“Prometheus” IMAX 3-D: Panoramas, Subwoofers, and Questions Begetting Questions

From an audiovisual standpoint, the IMAX 3-D version of Prometheus was one of the most overwhelming, immersive experiences I’ve ever encountered. Beyond that, results varied. Possible spoilers abound, but nothing intense enough to require the services of my usual spoiler guardian.

I’ve only seen one full episode of Lost, but I got the impression from its viewers (haters who refused to stop watching as well as genuine fans) that they had to answer all the deepest questions themselves. Much of Prometheus was like that for my son and me. We liked its approach to the spiritual questions it raises, as well as the additional questions engendered by those questions in turn. In my experience that’s par for the course in any serious reexamination of What It All Means. Even if the movie’s answers and suggestions don’t remotely match mine, it’s intriguing to watch other people’s thought processes at work through the constructs built from their own set of evidence.

If we’d seen it on a smaller screen, I might’ve been more disappointed. Luckily for Prometheus, I have a hard time concentrating on aesthetics when my field of vision and my limited hearing range are in maximum sensory overload. Whenever vehicles crashed, it was like a full body massage as the whole theater vibrated with malevolence, and a special treat for my ears that cause such despair when they miss little sounds and entire conversations in everyday life.

As far as people go: Lisbeth Salander Prime was in top form as our main character. It’s refreshing to see a film where a character can wear a cross, stand their ground, and espouse non-Jewish religious views without being a source of intense comedic ridicule or die a grisly death. Granted, she’s the subject of mild comedic ridicule, but then there’s occasionally satisfying retribution in the form of grisly deaths. I also approve of her enduring the most excruciating of hardships while armed only with canned space epidural.

I was enthralled by Michael Fassbender as the android David, who combined Data’s existential aspirations with Wall-E’s cinephilia and Crow T. Robot’s amoral curiosity. Idris Elba seemed an odd choice for the role of the cantankerous, nebulous pilot, but the Stephen Stills squeezebox went a long way. I was mollified by the one or two human moments that Charlize Theron was allowed to experience in modes other than hard-as-nails. The Tom Hardy lookalike met the minimum requirements of the standard skeptical-significant-other role. I barely recognized Guy Pearce disguised in gallons of elderly makeup as Professor Farnsworth and wish he hadn’t been irrelevant to the entire third act.

In general I wish more had been done with the supporting cast. I wouldn’t’ve minded an extra half-hour of character moments, which were the hallmark of some of the previous films. When characters are pondering deep subjects and waxing philosophical, it means a lot more if I’m given reasons to care about their opinions, regardless of whether they’re informed or shallow. Without that emotional foundation, the inevitable kill-spree meant no more to me than one from an average horror film, which is all the more disappointing if you consider that the majority of the film was more sci-fi than horror.

About that kill-spree: although the creature effects achieved their goals, the simplistic drives for some beings and unexpressed motivations for others each failed to coalesce into an effective bad-guy presence. Yes, they were big and strong and physically menacing, but I’ll be really surprised if I can remember any of them fondly three years from now. Prometheus achieved the rare reaction of creating backgrounds and settings that were more vibrant eye-candy than the beings gallivanting in front of them and blocking my view. When you find yourself wishing that movie characters would move aside so you can see what cool things they’re blocking, the movie has gone wrong somewhere.

Perhaps my opinion would’ve improved if I’d consumed any of the pre-release viral-video supplements. I ignored all of them for two reasons: avoidance of spoilers, and preference for experiencing the movie as a work of art unto itself. I grow impatient with any movie that requires homework before I’m supposed to see it. I’m fine with viewing such material months after the fact in the form of DVD extras, but I’m of a mindset that doesn’t yet appreciate movies as the climax of an interactive cross-platform viewing game. If character moments in the movie were minimized with the expectation that the viral videos would pick up the slack in that area, then this isn’t my kind of filmmaking.

It’s possibly my kind of DVD-making. But I’m gonna need a bigger TV.

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