Nate Winslow [@nate_winslow] was so enamored of the new Prometheus trailer, he did a shot-by-shot breakdown to see what insight he could gleam in terms of the story. This is not an idle exercise. The film’s story has been shrouded in mystery since its inception, the likes of which we haven’t seen since… well, the movie Inception.
Here is Nate’s attempt to read the tea leaves. Note: This is in the spirit of a young man who is passionate about movies, the movie business, and especially Prometheus. If you don’t want to incorporate this type of analysis and speculation into your consciousness, don’t read any further. But if you want to start down the Prometheus rabbit hole, take the red pill and meet Nate after the break.
Prometheus Theatrical Trailer Shot-by-Shot Breakdown
After I had spent a few hours gushing explosively about the mind-blowing genius that was contained in the 2 minutes and 21 seconds of the theatrical Prometheus trailer, Scott and I were talking, and the idea of breaking the trailer down shot by shot came up.
An excuse to watch this trailer another 30 times? There are worse things in life. So I went ahead and broke the trailer down shot by shot, and here are the results.
If you want to go into PROMETHEUS as spoiler-free as you possibly can, stop reading. There’s actually a surprising amount of plot revealed in this trailer (especially compared to the cryptic glimpses we’d gotten previously) and if you’re a fan of being surprised in the theater, avoid the theatrical trailer and this post.
Without further ado:
:08 - Helicopter shot traveling down a river, slowly pulling up over the waterfall to reveal a massive spaceship hovering above the cliffs.
:15 – FROM DIRECTOR RIDLEY SCOTT
:17 - A webby, Voldemort-esque humanoid with blood vessels crawling across its skull and arms stares wonderingly at its hand as Charlize Theron tells us “A king has its reign…”
:20 - A breath-taking super wide shot of an unknown mountain range as a spaceship flies towards the surface.
:22 – A close-up of the PROMETHEUS flying through the upper atmosphere as Theron finishes: “…and then he dies.”
:24 – Blast-shields peel away from the interior of the PROMETHEUS’ cockpit revealing some dark stretch of space.
:28 - “It’s inevitable.” A shot of Noomi Rapace’s character, archaeologist DR. ELIZABETH SHAW, in her cryo-sleep tank as someone’s hand manipulates the controls to (guessing) bring her out of hibernation.
:30 - The crew’s hibernation chambers opening…
:33 - Idris Elba’s character CAPTAIN JANEK at the helm of the PROMETHEUS as it navigates its way through some beautiful blue-gray storm.
:34 - An exterior shot of the PROMETHEUS navigating through said storm…
:35 - Looking in through one of the PROMETHEUS’ windows as crew members take their positions in the cockpit (maybe the Prometheus is big enough that that’s considered the bridge?)
:36 - The PROMETHEUS touches down on some planet’s surface. Elba/JANEK: “Prometheus has landed.”
:38 - 20th Century Fox logo/Scott Free logo.
:40 - A science briefing: Rapace’s SHAW and Logan Marshall Green’s CHARLIE HOLLOWAY (Rapace’s science partner and love interest) present their series of findings to the assembled crew of the PROMETHEUS. HOLLOWAY explains, “These are ancient civilizations that are…”
:42 - A landscape…”…separated by centuries…”
:44 - Back at the briefing: “…and yet: this same pictogram was discovered…”
:46 - SHAW’s smiling face peering into some crevice of a cave: “…at every one of them.”
:49 - HOLLOWAY: You’re smiling. SHAW: I think they want us to come and find them.
:50 - HOLLOWAY and SHAW standing in front of a cave wall, staring at a crude painting depicting a human-y figure pointing towards five arranged planets (or just circles, but I’ll guess that they’re planets).
:51 - A loading bay on the PROMETHEUS as crew members in cool looking suits are walking around. And there’s a flamethrower and some familiar-ish looking personnel carriers visible.
:52 – The PROMETHEUS’s ramp lowers, revealing an alien landscape, as two dune buggies and a bigger carrier head out. “We’re all here because of a map you two kids found in a cave?”
:54 - An exterior of the PROMETHEUS on the planet’s surface with the three vehicles driving away.
