially requested a $250 million budget and an adult-oriented product, 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 of that year, it was reported that the film would be called Paradise, named after the John Milton poem Paradise Lost, although Scott later considered that the title would convey too much 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 date was pushed back to June 8, 2012.
With the name confirmed, the production began to publicly distance the film from its Alien origins. The filmmakers 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]".
Pre-production had begun by April 2010, with a team developing graphic designs for the film's requirements. Scott convinced Fox to invest millions of dollars into the hiring of scientists and conceptual artists to develop a vision of the late 21st century. Production of Prometheus was marked by a high degree of secrecy with story details "extremely under-wraps." Determined to maintain the secrecy of the plot, Scott 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 of the actors in a foreign location and then stood guard while the actor read the script. Concerning the confidential nature of the script, Scott stated: "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 stated that the film would be relying on practical effects, and employing CGI generally for on-set pre-visualization of external space visuals. Scott recalling advice special effects artist Douglas Trumbull gave him on the set of Blade Runner stated, "if you can do it live, do it live", with Scott claiming that although "you can pretty much do anything you want" with digital technology, practical effects are more cost effective. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski convinced Scott that it would be possible to film in 3D with the same ease and efficiency of typical 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 atmosphere of the Alien films with darkness and shadows was added in post-production through grading processes, while the 3D equipment was based on post-Avatar technology.
Production designer Arthur Max led the film's design. His art team were tasked with deconstructing the art and visuals of Alien and reverse-designing them for the earlier-time 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. Max designed the sets including the alien structures and the alien world landscape, and vehicles, including the Prometheus and Engineer ship. Digital 3D models and miniature replicas were built of each set, allowing them to see how sets should connect and to know where the sets would end and the CGI would begin. To better blend the practical and the digital, the design team took rock samples during the Iceland shoot, allowing them to match the graphical textures with the real rocks caught on film. Max researched NASA and European Space Agency designs and developed these concepts with his vision of how space travel would look in the future to create the Prometheus. He stated 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."
Max created a large Pyramid structure for the alien world, with main interior areas connected by a series of chambers, corridors and tunnels, so expansive that some crew became temporarily lost within. 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 crew's space suits, Scott was inspired to include spherical glass helmets after reading a story in Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' biography, about building an office out of Gorilla Glass, with Scott remarking "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 oxygen supply provided by two fans, with battery packs concealed within a backpack. The helmet's exterior featured a functional light source and high-definition cameras with a transmitter and recorder. For the suit itself, Scott wanted to avoid the unwieldy NASA-style suit. His frequent collaborator, Academy award-winning costume designer Janty Yates, used medical research concepts relating to skin replacement treatments and materials to develop a design that could provide a flexible and comfortable garment. 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 look. Theron is dressed in an ice-silver, silk mohair suit, with Yates explaining: "[Theron] is the ice queen. It was always our vision to make her look as sculptural as possible". Fassbender's David is dressed similar to other crewmen, 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. Neal Scanlan and Conor O'Sullivan developed the film's alien creatures, aiming to convey each creature as having a logical biological function and purpose. Scanlan stated that much of Scott's inspiration for creature design is drawn from natural life such as plants and sea creatures.
A key scene involving a large 3D hologram star map 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 the painting as how he saw the map being physically represented, although he was unaware of the name and described it only as "circles in circles with a candle lit image". To Scott's pleasure, Spaihts located the correct image based on his description. Spaihts stated: "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".
Principal photography began on March 21, 2011, on an estimated $120–130 million budget. Filming was scheduled to take place over six months, but it took longer than forecast: the film was still being shot in September 2011. Filming began at Shepperton Studios and Pinewood Studios near London, England, both part of the Pinewood Studios group, where Scott used eight sound stages for filming, including the 007 Stage at Pinewood. Studio space was limited and the crew were forced to make the stages work for over 16 different sets, and also increase the size of the 007 stage by over 30%.
In July, filming moved to Iceland for two weeks, commencing at the base of the active Hekla volcano in southern Iceland on July 11, 2011. Speaking about working at the base of an active volcano, Scott stated: "If one is afraid of nature in this profession then it would be best to find a different job". Filming also took place at one of the most powerful waterfalls in Europe, the Dettifoss waterfall in the north east of Iceland, in the Vatnajökull National Park. The Iceland shoot involved 160 Icelandic crew members and over 200 imported crew. Scott claimed that the Iceland filming comprised approximately fifteen minutes of footage for the film, and that the area represented the "beginning of time". Exterior shots of the alien world were shot in Iceland. Morocco had been an intended shooting location instead of Iceland, but the 2010 Arab Spring protests forced the change of venue. Alternatives including the Mojave Desert had been considered alongside Iceland, but Scott explained that the country 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 Alicante beach. The complex was booked from August 22, 2011, through to December 10, with set construction occurring from August until late September. Approximately 250 people worked on the three-month-long Spain shoot, generating over €1 million to the local economy. Filming also took place in the Wadi Rum valley in Jordan.
