PROMETHEUS and the Art of Storywatching

by Derek Leidig on January 3, 2013



While commenting on The Year of the Trailer in regards to the grand CLOUD ATLAS, I had mentioned that the trailer for Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS was one of the best I had ever seen. Alas, the actual viewing of The Rest Of It was memorable for other reasons.

It was a rainy afternoon just outside Utica, NY and I wandered into one of those new-fangeled digital Wonderplexes that are  popping up in every suburb these days. I was excited to see a Very Expensive Movie Built Off Of A Two-Minute Scene From 1979 (the working title, I believe.) I arrived early, paid the too-high fee (for 2D in fact) found my seat (top of the stairway so no one could sit zin front of me) and turned off my phone because I’m a hell of a guy. Trailers a go. Feature a go. Giant E.T. by a river drinks the black goo and begins to…wait, what the fuck is this guy doing wandering around in front of me? You know how they say nothing good happens after 2AM? Nothing good comes from the last person to enter a movie theater. Of course he was on the phone.

Late Guy sits two chairs down from me in the back row, the light from his phone illuminated his red, beat-to-hell baseball cap. I try to focus on the movie and I mostly succeed, but the spell was somewhat broken by then. Movie chugs along, and while it looked amazing, once it started telling a linear story I found my spirits dropping somewhat. After seeing the trailer, I guess I wanted TREE OF LIFE IN SPACE. But so far, it is still pretty good. Until he got a call and actually answered it.

Really? No, REALLY? That’s what you paid good money for, cool guy? To dick around your phone in not-quite-privacy? Well, at least the call was short, but by then, so was my temper. No matter, right about the time the movie decided to Reveal Something Important, the movie shuts off and the lights pop on. Was there a storm? Lightening strike? Labor strike? I never would find out.

I had this happened a few times before. The Big Reveal in MINORITY REPORT was ruined by a power outage (spolier: Tom Cruise was actually a minority), but an awesomely timed outage during TWISTER actually made the film better than it ever could have been. This current one was to be the first interruption for me in the Digital Age. What would happen?

Turns out, not much. I had found out a few weeks earlier from a projectionist friend in Albany, that when one of the high-end Christie-brand digital projectors experiences a problem, the theater is to simply, “call Canada.” Then usually they are told to, “turn the projector off and then turn it back on again.” That is certainly easier that trying to make linear sense of a strip of 35mm film that by now has bite marks on it (trust me, I know), but the down side is that the projector bulb on digital projectors take several minutes to turn on. Of course, during that time the movie may just keep playing along–audio only, like a big radio program. That was the case here. Whatever was happening to the crew of the Prometheus, it sure sounded awful. It was here that I decided to get up and go (something I never do) in hopes of somehow preserving any remaining mystery.

Another thing I found out at this cinema, big as it was, is that they really don’t have a backup plan for something like this. No refund was offered without a fight, as the movie technically had kept on playing (Ridley Scott films are not known for their visuals.) All of my fellow co-complainers in the hallway were not happy, but I caught eyes with the GUY IN THE CAP.

He steps to me, and asks, “What do we do now?” in a strange accent. Not from around here, I thinks. But from where? “I was just waiting out the rain to see if my game got rained out.” Game, you say? Turns out Johnny Red was a baseball prospect from Missouri who was in town playing for the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks farm team.

Well how about that. I may have been grumbly boy all along, but that is at least pretty cool. I’m no fan, but if you are stuck killing time waiting to play a baseball game in Utica, NY, you must really love the damn game. All (or most) was forgiven. As he was not going to be able to redeem any refunded ticket and thus would not be ruining someone else’s experience, he walked away, disappearing into the mystical cornfield that was the theater parking lot, never to be heard from again.

First mystery solved, now back to me. Sensing that the situation at hand was not going to improve as it stood, and I did not really want to sit through the first 2/3 of the film again (good, not that good), I at least wanted to know how it ended. I thought about the $3 in my pocket. Why was it there again? Oh, right. I had not wanted to pay for the 3D version that was to start later. So I thought, instead of  a refund, I’m going to give myself an upgrade or –to use the industry term– a post-conversion.

On the other side of the Megaplex was another bank of theaters and this time no one was crowding the halls. A quick trip to the bathroom (it had been a awhile) I made my move. I fished out a pair of discarded 3D glasses from one of those bins in the hall and I wandered into the second theater devoted to gooey phallic space monsters.

This would be my first experience with 3D and as the start times for both theaters overlapped, I was able to see some of the scenes twice and compare 2D to 3D (it was also the goriest parts, to boot). Verdict? Eh. Like watching a moving Viewmaster. I immediately noticed that some of the cool detail work hiding in the corners was now obscured by…dimensional blurring?  As for the common complaint that the movies in 3D are projected in dimmer light, I could not tell becuase most of the rest of the movie was shown with the house lights on, because of course it was.

Consensus is that PROMETHEUS won’t go down in history as BLADE RUNNER 2 (we’ll all have to just wait for BLADE RUNNER 2), so I don’t feel as bad, but the unfortuantely, I’ll never get to see PROMETHEUS for the first time again. But at least I got to experience it the first time around.


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