More than 30 years after Ridley Scott proved that in space, everyone can hear you scream – loudly – the Oscar-nominated director returns to the science-fiction genre and the ultimate deep space killing machine: 'Alien'.
The weight of expectation resting on 'Prometheus' would crush even the eponymous titan from Greek mythology, whose quest to bridge the divide between the mortals and gods provides the film with its pseudo-philosophical framework.
There are some intriguing ideas embedded within Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof’s script – Darwinism vs Creationism, the recklessness of scientific endeavour – but inevitably, Scott’s film reduces to a big-budget game of cat-and-mouse between wily xenomorphs and human interlopers.
Production values are impeccable and the numerous dank, foreboding corridors provide plentiful opportunities to slaughter supporting characters.
As in earlier films, an android – played here with a well-practised smile by Michael Fassbender – presides over the ill-fated mission and discovers that automatons are not immune from the rapacious beasts.
If the original 'Alien' was a masterclass in nervous silences and sustained, nail-biting tension, 'Prometheus' opts for composer Marc Streitenfeld’s overwrought orchestration and splatter par excellence, courtesy of the visual effects department, who hark back to HR Giger’s iconic original designs.
In 2089, astrophysicist Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) unearth an ancient cave painting that confirms the existence of an extra-terrestrial race known as the Engineers.
Wealthy industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) agrees to finance a voyage to the alien home planet.
A spaceship called Prometheus captained by Janek (Idris Elba) provides the transport for Weyland company executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) and the crew, including geologist Fifield (Sean Harris) and medic Ford (Kate Dickie).
Operations android David (Fassbender) casts a dispassionate eye over proceedings but as the explorers touch down on the Engineers’ home world, they are woefully unprepared for what awaits them.
'Prometheus' pales next to 'Alien' and the first sequel, helmed with testosterone-fuelled brio by James Cameron.
Shocks are predictable and only one sequence – an impromptu medical procedure – sears into the memory.
Rapace anchors the film with an emotionally wrought performance that everyone else seems unable or unwilling to match.
Fassbender’s embodiment of mechanised man doesn’t always ring true: in one scene, David smiles with childlike wonder as the mysteries of the universe unfold around him - a remarkably human response.
The 3D version is a truly immersive experience during the early scenes, when the screen is festooned with overlaid holograms and projected computer readouts.
The eye-popping format becomes almost unnoticeable by the end, however, when a gratuitous coda leaves the airlock well and truly open for a sequel.
Great Scott? No, perfectly adequate.
Star Rating: 3/5