Prometheus Trailer Breakdown

A shot-by-shot analysis of Ridley Scott's epic teaser trailer


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There are some questions to which man may never know the answer. Just what does The Colonel put on those sweet, sweet mini fillets? Who the hell is Mark Cavendish? And what in the name of Sam Hill is Ridley Scott’s Prometheus about?

Thankfully, after the release of the first teaser for Sir Ridley’s sci-fi extravaganza, we’re a little closer to knowing the answer to the latter question. A little closer. Because the secrets of Prometheus are up there with The Dark Knight Rises in the locked-down-and-guarded-by-dragons stakes. But it’s clear that, after months of rumour, obfuscation, the odd semi-confirmation and rebuttal, the movie does tie into the Alien franchise wot Sir Ridders started all those years ago. Stylistically alone, the trailer - with the piercing shrieks on the soundtrack, and the title slowly appearing across mysterious, brief images of people in peril - strongly evokes Alien’s famous teaser, while there are enough familiar sights in there to get Alien fans foaming at the mouth with speculation.

So here is our trailer breakdown, armed with - hopefully - enough knowledge to set you straight on one of the most exciting movies of 2012.

*Spoiler warning: Included throughout are in-depth readings of major plot points. *

Over the Fox logo and the Scott Free insignia, we hear faint echoes of a garbled transmission. Then, suddenly, something that sounds like, "We were so wrong." Followed, ominously, by "I’m sorry." It sounds like the voice of Noomi Rapace who, as Elizabeth Shaw, leader of a scientific expedition to discover information about the birth of mankind, is our nominal Ripley this time around. But what was she wrong about? And why is she sorry? It’s certainly a grim note on which to start - it would seem that things are not going to end well for our heroes.

This is Prometheus. The ship, not the film. Shaw and her colleagues use the ship to cover the vast distance from Earth to their destination, an as-yet unnamed planet. Is there any significance to the film and ship sharing a name? After all, Alien was not called Nostromo; nor Aliens, Sulaco. On reflection, we’d say that it’s not quite as significant as the choice of the name. For those who don’t know their Greek mythology, Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mankind, kick-starting their evolution. He was then punished by being chained to a rock, while an eagle ate his liver EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR ETERNITY. What does this have to do with Sir Ridley’s film? Well, it seems that unlike Alien, which was primarily occupied with scaring the bejesus out of us, Prometheus has big weighty themes on its mind: who are we? Where did we come from? And did something help give us a push?

In this shot, our heroes have arrived on the planet - a vast mountainous world shrouded in fog and cloud. Sir Ridley was keen on using practical effects and sets where he could, but sometimes - when painting on a canvas this big - you just have to break out the CG brush and go to town. We don’t think that’s Prometheus breaking through the clouds, but a smaller ship detached from the main; and we reckon that this isn’t LV-426, the planet on which the Alien was first discovered back in 1979.

Here, some of Prometheus’ crew get ready to go on a little expedition, in a shot that’s more reminiscent of anything in James Cameron’s Aliens than Scott’s Alien. We love the military heft of the vehicles, and the massive domes of their spacesuits. Hard to tell at this distance if any of our main characters are in this shot.

And here the exploring party moves out onto the planet’s surface. Look closely at the vehicles, and you’ll see a familiar logo belonging to, arguably, the real villain of the Alien franchise: Weyland, the Company that generally speaking has invidious designs on the chestbursting critters. This is a slightly different logo than the one we’ve seen before, though, and there’s no mention of Yutani. Interesting…

Here, our team of intrepid Prof. Brian Coxes head down a dark, dank, Giger-esque tunnel. None more Alien.

Incoming message from The Big Giant Head! In what Sir Ridley has described as the ‘ampule chamber’, our team discover something very intriguing. A giant statue... of a humanoid head, etched with scars and lines. What the hell is it? What does it mean? And also, two things of note: an ampule is, according to Wikipedia, a ‘small sealed vial which is used to contain and preserve a sample’. Intriguing. And the last, but by no means least, intriguing thing: in this shot, we can clearly see that one of the team has taken his helmet off. Does this planet have a breathable atmosphere? Or just these tunnels? What the hell does THAT mean?

