There are plenty of places where people get caught up in the magic and energy of actually being there. Fashion shows, a taping of Jay Leno, or a party at Charlie Sheen's house, for instance. But when you get some distance from it, the cracks start to show and you realize that you probably need a tetanus shot. Watching Prometheus is kind of like that, too. Ridley Scott, at age 74, does a killer job of reinterpreting Alien and Aliens, in gorgeous 3D, with enough tension to make your nail-biting habit that you thought you had conquered reemerge. But I use the word reinterpret purposely, because this movie, although done with a steady hand, seems increasingly familiar the more you think about it afterwards. And it irks me that Scott is officially insisting that this isn't an Alien prequel, even though it "started out" that way, which is like Ridley Scott standing next to an elephant and trying to convince you it's a pigeon. Any fan with eyes and a cerebral cortex would disagree.
The trailers for this movie have been great, because they don't give you much information that you understand past "This looks similar-to-but-cooler-than his original Alien movies." Any review that you read, including this one, will help you connect the dots for some of those images and make the movie even more predictable than it already is. Since tension and the audience's collective yearning to be startled are all this movie has going for it (that it definitely delivers), please keep that in mind if you continue to read. It's common knowledge that there are folks on a spaceship named Prometheus, and they're looking for something that turns out to be way bigger than they realized (and with more tentacles than they planned for). The year is 2093, but rest assured, even in the future, the guy who is more metal than everyone else still has a mohawk, so things aren't so different you'll get lost.
Scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have found evidence of what they believe to be higher life forms. They were fortunate enough to find a rich guy to fund their expedition, so off they go, with a crew that consists of some people just taking a paycheck and others curious about the bigger picture. Writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof seem to be trying to say something about faith and spirituality, pitting all of the believers against the others as things get increasingly more intense, but it only results in clunky dialogue that distracts the actors from getting their chests bursted through, which is why I came in the first place. The script says less about ideologies than the completely opposite end of the spectrum film Jeff Who Lives at Home, which at least is clear about what it believes. Just focus on the pretty pictures in this one and you'll have a good time.
I didn't realize going into this how much everyone involved is trying to distance this from the other Alien films. I just accepted it as fact, so as I marveled at the gorgeous, intricate sets and immersive 3D, I took it for granted that I already knew these characters and what would happen to them. Charlie Theron is Vickers, the stoic, cold-as-ice captain, and Idris Elba plays the unshrinking captain Janek. Michael Fassbender is David, the only one on the ship who is blonder and colder than Vickers. The rest of the crew consists of the brainiac, the lady doctor, and the guys who are good at steering the ship.
But for all of the things that are familiar and give you an immediate understanding as to what story you're watching as it unfolds, there's plenty to drink in that will quench the thirst you developed when the credits rolled on those other two movies I keep mentioning. This is like when Scorcese shot Hugo in 3D--it looks great and really seems like its own character that you would miss if it was gone. And don't get me wrong, there are a couple of surprises in the plot, I just didn't find them that shocking. And since you start out bracing yourself for the inevitable, the movie rolls out plenty of body-cortortingly gross moments so you can say "I told you so." I wasn't bored or disappointed in the moment (of which there were many--the film feels a hair long). It's when I left the theater and the adrenaline dissipated that I started to think "Hey, wait a minute. That seems an awful lot like…" Even though it's a well-done version of what we've seen before, we've still seen it before, and it ain't no pigeon.