PROMETHEUS Theme Sounds a Little Familiar

I would consider the piece of music below to be the main theme from Prometheus. It’s played during the mysterious opening sequence, and the main melody pops up again and again throughout the movie. One of the more memorable pieces of recent film score, this beautiful, haunting melody, voiced alternately by strings and horns with occasional choral backing, suggests a yearning to know the secrets of the universe. Most of the score consists of standard suspense music, but this one refrain helps to elevate the movie’s purpose beyond merely trying to frighten and shock the audience. It’s a key part of why the movie works to the extent that it does.

But I noticed something almost immediately after this melody made its first appearance: it sounded damn familiar. It only took me a few more seconds to realize that the melody is a minor variation on John Williams’ track “The Planet Krypton” from the original Superman soundtrack.  The melody starts around the thirty second mark:

Does anybody else hear the similarity? It’s not just me, right? Strangely enough, knowing that the Prometheus theme was probably inspired by the Superman track does nothing to lessen my appreciation of it. My guess is that the composer (apparently Harry Gregson-Williams, although he isn’t credited as the main composer on the film) is familiar with Williams’ piece, but wasn’t conscious of the homage he was paying to it. Point is, a piece of art doesn’t have to be original to be powerful.

As a bonus, here’s that Prometheus track arranged for guitar by a guy on YouTube. Pretty amazing in its own way.

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15 thoughts on “PROMETHEUS Theme Sounds a Little Familiar

  1. It was the only thing I could think of when that piece played during the film & having watched it on DVD, it is used a lot. I guess that explains the green crystal in front of the Xeno mural

    I still think Elliot Goldenthal’s score for Alien 3 is the best of the series, followed closely by Alien.

    • I’d probably go with the original ALIEN as my favorite score in the series, although I think James Horner’s score for ALIENS get unfairly maligned these days. On the whole, I think Horner’s stuff is overwrought, but that’s one of his better ones. It’s been used in a hundred trailers, so maybe that’s why I tend to see people crapping on it.

  2. I thought the same thing, too. It immediately reminded me of J.W.s Krypton theme. I did a quick google search to see if anyone else caught the similarities and your blog post came up as the first hit. Your opening statements about Prometheus and the score are very nicely written.

    • Thanks for the kind words! I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought that. Thinking back, the only reason I remembered that particular track was probably that it was used in the teaser for “Superman Returns”.

      Your comment is probably going to be particularly useful to me because it called my attention back to this blog. As you can see, I haven’t updated it i as you can see, I haven’t updated in a LONG time. I decided not to try to move into criticism and online journalism, and went back to filmmaking instead – my first love. I’ve been thinking of repurposing this blog to document my journey as a filmmaker instead. Seeing this post reminded me that I should get on that! So thanks for that too!

      • It reminds me of the beginning of “When the tigers broke free” by Pink Floyd on the updated version of the album “The Final Cut”.

  3. I have noticed the same as you when playing Supeman today. Hearing the Kripton’s theme I sounded to me like Prometheus.

  4. As a song writer, it’s hard to come up with what people call original… You never know, the 80s superman sound theme guy did the same thing… As i was told by so many people, nothing is new under the sun!

  5. Just watched Prometheus on a transatlantic flight. Saw it when it first came out. (Latest Alien film offered too but passed it up for a disc version later) At the time I first saw Prom. I thought of the similarity to a Star Trek theme that runs through STNG and Deep Space Nine. Thought it might be one of those nods or hommage things.

  6. Pingback: Lauren (finally) watches: PROMETHEUS – Avenging Force

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