Here, Rapace’s Shaw looks up in wonder at the Giant Head. Remarkably Giger-esque, those markings, aren’t they? And there’s something mighty familiar about the bio-organic constructs behind her. A hint at an Alien presence, perhaps?

Our first clear look at Michael Fassbender, who plays the ship’s android, David, as he heads towards one of the ampules. If this movie is linked to Alien, then we know that people approaching mysterious objects very rarely ends with drinks at the clubhouse...

And so it seems, as a crew member gets liberally doused in some sort of hot, burning, fizzing liquid. It’s not David, though - this poor unfortunate is wearing their helmet. And, like everyone else, our first thought is that this is acid. After all, what do xenomorphs have pumping through their veins instead of blood? Incidentally, we can’t tell which character this is, despite repeated looks. That, of course, is the point. But it’s undeniably a 'he', and his character name should be Mr. First To Die.

Another shot of Prometheus in flight. Love the design of this ship. Interestingly, if we accept that the events of the teaser are in chronological order, then this would indicate that Prometheus has completed its mission and is heading away from the planet. Job done? Well, it would seem to have some specimens to prod and poke...

It’s everyone’s favourite jockey (Lester Piggott, Tony McCoy and Willie Carson notwithstanding) - the Space Jockey! We all remember that giant elephantine creature in Sir Ridley’s Alien, the pilot of the enormous derelict spacecraft on which all the Facehugger eggs were stored. It’s believed that Sir Ridley has always wanted to tell the story of how that particular chap, and the craft, got there (and how he wound up with an enormous hole in his chest). It seems that the crew of Prometheus may be part of the reason. For here they, led by Shaw and a sitting David, are about to do a biopsy on a Space Jockey head. Is this a Good Idea? Probably not. We can’t see which character has their back to us, but we’re guessing it’s Charlize Theron’s Weyland representative, Vickers. You may boo and hiss at your leisure.

Ah, the team isn’t finished, it seems. They’ve left people back on the planet, including Rafe Spall’s Milburn (in the thick plastic-rimmed glasses). Red lights have just come on all around them. Red means good, right?

Very hard to see, this, but it looks like Logan Marshall-Green’s Holloway is sitting on his bed, having a good old existential crisis. It appears that someone else is in bed with him, but we can’t make out who. Rapace’s Shaw? If so, it could be interesting, as the Alien series has long been one that hinted at relationships (Ripley-Dallas; Ripley-Hicks; Ripley-Clemens; Ripley-Newborn), but never really followed through. If a couple is leading the expedition, what will their discoveries do to their dynamic?

In this shot, David gingerly extracts a chicken casserole from an ampule. Or it could be something terrifying and vicious. One Empire staff member has suggested it could be a nascent facehugger, and we’re not inclined to disagree. As a synthetic, is David in danger?

Here’s our first proper glimpse of Theron’s Vickers, doing something that comes naturally to people in this franchise: pelting it full-speed down a corridor as if they were being chased by a big scaly monster that resembles both a penis and a vagina. Which, to be fair, they are most of the time. Interesting to note, though, that Vickers is taking off her spacesuit as she goes. Is she about to do a Ripley-style quick change into a spacesuit?

The next shot could indicate ‘yes’, as a gloved hand does something. Sorry we can’t be more vague. However…

Said gloved hand belongs to Shaw. Who’s back in one of the transport vehicles, and shoving it into reverse. Why, we have no idea. We’d ask Sir Ridley or Damon Lindelof, but we can’t imagine they’re gagging to tell us.

Here, we see the discovery team driving back towards the landing ship, for their return to Prometheus. Are they beating a hasty retreat, though? Are they running away from something, quick sharp?

A vast waterfall. A cylindrical spaceship moving slowly away from it... and in pursuit of Prometheus? What is that thing? What’s on it? Where is it going?