:56 - The mini fleet of vehicles driving down some handily paved road on the planet’s surface as SHAW tells us: “Not a map…
:57 - SHAW: “An invitation.” Sean Harris’s FIFIELD reasonably asks: “From who?” SHAW plays it annoyingly coy.
1:02 - An ENORMOUS mountain-esque boulder…
1:05 – Fassbender’s android DAVID stares up at a wall inscribed with some sort of alien writing that looks like hieroglyphics as someone asks “Please tell me you can read that…”
1:08 - A massive sculpture of a–for all intents and purposes–human head, watching ominously over a room filled with small, sort of familiar canisters…
1:09 – SHAW stands at the base of the huge head, surrounded by the canisters, appropriately awed.
1:14 - SHAW, almost whispering, still staring up at the massive head: “Prometheus? Are you seeing this?”
1:16 – THIS SUMMER. Two crew members illuminate the length of an Alien-y tunnel.
1:18 - The crew release orb-shaped probes into the tunnels, which look like miniature strobe lights that map everything they see with cool red lights (or, for Star Wars fans, they look a lot like a thermal detonator) that should come with seizure warnings.
1:23 – HOLLOWAY shines his light on what looks like an alien serving bowl. Small things are wriggling on top of it…
1:24 – JANEK back on board the PROMETHEUS: “Whatever that probe is picking up, it’s a reading lifeform.” Theron’s MEREDITH VICKERS (the “suit” of the movie who’s there to oversee things on behalf of the company. I think this time it’s just WEYLAND? Perhaps not yet Weyland-Yutani? She’s the Carter Burke of this one) watches a holographic map of the crew exploring the tunnels, watching one of the red dots move…
1:26 - DAVID stares at a wall illuminated by the red light of one of his probes.
1:27 - Three crew members stand in front of an opening door, leading into a chamber.
1:29 – DAVID walks into the room with the giant head and the canisters…”What do you mean ‘a life form’?”
1:30 – SHAW in a cavernous room, shining her light on the wall as it…shifts: “Overhead** – they’re changing.” A single tear streaks down her cheek. (**I think she says “overhead” but her accent makes that one tough. Your guess is as good as mine).
1:32 - VICKERS: “Changing into what?”
1:34 - DAVID peering creepily at the top of one of the canisters covering the floor of the Big Head Room with a terrifying grimace of a smile on his face: the tiny things on the top of the canister are…wriggling. “It’s moving?” asks a voice over the radio…
1:35 – A close up of someones gloved fingers covered in some sort of slime…
1:36 – FIFIELD, flinching away, reaching for his helmeted face: “These things moving??”
1:37 – DAVID pulls what looks like a cluster of frozen trout out of some scientific container (it’s not trout. It’s probably alien lifeforms)…
1:37 – WHY HELLO THERE – that looks a lot like an Alien frozen into the wall.
1:38 – A platform is explosively lit by a ball of expanding blue light that projects a holographic globe from out of the floor – briiiiefly visible is a mysterious figure standing in the foreground near the middle of the frame. “What is that?”
1:39 – JANEK, looking somewhat stunned. “That is a ship.” (The dialogue doesn’t match the visuals here–the “what is that?” comes over the image of the blue globe, which is distinctly NOT a ship. Janek’s “That is a ship” is in response to a hologram of what is quite clearly a horse-shoe shaped ship.
1:41 - A subterranean glimpse of said ship, with the ceiling above it slowly opening to reveal the alien planet’s sky. “They’re leaving.”
1:42 – A close-up of what I’m pretty sure is the center of the platform that was lit with the globe a few seconds ago, showing what I’m also pretty sure is the Space Jockey’s throne emerging from the floor.
1:43 – SHAW: “To go where?”
1:44 - DAVID in the middle of the earlier glowing blue globe, holding a smaller, glowing blue ball that seems to be a tiny model of our very own Planet Earth: “Earth.”
1:45 – The shot pulls back to show DAVID in the middle of the glowing blue globe, which looks like some sort of universe/planet/star map of the galaxy?
1:45 – SHAW: “We were SO wrong.”
1:46 – Helmet cam footage from DAVID’s perspective of crew members fleeing from something…
1:46 – A shot of the armored carrier and two dune buggies from earlier fleeing back towards their ship, chased by a massive wall of dust.
