A note to future space explorers: When searching out the galaxy for intelligent life, steer away from planets filled with aliens with mouths inside of mouths who like to pop out of peoples' bellies. Stuff your ship's air ducts with enough insulation to prevent creatures from scurrying around and dropping on your head.
And for heaven's sake, bring your giant flamethrower with you into dark alien caves, even if your shipmates try to discourage you.
These (except for the air-duct thing) are just a few of the lessons that come from Prometheus, which is a prequel to all the Alien/Aliens movies. It's set in the late-21st century, long before the aliens got so hard up for roles that they agreed to team up with the Predators for those regrettable AVP movies that were the monster movie equivalents of The Surreal Life.
Director Ridley Scott, who started the series back in 1979, absolutely flips out with crazy-convincing 3D special effects this time out, making the alien belly-busters, exploding heads and crash landings seem like they were shot on location in the brain of a Red Bull-addled 15-year-old. Scott no doubt used so much of the studio's money on effects that there was no cash left over for the costumes budget, which is why Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron must wear spandex rags when they're not frolicking about in their space suits.
The crew is aboard a trillion-dollar expedition, funded by a guy who appears to be the holographic ghost of the decrepit Biff Tannen from 2015. The goal may or may not be to land on a strange planet, get in arguments with each other, then run around like crazy as aliens explode their bellies one by one, but that's certainly what happens.
Although the crew is made up of the super elite in the fields of various ologies such as geology, archaeology and psychology, it's missing an expert in holycrapletsgethehellouttahere-ology. That guy would have been helpful, having seen that the Aliens murdered a bunch of giant humanoid spacemen in the Alien Cave and recommended an immediate evac.
Since he isn't around, what we get is an old-fashioned clash of humans who just ignore you when you yell "DO NOT go into that Alien Cave/contaminated spaceship room/ because there are Aliens in there!" at the screen versus Aliens. As is the case in all previous Aliens movies, daring and gusto are little match for super sharp teeth and belly-burrowing, so the result is as lopsided as this year's Stanley Cup Finals.
The movie works despite its collection of characters that you sort of want to die. Theron is a cold-blooded boss lady who thinks nothing of flame-throwing colleagues who disobey her do-not-board orders. Michael Fassbender is obnoxious as a condescending android who is probably secretly pulling for the Aliens. Even Rapace and Guy Pearce, the core heroes, often act like bickering idiots who deserve to become Alien Alpo.
The grand accomplishment of Prometheus is that it takes all these hateful characters, Aliens, amazing effects and lack of clothing, mashes them together and keeps everything fun, exciting and unpredictable. The movie even does something its forebears never did, halfway trying to explain why Aliens exist and why they don't like us so much. The title refers to the Greek mythology titan who brought fire down to earth, and the movie certainly brings the fire. As well as the thunder, the blood and the spandex.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce. Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof. Directed by Ridley Scott. Rated R. 124 minutes.