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"Prometheus": Ridley Scott's Dazzling, Sci-fi Spectacle

"Prometheus," the long-awaited "Alien" prequel, is an enthralling popcorn spectacle.

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The spaceship’s crew includes a nice turn from Idris Elba as its gruff captain, and enjoyable supporting roles for Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Benedict Wong and others. It will surprise absolutely no one that when the Prometheus reaches its destination — a distant planet that apparently is  not the same one the Nostromo visits in “Alien” — it does not discover a race of benevolent deities ready to take questions via Google Translate. Instead they find wiggly things, and rows of vases oozing sticky, black goo, and we have a pretty good idea where that stuff leads. Key plot points, as per usual, depend on the characters’ dunderheaded decisions and general lack of common sense. Try this out as a rule, astronauts of the future: When on an unexplored alien planet, do not try to make friends with the giant plenary worms!

I’m generally in tune with the mordant philosophy that seems to be expressed in “Prometheus”: If you think the human race are assholes, wait till you see who made us! But it’s enclosed, in this case, in a shiny-looking vehicle that becomes more and more like your average horror-chase movie as it goes along, channeling not just the entire “Alien” series but also “Blade Runner” and “Avatar” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” But what “Prometheus” resembles most strongly, if perhaps accidentally, is Terrence Malick’s  “The Tree of Life,” as unlikely as that sounds. Both are grand statements of artistic purpose, and searches for the beginning of time and the meaning of life. Both are obsessed, even hypnotized, by the unmatchable spectacle of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001,” the greatest of all murky sci-fi allegories. Both will be avidly defended by fans and viciously derided by detractors. Both are mightily impressive spectacles that will maybe, kinda, blow your mind, en route to a hip-deep swamp of pseudo-Christian religiosity.

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