06/11/2012 09:31 am ET Updated Aug 08, 2012

Prometheus Review: Powerful 'Prequel' Delivers Thrills, Chills, And Lots Of Alien Action

Prometheus, director Ridley Scott's return to science fiction has engendered debate about whether it's a prequel to the classic original Alien or a story taking place in the Alien universe. An argument can be made by reviewers either way but there's no argument that Prometheus is the most intriguing, gory, and thrilling of the post-Alien films.

By now, anyone even remotely interested in the film knows that it deals with a 17 person team arriving at giant planet's moon after two years in hypersleep aboard Prometheus to search for aliens that had made contact with early humans. In short order our intrepid crew is battling an assortment of alien and human threats that could lead to not only their destruction but the end of the human race.

Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron turn in good performances as the leaders of the group and Michael Fassbender as David is superb as the android with more than one hidden agenda. In fact, every cast member with more than three lines is a reasonably well rounded character, a rarity in ensemble casts.

Scott is firmly at the controls of this $130 million thriller and cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, production designer Arthur Max, and an art direction crew led by John King, along with literally hundreds of effects personnel have created a visual feast of alien spacecraft, planets, monsters, menacing humanoids, and the Prometheus itself.

H.R. Giger, the Swiss artist who created the original alien, its facehugger, the gigantic alien spaceship, the eggs, and the surface of the planetoid, is represented everywhere in Prometheus and it's interesting to see some of his designs created for but not used in the original Alien, including his original designs for the pyramid that houses the alien egg chamber and extensive hieroglyphs depicting the alien's lifecycle.

The bridge of Prometheus contains more than a hint of designer Ron Cobb's original design for Alien's Nostromo and Jerry Goldsmith's score makes a brief posthumous appearance during a scene on board Prometheus. Marc Streitenfield turns in an effective score, perhaps his best yet.

It seems every direct descendent of Alien must contain four items: an android that is torn apart by a monster; a dinner scene; and a heroine who overcomes seemingly overwhelming challenges to win out at the end. And the other? A horrifying and gruesome alien creature birth scene; Prometheus has perhaps the most eye-popping and stomach churning of them all.

Much has been made of the Big Ideas in Prometheus: What is the meaning of life? Where did mankind originate? Are androids "human"? And why are the aliens out to eliminate Earth? Good questions one and all and Scott integrates them into the film so that they augment the action in meaningful ways but don't slow it down.

In fact, a major question remains unanswered at the film's conclusion which definitely sets up a sequel should Prometheus produce at the box office.

Perhaps the major challenge for Scott and scenarists Damon Lindelof (Lost; the upcoming Star Trek sequel; Cowboys and Aliens) and Jon Spaihts, was to make a film with the impact of Alien 32 years after the original stunned and shocked audiences because a film like Alien was entirely new and different from what had been seen before. Audiences were definitely affected by Alien's shocks.

During Alien's initial release while in line for the second showing, the audience of the first showing literally staggered from the exits, one man wobbled past me, muttering under his breath, "Don't go in there! DON'T GO IN THERE!" All the more reason to go in there, it seemed to me.

Since Alien's initial release, vastly improved special effects have allowed audiences to see everything filmmakers could concoct which inured audiences to shocking images. Thus, Prometheus had to power up the Shock-O-Meter at least to Alien levels and at that, Scott and Company succeeded admirably.

Action set pieces accompany gruesome creature episodes that should please even the most jaded monster addict.

It is a mistake to compare Prometheus to Alien. They're different films about different crews, different spaceships, and different missions. Too many viewers, critics included, seem to feel Prometheus should reprise Alien, something impossible to do. "It's not Alien!" Right. It's not. Prometheus is a thought provoking, elegantly mounted, scary, gross, and ultimately satisfying film.

Ranking the Alien oeuvre places Alien at the top, then Prometheus, Aliens, followed by all the others, including the Alien vs. Predator series, each of which is mediocre at best. As to why Prometheus over Jim Cameron's Aliens, the more I see that film, the more I tire of Cameron's wish fulfillment, ersatz Marine actions and chatter. I find Prometheus to be a less pretentious film. Had Prometheus been the first Alien film, it would be the one considered the masterpiece.

For those who say, "They don't make 'em like Alien any more!" Prometheus is evidence that, at least in Ridley Scott's case, they certainly can.

Check out Craig W. Anderson's short science fiction eBook The Roswell Chronicles on Amazon.

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