Scott avoided using green screens unless necessary, instead employing various items to help the actors understand where they were meant to be looking in any particular scene on the practical sets that would have a CGI presence inserted in post-production. Rapace claimed that green screens were used less 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 up for use on camera dollies and tripods, which were continuously in use during filming. The fifth rig employed an Epic camera for use as a steadicam, which was only used as required.
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 stated: "You can literally twiddle a knob and the depth will increase", "the trick is not to overdo it". Prometheus contains approximately 1,300 digital effect shots. Moving Picture Company were the lead visual effect studio and produced 420 of the shots. Several other studios also produced the visual effects including Weta Digital, Fuel VFX, Rising Sun Pictures, Luma Pictures, Lola Visual Effects, and Hammerhead Productions. 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. Scott concluded work on the film in March 2012. For dark scenes with little lighting, the film was color graded to specifically compensate for the slight dimness introduced by wearing 3D glasses, to ensure the image was comparable to the 2D version.
In July 2011, Scott stated 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 claimed 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 explained "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 maintained that, regardless of rating, he would present the most "aggressive" cut of the film he could, while Rothman stated 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.
Prometheus's 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, with Scott and Rapace participating via satellite contribution. A segment of the footage showed Theron performing "naked push-ups" which attracted much attention. A teaser poster was revealed on December 14, 2011, with the tagline, "The search for our beginning could lead to our end." A bootleg recording of an incomplete teaser trailer was leaked online on November 27, 2011, but was swiftly taken down by Fox. The teaser 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. Reaction to the trailer was considered to be positive among WonderCon attendees and on Twitter, 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 from the film's opening in 3D at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square, London. The screening was well received, with particular mentions given to the 3D visuals and the performances of Fassbender, Rapace, Theron, and Elba.
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 marked the first time that viewers' tweets were used in a broadcast advertisement. Alongside the trailer, a competition was launched on the social platform Zeebox, offering viewers a chance to win tickets to the film whenever Zeebox detected the advertisement airing. On May 8, 2012, the advertisement became subject to an investigation by the British broadcasting regulatory body Ofcom for allegedly breaching broadcast rules when a voice over encouraged viewers to book tickets while the advertisement played and with the Channel 4 logo onscreen. The act potentially broke a rule that advertising and teleshopping must be clearly distinguishable from editorial content.
Although marketers typically avoid collaborating with adult-oriented films to focus on reaching broader audiences, the film attracted several promotional partners including Coors, Amazon and Verizon FiOS. The campaigns 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, England, was streamed live via the film's website and the Verizon FiOS Facebook. The event was facilitated by BumeBox, which culled audience questions from social sites and delivered them to reporters to ask at the event. The National Entertainment Collectibles Association (NECA) are developing a series of Prometheus action figures, scheduled for release in September 2012. Prometheus: The Art of the Film, a book containing production art and behind-the-scenes photos from the film, was released on June 12, 2012.
- See also: Prometheus short films
The film was accompanied by an extensive viral marketing campaign, consisting primarily of a series of short films featuring cast members from the movie. This campaign began with the release of TED Conference, 2023 on February 28, 2012.
During the 2012 WonderCon, attendees at the film's panel were given Weyland Corporation business cards that directed them to a website and phone number. Calling the number resulted in the caller being sent a text message from Weyland Corporation that linked them to a second viral video. Narrated by Fassbender, the video is presented as an advertisement for the "David 8" android, portrayed by Fassbender. An extended version of the video, entitled Happy Birthday, David, was released to the general public on April 17, 2012. Accompanying the video, a full page "David" advertisement was placed in The Wall Street Journal, a Twitter account operated by a David8 was revealed, allowing Twitter users to ask the character questions, and 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, debuting through the Verizon FiOS Facebook page. In France, the Saint-Martin ghost train station was converted in appearance to resemble alien architecture from the film, visible to passing commuters. The campaign continued following the film's release with a website referencing the philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche, which is quoted by Weyland in TED Conference, 2023.
The premiere of Prometheus took place on May 31, 2012, at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square, London. The film was released on June 1, 2012, in the United Kingdom, and was released on June 8, 2012, in North America. 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 viewer 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, becoming the most pre-booked film at the 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 of all ages, but low interest among females. The week preceding release saw conflicting opinions on whether the film or Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted would place number 1 for the weekend during their simultaneous release. As of June 6, 2012, Fandango reported that Prometheus was leading with 42% of daily sales, while Madagascar 3 was responsible for 35% of daily sales. Additionally, the online tracking for Prometheus surged with each new piece of promotional footage. However, pre-release tracking is usually less reliable for animated films; since Madagascar 3 was the first truely family-oriented film of the summer, many speculated that there would be large demand for it. The official 20th Century Fox prediction placed Prometheus around $30 million, while DreamWorks Animation and Paramount placed Madagascar 3 at about $45 million. As the weekend came closer, pre-release audience surveys suggested a $55 million debut for Madagascar 3 and $50-$55 million for Prometheus. Prometheus was also in the disadvantage of a less wide release (3,394 theaters against 4,258 theaters for Madagascar 3). Furthermore, the R rating of the film was considered a limiting obstacle.