1:47 - VICKERS, on the PROMETHEUS: “Take us home!”
1:49 - The PROMETHEUS lifting off of the planet, attempting to do just that.
1:50 – SHAW, on the planet’s surface, and standing on what appears to be the moving roof that was housing the horse-shoe shaped alien space ship, shaking as the ground beneath her begins to open. “If we don’t stop it, there won’t be any home to go back to!”
1:54 – Panic on the bridge. JANEK: “Why is that door open?!”
1:55 - SHAW, bloody bandages, staring herself down in the mirror, horrified. We hear a terrified screaming voice-over: “CUT IT OFF! CUT IT OFF!”
1:59 - Back inside the platform chamber from earlier, we get a glimpse of a huge humanoid figure, crouching over a green hologram of Earth–what looks like the Space Jockey’s throne rises in the background.
2:00 – A helmeted crew member, screaming, vapor filling the insides of his helmet (acid? Acid blood?) Steam erupting on the outside of it.
2:01 - The armored carrier racing the sandstorm to the PROMETHEUS.
2:01 – Crewmembers, on the PROMETHEUS, torching something with flamethrowers.
2:02 – Someone (something?) launches itself off the top of the armored carrier parked in the PROMETHEUS’ hangar, dropping onto an unsuspecting crewmember who’s desperately trying to put out a fire.
2:03 - Back to the platform – we see the huge humanoid thing walking slowly towards the Space Jockey throne that has almost completely emerged from beneath the floor.
2:04 - A medical tank opens as the person inside of it thrashes violently, trying to fight off what looks like some ancestor of a facehugger.
2:05 – The PROMETHEUS fleeing the surface of the planet, headed towards the atmosphere.
2:06 – JANEK’s horrified face, staring out the cockpit at something we can’t see.
2:06 – The PROMETHEUS crashing into the side of the horse-shoe shaped spaceship.
2:08 – SHAW attempting to jump across a chasm as the ground beneath her opens up to let the horse shoe spaceship out.
2:08 – A flash of a helmeted crew member writhing in pain as something is happening to his face.
2:09 – A half-naked SHAW, covered in goo/blood/blue paint stumbles down a hallway inside the PROMETHEUS.
2:09 – A massive explosion rocks the horse shoe shaped ship in mid-air.
2:10 – A crew member stumbles to their feet outside the PROMETHEUS as the dust storm storms towards them.
2:11 – A crew member in mid-air getting sucked away.
2:11 - VICKERS looking terrified in a sleep chamber, probably willing the door to close much quicker than it is currently deciding to do so.
2:12 – A close-up of the Space Jockey in its throne. If you watch it closely, you can see what appears to be its rib-cage actually tightening around it, like they’re actually some sort of strap. Perhaps a bio-mechanical suit or exo-skeleton type of thing for the huge humanoid we saw a few times.
2:13 – Crew members storm into what looks like the PROMETHEUS’ hangar, blasting away at something off-screen with their pistols. Educated guess: they’re shooting at something that resulted from the earlier shot where a suited thing jumped off the roof of the carrier onto an unsuspecting crew member below it.
2:14 - Part of the horse shoe ship crashing impacting into the ground.
2:14 – SHAW (I think) on the ground as the ship crashes right behind her, fleeing desperately to avoid being squashed.
2:15 - SHAW fighting off someone.
2:15 – SHAW, slumped on the ground, as the huge humanoid man stands over her. Probably not about to offer to help her up, either.
2:18 - DAVID in a close-up, staring at something that’s out of focus on the top of his finger. “Big things have small beginnings.”
Compared to the tidbits we’ve been handed up until this point, this trailer is the Mother Lode. For all the secrecy that’s shrouded this film, and for all the “Is it an ALIEN prequel or is it something else or is it maybe an ALIEN prequel but also something else” stuff, I was shocked at how much plot they put in here.
There’s certainly a lot to digest, though, and since we’ve got until early June to wait and find out just how much “Alien DNA” is in this thing, I’m going to take a stab in the dark at what that movie might look like.
