Sunday, October 14, 2012

Prometheus and the perils of deleted scenes

hi there

deleted scenes. it's a set of words that for some strange reason excites film fans such as myself. more often than not anything which didn't make it in to a final film for non-censorship reasons was left out with very good reason. that does not stop us film fans craving them. why? who knows, really.

there's some obvious value and interest in certain deleted footage. i wrote an article not so long ago on mostly unseen footage discarded / destroyed by Stanley Kubrick, the value of which should speak for itself. the "workprint" versions of Blade Runner and Apocalypse Now are sought by fans mostly for the extra footage, but also because of the different edits of the films. with those examples aside, however, for the most part deleted scenes are scenes that added nothing to the plot or the story. at least, that's what they used to be.

presently there is an increasing trend to try and defend films which received poor or less than flattering reviews by saying "wait until you see the deleted scenes on the (note format) blu ray, it will make more sense". now this is really very silly. that means that the film was with purpose edited not to make sense or be as good as it could, surely?

the latest film to leap to this sort of defence is Prometheus, a film i gave a less than flattering review to a month or so ago and many others gave even worse reviews at the time of release. apparently, according to no less than Ridley Scott in interviews, the deleted scenes would "enhance appreciation" of the film. now that they are, of sorts, available, let's have a look at some of them.

before we look at them, though, you should appreciate that **** BIG MASSIVE SPOILER WARNINGS **** are hereby given.

first up we have the opening of the film. as originally released, we were shown a lone "engineer" look up at a space craft, drink something, fall into the water and dissolve - thereby giving life to Earth.

this was a touch ambiguous, but after seeing the whole film it actually wasn't. clearly the engineer creating life on Earth was a huge mistake, hence the other engineers wishing to return and destroy all life later. if it's not that clear cut, then the film has something of a plot hole. which is what it becomes in the alternate (original?) opening.

oh, look, loads of engineers off to watch a ceremonial sacrifice!

that starting life on Earth was a deliberate action is the only conclusion one can draw from this alternate version. you get a clear "elder engineer", used presumably as a symbolic expression of wisdom, leadership or both, handing over that special liquid that melts the engineers.

this kind of leaves open a question for later in the film, then. if the engineers deliberately created life on Earth, why then is it that they were so keen to return and destroy it? i mean, they have had some experience in creating life, you must presume? or is it that we are/were supposed to think these engineers go around creating life so that they can destroy it at a later stage? little wonder this scene was dropped in favour of the ambiguities of what was released.

a large number of the deleted scenes from the middle of the film are of little or no interest. they're either extended sequences or different takes of what was in the released film. before i jump to the end of the film, where there's a few scenes of interest, there is one deleted sequence of note.

when one of the crew is infected with that special liquid, he returns and tries to go on a killing spree. here is how he, and his name escapes me, looked in the released version.

and here's how he looks in the discarded CGI version.

yes, you are seeing that right. they presumably spent an awful lot of money on a really rather rubbish looking CGI thing and very wisely discarded it. one wonders how much money exactly they wasted on creating this sequence, but one can be thankful that they got rid of it.

not that the inclusion of the above would have made the film laughable. far from it really, for there's something far more amusing that they dropped from the original release.

when the crew of Prometheus finally meet an engineer in the released film, it's a sequence that's over and done with rather quickly. the deleted scenes for that moment show it was intended to be longer, but was presumably cut on the grounds that it made test audiences laugh out loud.

other than getting to hear one of the engineers speak (a sort of echo like voice, of course), we get the farcical sequence of Peter Weyland lecturing the engineer.

in short, Weyland explains how he is also a god as he created David (the android), and thus is also a creator of life. he then asks if he can please be made immortal by the engineer as a reward for this.

the engineer seems to say no by means of decapitation. as a consequence of Weyland proclaiming that David is perfect and will not age the engineer responds by ripping David's head off. this makes a good deal more sense at least that the released version, where the engineer simply rips David's head off (silently) in response to whatever it is that David said to him.

no further clarification, except presumed anger at Weyland and the initial intention of the engineers to destroy all Earth life, is given to why the engineer decides to just start killing everyone. that's one thing that all audiences would have liked to be elaborated on, but nothing in the deleted sequences does. in fact, if anything, the deleted scenes just leave one more confused about what the engineers are doing.