As of June 10, 2012, the film has earned $51,050,101 in North America and $91,500,000 elsewhere for a worldwide total of $142,550,101.
Prometheus was initially released in 15 markets from May 30 to 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 (it 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, debuting at #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 and 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, seeing the most success in Australia ($6.8 million), and South Korea ($4.3 million).
In North America, the film 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, it earned $51.05 million from 3,396 theaters—an average of $15,032 per theater—ranking second behind Madagascar 3 ($60.4 million). The figure placed it as the number 3 highest-grossing second-place opening, the number 10 highest-grossing opening for an R-rated film, and it marked Scott's second highest-grossing opening behind the thriller Hannibal (2001). The largest segment 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.
Prometheus received mixed to positive reviews from critics. The film garnered a 74% approval rating from 220 critics – an average rating of 6.9 out of 10 – on the review-aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, whose consensus reads: "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, indicating "generally favorable" reviews. CinemaScore polls reported that the average grade moviegoers gave the film was a "B" on an A+ to F scale, with audience members under 25 rating it the highest at A-. Reviews were frequently praising of 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 more mixed response, with criticism of 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, singling out the performances of Fassbender, Rapace and Theron for praise, but lamented that the film catered too much to audience expectations, making it predictable. Time Out London's Tom Huddleston felt the plot was "flat" and "predictable", the characters "emotionless", and that while the film was "perfectly entertaining", it did not live up to pre-release expectations. Emanuel Levy cited the plot as his only complaint with the film, stating that it is unable to follow through with its philosophical ideas. Roger Ebert gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, labeling it a "magnificent ... blend of story, special effects and pitch-perfect casting, filmed in sane, effective 3-D that doesn't distract." Ebert positively compared Rapace to Sigourney Weaver's performance in Alien as continuing "the tradition of awesome feminine strength", but considered Elba the most interesting performer. Ebert thought that the plot, in raising questions and not answering them, made the film "intriguing" and in the "classic tradition of golden age sci-fi".
Total Film's Jonathan Crocker however offered 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 offered 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" criticizing 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, undermining its "lofty, mindblowing potential" with "bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance", but described Rapace as a "fine heroine, vulnerable and determined".
In a negative review, Variety film critic Justin Chang described the film's structure and genre as being unable to handle the philosophical undertow of the plot, and felt Prometheus was "lazily deferring" key plot points under the presumption that a sequel would be made. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw was less critical but thought that Prometheus "[lacked] the central punch of Alien", calling the film "more grandiose, more elaborate – but less interesting". Ian Nathan of Empire magazine was unimpressed by Rapace — whom he described as an unconvincing lead — and summarised the film as lacking suspense. The Village Voice's Nick Pinkerton stated that the film is "prone to shallow ponderousness", that can "mimic the appearance of an epic, noble, important movie", but fails to "payoff". He criticized Rapace and Marshall-Green for failing to instill interest in their character 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".
Writing in The Atlantic, Govindini Murty provided a comprehensive guide to the film’s mythological, literary and cinematic influences - from H.P. Lovecraft, to the drawings of William Blake.
Home video releases
In North America, the DVD and Blu-ray disc versions of the film were listed for pre-order in partnership with Amazon, a week before the film had been released in theaters. A limited number of tickets to the film were offered as a pre-order incentive. The film was eventually released on Blu-ray disc and DVD on October 9, 2012. Prior to release, rumors circulated that the home release would feature an extended cut of the film, similar to those of the four Alien movies, featuring as much as 20 minutes of additional footage. However, Ridley Scott ultimately declined to create such an alternate version.
The Blu-ray release of the film contained two commentary tracks, featuring Scott and the movie's writers, respectively, as well as almost 40 minutes of deleted scenes. The 3D Blu-ray release additionally came with a bonus disc containing a feature-length documentary entitled The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus.
A novelization of the film was written by Joe Spies and Damon Lindelof, although it was only published in Japan. A behind the scenes book featuring production artwork from the film titled Prometheus: The Art of the Film was also published by Titan Books. The soundtrack by Marc Streitenfeld was released on CD and for digital download. NECA produced a line of action figures based on the film.