–The tag line for the movie tells you a lot about the type of story Ridley Scott is trying to tell us, now that we can pair it to this footage: “The Search For Our Beginning Could Lead to Our End.” Take those opening two shots of the trailer–the pan up the river to the spaceship and the weird, veiny humanoid dude–and match them to “Our Beginning” and might that give us a little opening prologue about humanity’s beginnings? Perhaps at the hands of some massively advanced bio-mechanical race of god-like beings that created us in their own image and then ran away to sit on some planet and leave behind a Space Jockey?
–They leave behind an invitation: Noomi’s character calls it an invitation, and like all grand adventures into the darkest reaches of space, I’m sure it seemed like a great idea to follow up on this invitation with anything less than a thermo-nuclear arsenal. Alas, hindsight is 20/20. But it looks like we discover the drawings of our ancient ancestors–perhaps who lived so long ago that they still have vague memories of these god-like creators of ours who departed for the stars thousands of years ago–and they’re all pointing us skyward.
We go skyward, funded by a trusty, greedy corporation and probably accompanied by gruff, one-liner-delivering marines who are endearingly crusty, and we seek out this planet of our potential creators. We arrive on that planet. We explore. At first, it seems completely desolate. Then someone does something innocuous (probably Fassbender’s DAVID, because androids are never to be trusted and they’re always scheming) that turns on some long-dormant power system (I’m looking at you, glowing blue globe orb in the trailer…), and we start making brilliant decisions like “Let’s take this odd, alien lifeform back to the ship and do tests on it but forget to keep it secure!”
So maybe we take some alien-ish life form from the forest of canisters in the Big Head Statue room back to the ship and David starts experimenting. The experiments go wrong. It gets loose and maybe attaches itself to someone’s face and maybe the aliens we see in the later movies evolved by morphing themselves using some of our human DNA. Human DNA that they got because of the events of this movie? Somehow David’s also behind the Glowing Blue Orb situation, and when he does that, perhaps it wakes the system up. What system? Whatever system that makes the platform David was surrounded by the orb on turn into a pilot’s seat for the Space Jockey.
And it turns out that the Space Jockey wasn’t actually a person. It was a suit. An exo-skeleton, if you will. And that big huge bald dude walking around in the trailer? Yeah, he (or one of his brethren) got in that suit to pilot their ship around. What ship? The horse-shoe ship that said big huge bald dude attempts to pilot off the planet. He’s headed for Earth. And maybe he got the coordinates from our ship when we accidentally powered him back up, but now he’s headed back to Earth to…destroy us for not behaving? Too much CO2 pollution? Something upset him and his people, and he’s going to Earth to vanquish us. We try and stop him by crashing the Prometheus into his horse-shoe and bringing him down. This pisses him off, and he comes rampaging through the ship and probably kills a large amount of the crew before someone throws him out of an airlock.
…and might there be a distress beacon activated at some point? But it’s a tough one to make out because the trailer isn’t in chronological order–pretty sure the Prometheus doesn’t get to leave that planet intact, though.
There are big pieces of the puzzle still missing, and none of this will probably turn out to be the actual plot of the movie, but you never know. The scale of that trailer is mind-numbingly epic, but I think it’s definitely closer in tone to Alien than Aliens: whatever they find out on that planet about how humanity was born is clearly terrifying. It might even result in some sort of moral dilemma about whether or not we’re even human. Or what is human. Or what do we even do with this hypothesized information that they may or may not find? It looks like there are some big questions at the heart of this thing, and hopefully I’m not just making that up. Regardless, that sort of premise given this sort of massive, big-budget treatment by a director like Ridley Scott gives me chills.
Bring on June 2012.
BONUS: As I was writing this, I kept having to go back and re-think something because the trailer is cut out of chronological order. I got curious enough (and was bored enough) to try and re-assemble the trailer in basic chronological order. I make no promises that this is anywhere NEAR actual chronological order, and I slapped this together in less than an hour just to see what it looks like. The narration isn’t snyced to the video anymore, but I actually think it makes even more eerie.
To see the recut trailer, go here.
Analysis by Nate Winslow [@nate_winslow]
UPDATE: Grist for the mill from TheWrap Prometheus Secrets Revealed: 5 Things We Now Know.