in a class sequence where Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) has a smart axe fight with the engineer, we see the engineer clearly intrigued, going on his / its smile, by humanity. chandeliers, for a start, make him smile, as does footage of a young girl playing a violin.

ok, so why is it that the engineer wants to wipe out everyone but is at the same time interested in what it is these humans do? the interest the engineer has is certainly no barrier to trying to kill Elizabeth, as you can see in this shot of the deleted scene, where the stunt wires have been left in.

it is sort of possible that the engineer wishes to kill with good reason. now, do you remember how i said that the engineer spoke to David earlier on? once Elizabeth has trapped the engineer into getting eaten off that massive octopus thing she removed from her body, she goes off to find the bits of David as he reckons he can fly one of the engineers' spaceships.

she asks him what it is that the engineer said, and his response is pure comedy gold. he says that the engineer spoke of returning everyone to "paradise".

yep, that's right. this deleted scene shows how the film would have taken an allegorical tone, suggesting that the engineers were in fact angels leading all back to heaven.

if that idea is funny, it gets even funnier when Elizabeth insists that the (her words) "f****** robot" takes her to paradise. after she has roughly shoved his head in a bag.

as i said, deleted scenes are usually deleted with good reason. the film would have had a slightly more coherent plot and conclusion if these deleted / alternate scenes were in the finished product, but the reviews would all have been unquestionably bad.

oddly, though, tucked away on the extra features of one version of the Prometheus release is a sequence that really, really should have been in the film. Guy Pearce as an un-aged Weyland.

from my review you may recall i mentioned that casting Guy Pearce and applying make up was pretty pointless without some sort of "flashback" scene. well, here it is, and with a date and time that links it quite nicely to Blade Runner, as per the other post i made on this film.

whereas the crowd in this sequence is no doubt mostly CGI, it still looks like a very expensive thing to make and then not make widely available to see, either in the cinematic release or in certain versions of the disc.

further to that, it's also brilliant. Guy Pearce gives an excellent speech in it, and pretty much sets the tone for what he seeks from the project that leads to a conclusion of him getting battered with a robot's head. considering the short running time of the cinematic release, it is baffling that this five minutes of brilliance was not in the final cut.

whereas most of what i have shown here illustrates that deleted scenes don't make the final edit of the film with good reason, this Weyland sequence is very much a case of getting it wrong. if ever a "director's cut special edition" surfaces, i would be pretty sure that this sequence, if few of the rest, will be put into it.

right, with what you probably came to see out of the way, the rest is a rant about what the home entertainment industry is doing to shoot itself in the foot with the way the Prometheus releases work. carry on with your life and skip the rest if you are not interested.

a trump card that DVD played to persuade people to give up VHS was "extras". the DVD, as well as better sound and picture, offered things like deleted scenes, documentaries and different versions of the films. they are that desperate that all move to this blu ray format, despite there being nothing wrong with DVD, that they are trying the same trick again.

over the last year or so i cannot but help note that most DVD releases - The Lion King, Men In Back 3 and The Avengers as well as Prometheus off the top of my head - are missing any extras of consequence. the blu ray releases, however, are loaded with all sorts of tempting extras. hours of them. this is a clear play by the industry to say "please pay us more for the blu ray discs, look we shall give you shiny things".

there are two problems with this. firstly, and as shown above, the "extras" are wildly appealing, but are rarely something that you would watch, at best, 2 or 3 times. the personification of this would be the illustrious Star Wars nine disc box set, featuing further fiddled with versions of the films and an insane amount of extras that hold limited interest other than having Star Wars written on them. the second is that greed knows no boundaries, and they do not just wish you to buy one blu ray of the film to get the extras.

whereas when the technology behind DVD advanced, certain films were re-released with a "remastered" soundtrack and "enhanced" video, as well as usually having extras not on the original release. as this sequence usually happened 3 or more years after the original release, that seemed fair enough. however, with blu ray, greed is good. they have released at least two versions of Prometheus on this format. whereas one of them includes the (sigh) '3D' version, the extras on each different version of the blu ray are different. if you are a big fan of Prometheus then you need to shell out an awful lot of money to get "everything" and end up with at least 2 identical copies of the film.

whereas this blu ray format has superior sound and picture, those who release the films are using it as a means to make a fast buck and rip off fans. they would be wise to return to the ways of releasing everything on one release at a decent price, lest fans just give up and simply obtain pirate copies instead.

this, with some good luck, shall be my last Prometheus post.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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