Review: 'Prometheus'

Credit: Kerry Brown/20th Century Fox/AP.

Anyone who's been paying attention to the evolution of "Prometheus" has been hearing director Ridley Scott, the actors and almost anybody else involved in the production, say it's not a prequel to "Alien," but instead includes the DNA of "Alien" (a clever allusion to the plot) and takes place in that world.

To paraphrase Public Enemy: Don't believe the hype - it's a prequel!

Here's my first piece of advice regarding "Prometheus:" Unless you have a serious psychological or physical aversion to 3D glasses, see this movie in Real3D. When it's over, your grateful eyes will probably pop out of your head, give you a thank-you kiss and then return to their rightful place in your skull. Weird?  Yes, but that's how I roll.

We're treated to a terrific opening sequence in "Prometheus," especially if you have a fetish for jacked-up, cut, bald humanoids (and who doesn't, really?). But before we meet the reason we're all here - that is, on Earth, according to this story - the camera explores the topography of what we can assume is Earth in its nascent stages. These visuals, seemingly photographed with little if any digital enhancement, are a prelude to the stunning, digitally-constructed world to which Scott & Company will introduce us a little later.  We then see that jacked-up humanoid standing atop a cliff before a waterfall with his mother ship hovering overhead as he takes a swig of some black liquid.  While drinking may on occasion result in an unplanned pregnancy, in E.T. the Barbarian's case it may have resulted in the birth of a new species. Humans.

Cut to the Isle of Skye, Scotland, 2089. Two archaeologists - Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) - find cave drawings that match those found at various locations around the world, created thousands of years apart. Shaw, a woman of faith, is convinced this is an invitation from the "Engineers," as in the beings responsible for creating humans.

Four years later, we're in deep space aboard the scientific vessel Prometheus, headed on a quest to find the Engineers.  While the crew remains in stasis, we meet the synthetic human David, played by Michael Fassbender. As the crew sleeps for two years, David busies himself watching "Lawrence of Arabia," keeping the ship tidy, learning dialects and shooting hoops.  David also has another hobby - watching Dr. Shaw's dreams as she sleeps. How does David compare to Ian Holm's robot in "Alien"? Let's just say David kicks Ash.  Really.  Fassbender is an Oscar waiting to happen for this role.

The first crew member awake is Charlize Theron's Meredith Vickers. She's so tough, she actually wakes herself from stasis and the first thing she does is push-ups. Meredith represents the massive Weyland corporation, and she will see to it that her company's interests are properly represented. The rest of the crew?  Well, we're treated to an arcade of familiar, unoriginal and uninspired characters - this movie's only weakness, which can be forgiven because everything else about it is excellent.

"Prometheus" can't compare to the originality of "Alien," but the latter can't compare to the depth of "Prometheus."  If you avoid knee-jerking and really deconstruct the essence of this film, you may find yourself steeped in a philosophical debate about religion, politics and accountability. "Prometheus" doesn't set out to answer questions about creation.  It poses questions instead, delivers a brilliant metaphor or two and thoroughly immerses us in a 3D sci-fi aesthetic so realistic you may be compelled to don a space suit while watching the movie.

Will "Prometheus" terrify you like "Alien"?  No, nor does it want to. You will get exactly one pure cringe-worthy moment, compliments of Noomi Rapace giving us a dose of the type of acting that made her a hit as Lisbeth Salander in the original Swedish "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" movies.  Mind you, "Prometheus" isn't short on action or thrills; it just doesn't build tension like "Alien."

Buttressed by excellent performances by Fassbender, Theron, Rapace and Idris Elba as the ship's Captain Janek, "Prometheus" is a thought-provoking visual spectacle worthy of multiple trips to a theater near you.

Four out of five stars.