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‘Prometheus’ stuns senses

Damon Lindelof has a way of making me feel like an idiot.

When he ran "Lost," entire dissertations were written about the significance of a particular book used in a given scene.

Knowing that, it’s hard to watch his rewrite of "Prometheus" – director Ridley Scott’s "Alien" prequel that isn’t an "Alien" prequel except that it really is – without sensing hidden meaning lurking around every corner.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot the parallels between the doomed titan of Greek mythology and the titular ship that shares his name. Any less subtlety and The Prometheus would have been known as The Hauler of Those With High Cheekbones and Zero Body Fat, Many of Whom Won’t Survive.

But then every passing reference to, say, "Lawrence of Arabia" or Stephen Stills begins to seem like a piece of a puzzle that’s just beyond your grasp. "Prometheus," it turns out, is the thinkiest summer blockbuster since "Inception."

When a studio representative needed my reaction immediately following the screening, I rambled and stammered for a good five minutes about how "Prometheus" was a huge, epic, multilayered event that demands to be seen. I just didn’t know if it was any good, or whether I liked it.

After several days of reflection, it is, and I did.

I think.

After a series of stunning establishing shots that resemble the best IMAX nature film you’d ever see, scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the original "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, TNT’s "Dark Blue") discover ancient drawings in a Scottish cave that, at least in their eyes, confirm not just the existence of life on a distant planet, but that we were created by that very life.

The next thing you know, they’re onboard the Prometheus as part of a 28-month, trillion-dollar expedition to get to know mankind’s "engineers" – bald, overly muscled humanoids that look like they’d be the hand-balancing act in a sci-fi-themed extravaganza by Cirque du Soleil.

Beyond that, it’s best not to talk about the plot, letting the whole "what the (expletive) is going to happen?" anticipation work its magic. Except to say that there’s a reason the phrase "going to meet your maker" has come to mean something awful.

As Vickers, the onboard representative of the mysterious Weyland Corp. that financed the mission, Charlize Theron gets to show a detached, icy side completely unlike her over-the-top queen in last weekend’s "Snow White and the Huntsman."

And as Janek, the space cowboy who captains the Prometheus, Idris Elba ("The Wire") brings the necessary testosterone and a sly sense of humor.

But "Prometheus" clearly belongs to Rapace, essentially filling in for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, and Michael Fassbender, who commands the screen, giving the android David more depth than most of its human counterparts.

You don’t need to have seen a second of "Alien" to enjoy "Prometheus," but there are several callbacks for fans of the original.

Officially, the movie is "based on elements" of its predecessor and, like the relationship between the engineers and humans, they share the same DNA. You won’t find the face-huggers or chest-rippers from "Alien," for example, but these new breeds of slimers are terrifying in their own right.

And unlike the dark, claustrophobic feel of "Alien," "Prometheus" is undeniably gorgeous. It’s hard to imagine anything looking better, especially with its brilliant 3-D that’s well worth the upsell.

Actually, "Prometheus" may look too good.

One of the problems with prequels – especially intergalactic prequels made some 30 years after the original – is the real-world advances in science. The Prometheus is a technical marvel, yet the Nostromo from "Alien," which took flight some 30 years later, looks like it was powered by an Atari 2600 and a Lite-Brite.

Is that just Scott and Lindelof wanting to make "Prometheus" as dazzling as possible, regardless of the limitations of the 1979 original? Or was there some sort of war on technology during the gap between the movies that could be addressed in future films?

That’s just the sort of rabbit hole "Prometheus" will send you down as it keeps your brain whirring long after the credits roll.

Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.

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