- Several elements in the film were actually recycled from concepts rejected for Alien in 1979. These include the heads-up displays inside the ground team's helmet visors and the sequence where the crew recovers an Engineer head and returns it to the ship for study (originally to involve the Pilot's head). The design of the Prometheus' bridge is also very similar to an early design proposed for the bridge of the Nostromo, which was discarded because it would have been too expensive to build at the time.
- Unlike the first four films in the Alien franchise, no extended/alternate cut of Prometheus has been created. Ridley Scott was actually asked to assemble such a cut for the film's Blu-ray release by 20th Century Fox, but the director declined.
- Prometheus is the only film in the Alien franchise to feature no Xenomorphs whatsoever.
- Prometheus was a Titan in ancient Greek mythology, said to be the one who stole fire from the Gods and gave it to mankind. The term was previously used in the video game Predator: Concrete Jungle to refer to Prometheus Tech, technology developed by humans from stolen Yautja equipment. Greek history and mythology are a recurring point of reference in the Alien franchise; other notable examples include the moon Acheron, the comics Aliens: Rogue and Aliens: Dead Orbit (which contain numerous references), the ships Archimedes and Anesidora, and the novels Alien: River of Pain and Alien: Into Charybdis. The use of the real-life Phobos moon's location is also noteworthy as the Alien: Covenant tie-in video Phobos highlights the use of a fear test within the moon's Weyland-Yutani facility, seemingly drawing upon the mythology of Phobos, the god of fear. The story of Prometheus is actually recounted by Peter Weyland in the short film TED Conference, 2023.
- H. R. Giger had a little involvement in production. Ridley Scott said he worked on the movie for 11 months just creating some murals for the first chamber in the temple.
- According to Dr. Anil Biltoo, the linguist expert who helped developed the Engineer language for the film, what David is actually saying to the Last Engineer near the end of the movie is, "This man [Weyland] is here because he does not want to die. He believes you can give him more life." The language the Engineers use is based on Proto-Indo-European, the ancient common ancestor of modern Indo-European languages.
- See: Prometheus goofs
- Prometheus (novel) — The novelization of the film by Joe Spies.
- Prometheus (soundtrack) — The soundtrack to the film by Marc Streitenfeld and Harry Gregson-Williams.
- Prometheus short films — A series of promotional short films related to Prometheus.
- HBO First Look: Prometheus — A documentary about the making of the film, shot during production.
- The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus — An extensive documentary about the making of the film, shot during production.
- "Box Office Mojo Prometheus". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Retrieved on 2013-07-28.
- Prometheus Blu-ray special features
- "The Hollywood Reporter - Ridley Scott, Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace Tease 'Prometheus' at CineEurope". Retrieved on 2012-06-14.
- Paul W. S. Anderson, John Davis, Lance Henriksen, David Johnson, Tom Woodruff, Jr.. The Making of AVP (2005), 20th Century Fox [DVD].
- "Forbes - How An Unsung Screenwriter Got To Work With Ridley Scott On Prometheus, And Ended Up 'Riding A Bronco'". Retrieved on 2012-05-03.
- "The Independent - Ridley Scott: 'I'm doing pretty good, if you think about it'". Retrieved on 2012-06-16.
- Joseph McCabe, Jordan Farley, Richard Edwards. SFX, p. 54 (2012), Future plc.
- Joseph McCabe, Jordan Farley, Richard Edwards. SFX, p. 58 (2012), Future plc.
- "Film - Damon Lindelof Explains How Ridley Scott's 'Prometheus' is Connected to the 'Alien' Films". Retrieved on 2012-02-29.
- "The Guardian - Ridley Scott beams into Comic-Con to unveil Prometheus". Retrieved on 2011-12-18.
- "TED Blog - Writing a TED Talk from the future: Q&A with Damon Lindelof". Retrieved on 2018-09-21.
- "Collider - PROMETHEUS Viral Continues with Android-Unboxing Video from Weyland Corp Featuring Michael Fassbender". Retrieved on 2018-09-21.
- "Collider - Excellent PROMETHEUS Viral Campaign Continues with an Ad and Poster for Michael Fassbender's Android, "David 8"". Retrieved on 2018-09-21.
- "Mashable UK - 'Prometheus' Social Campaign Expands With Live Red Carpet and More". Retrieved on 2018-09-21.
- "Collider - Ridley Scott Refused to Do an Extended Cut for PROMETHEUS Blu-ray; Jon Spaihts Reveals Details about His Original Script". Retrieved on 2014-09-11.
- Paul Scanlon, Michael Gross. The Book of Alien, p. 65 (1979), Heavy Metal Communications.
- Paul Scanlon, Michael Gross. The Book of Alien, p. 44 (1979), Heavy Metal Communications.
- Michael Fassbender, Anil Biltoo. Language of the Gods (2012), 20th Century Fox [Blu-ray].