Now, this is interesting. Very interesting. Two guys with guns, apparently on Prometheus, firing at... something. They appear to be mercenaries, and aren’t any of our main heroes. But look behind them: who’s that old guy in the spacesuit? We think we know, but we don’t want someone from The Company killing us. Behind him seems to be Kate Dickie, as Imora, and Shaw. Either way, the shit seems to be hitting the fan.

Which might explain why someone is heaving themselves into one of Prometheus’ escape pods. Who could it be?

It’s Vickers. But what’s gone so badly wrong that she needs to leg it? And where the hell is everyone else? Is something on board Prometheus? (Note: This could also be a space toilet. There’s no way of knowing at this point.)

[Warning: Spoilers]

This looks like it’s Mr Acid Face from earlier on, and things are not going well for him. The eagle-eyed amongst you may also notice that he’s wearing a hat with his name on it. Looks like Holloway’s road may be about to come to an end.

In this very brief shot, a blonde crew member seems to have opened a star-map in glorious 3D (like the film itself, and we’re simply busting at the seams to see Sir Ridley work in that format). Is it Vickers? Could be David...

There’s been talk that Prometheus could be a PG-13. Not if this shot is anything to go by, as a bloodied crew member stumbles into a room and collapses. It looks like Shaw - what has she been through? While, looking on somewhat dispassionately, are David, a character we can’t quite identify, and that old dude again, this time in a wheelchair. Who is he?

Now this is interesting. A spaceship explodes in mid-air. A spaceship that looks mighty familliar. A spaceship that looks like a dead ringer for the Space Jockey’s derelict donut. What has happened here? And is this the ship that we saw taking off earlier on, over the waterfall?

Another tantalising image, as a Prometheus crew member, seemingly transformed or mutated, leaps at an unsuspecting crew-mate. Does this indicate that there’s an infection on board the ship? It would certainly seem to suggest that this is a monster movie... but the monsters don’t necessarily take the shape one would expect.

OK, now we’re on Alien territory, alright. We’ve seen this before - this is the terminal where the Space Jockey is found in the 1979 movie. But, given that we now suspect the Space Jockeys aren’t as friendly as we might have hoped, is this a steering wheel? Or some sort of weapon? And look to the right: a large humanoid, with a pale grey/blue face, is watching it rise up from the floor. Is this our first look at the Space Jockey’s true form?

This looks like Vickers - now wearing surgical swaddling - is being lowered onto something. For what purpose, we’re not sure. But she doesn’t look happy about it.

Our first look at Idris Elba as Prometheus’ captain, Janek. He doesn’t look happy, either. In fact, he looks downright terrified. Is something approaching the ship. Something like…

A giant sandstorm? Or debris from an explosion?

Either way, here it knocks Shaw off her feet completely. We reckon she’ll be OK, though. For now. Interestingly, this cloud of debris and clutter seems to take the crew by surprise. Where did it come from?

Here, an unfortunate crew member gets blown away on the wind. We can’t tell who it is - is it Shaw, from the last shot? Or someone else, exiting the film, stage left?

What the hell? Shaw, upside down and covered in sweat, cries out in pain. “PLEASE!” is the only other audible word in the entire trailer. She’s begging for something, or someone, to stop doing something to her. An operation? An excision? An insertion? Perhaps this shot links into the bloodied Shaw collapsing to the floor earlier. It certainly indicates that Sir Ridley’s return to the Alien universe is going to be harsh and uncompromising. Can’t wait.

Now, this is the derelict we all know and love. And that seems to be Shaw looking at it…

Another shot of the derelict which, as we will soon discover, is crash-landing. On LV-426, presumably.

Here, in a great wide shot, we see a couple of figures - the sole survivors? - run away from the oncoming donut, across a vista littered with burning debris.

Every trailer needs a money shot. We’re getting closer to it, as the two figures continue to leg it.

Interestingly, Vickers is one of the people running away from the derelict. Or soon-to-be derelict. Run faster, Charlize! FASTER!

And Shaw is another. Are they the only two left alive? Where’s David? And Janek? And that crazy old dude in the wheelchair? And if this is LV-426, how do they get off the planet? What happens next? What do the Space Jockeys want? And just WHO THE HELL IS MARK CAVENDISH???

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