Prometheus is a very big, very expensive science fiction film set aboard a futuristic space craft that's packed with all sorts of fascinating technology, from a machine that can automatically perform surgery to a startlingly human-like android named David. So in a way, it only made sense for director Ridley Scott to use the newest technology in flimmaking-- that is, 3D cameras-- to make his new film, which is set among the terrifying alien creatures that 3D has been capturing since its earliest days.
But has Scott taken proper advantage of the 3D format? And is the 3D just a distraction from all the other visuals and dense story of Prometheus? That's what we're going to answer in our latest installment of To 3D or not to 3D, in which we analyze the film's use of 3D step by step, and help you figure out how to buy the right ticket to see Prometheus below. Join us below, but be warned: in To 3D or not to 3D, no one can hear you scream.
Does It Fit?
I typically dock live-action films a point in this category, because human actors simply never pop in 3D the way animation can. But while the humans in Prometheus are quite impressive, they're surrounded by absolutely stunning visuals, both practical and CGI, that seem perfectly calibrated for the 3D camera. The science fiction genre is already well-suited to 3D, with its vistas of space and opportunities for otherworldly locations that pop out in terrifying detail; now consider the horror roots of Prometheus from Ridley Scott's Alien, and how much scarier some of those jumps could have been in 3D. Prometheus has everything going for it here.
Fit Score: 5/5
Planning & Effort
Unlike so many directors faced with studio pressure to turn his blockbuster film into a 3D spectacle, Ridley Scott didn't take a look at the cumbersome 3D cameras and ditch them for post-conversion. Not only did he take on the 3D cameras, he used the top-of-the-line RED Epic cameras, and hired cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, who used the RED 3D cameras to film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Scott didn't just move on from decades of experience shooting on film to venture into something new, but he made sure he had all the right people on board to help him, and it shows in every frame of Prometheus.
P&E Score: 5/5
Before the Window
When we say "before the window," we mean the elements of the 3D that pop out at the audience and make you jump out of your seat-- some may call it gimmicky, some may call it great. It seems Ridley Scott thinks the effect is a little gimmicky, though, as he goes pretty easy on the before the window moments, even in scenes-- like a massive dust storm in space-- where it really could have been utilized. There's one moment near the very end of the film, though, where he goes for broke with the effect to create one of the film's best scares. I'm not sure the lack of "before the window" moments makes the 3D in Prometheus any worse, but it does lower the score here.
Before the Window Score: 3/5
Beyond the Window
With "before the window" referring to the 3D that pops out at you, "beyond the window" then refers to everything that expands deeper into a screen, as if you're looking through a window into a world that goes beyond you. It's almost impossible to overstate how much Prometheus excels here. Whether within the confines of the Prometheus ship or the barren alien planet or even ancient Earth in the early scenes, the depth of Prometheus is astounding, and it's clear this is where Scott and Wolski really put their heads together to put the 3D to work. The movie will look great in 2D, but the depth is practically jaw-dropping with that added 3D element.
Beyond the Window Score:5/5
Putting on 3D glasses is basically like wearing sunglasses in a movie theater, with the 3D lenses darkening your vision and requiring both filmmakers and the projectionists to boost the brightness. And even though much of Prometheus takes place in black space, or in dark alien caves, there's absolutely no problem with the brightness here. Even better, the darkness really does feel dark-- Scott and Wolski manage some kind of magic trick of creating believable darkness that still pops in 3D. It should be the standard for any future 3D film that needs to take place at night.
Brightness Score: 5/5
The Glasses Off Test
If you're watching a 3D movie and you feel like the 3D isn't really doing all that much, try removing your glasses-- if you see a lot of blur around the image, you should see a lot of depth onscreen with the glasses on; if it looks pretty much the same, you may as well have bought the 2D ticket. As you might guess from all the gushing I did about the depth in Prometheus, the movie passes this test spectacularly. You're never going to feel cheated for a moment-- and odds are you'll be so engrossed in the visuals you'll forget to take them off anyway.
Glasses Off Test: 5/5
When 3D is used badly-- and especially when it's post-converted badly-- fast-moving action scenes can make the audience sick, as you struggle to regain your footing within the suddenly changing 3D world. Shooting Prometheus in 3D gets rid of a lot of this problem, but Scott also shoots his action scenes in a fairly traditional way-- no shaky cam here to make you sick. No promises on how the alien creature effects will affect your appetite, though.
Health Score: 5/5
Final Verdict: This is damn close to a perfect score for 3D, and if you think that popping 3D effects out of the screen is gimmicky, you may as well call it perfect. Prometheus makes exceptional use of 3D, enhancing the already incredible visuals of the film and truly immersing the audience in its epic story. If you've been a 3D skeptic and are sick of shelling out the extra cash, this might be the movie to change your mind.
For more 3D analysis, visit our To 3D Or Not To 3D archive right here.