We got a chance to get away from the kid for a few hours, so the wife and I decided to take in Prometheus, the new science fiction thriller by Ridley Scott. I’ve been looking forward to this since the first trailers hit the internet, so my expectations were way, way up there…

First off, I hate 3D movies. The glasses are a pain in the ass, I don’t like paying extra for the films, and the glasses hurt my eyes after a while. We hit the 2D version, so that’s what I can speak to. Prometheus did not disappoint me. The film is grand in visual and aural scale — starting with sweeping vistas of Iceland and a tremendous score by Marc Streitenfeld, who I had never heard of, but he does sterling work here. (There are some nice callbacks to Jerry Goldsmith’s original Alien soundtrack here and there.) The CGI work is top-notch and is worked into the backdrop of, I’m guessing Spain, for the alien moon LV-223.

The story: this is a not-quite-prequel to Alien, set in the same universe, but with only the most tangential relationship to the first movie. Rather than being about the eponymous Alien, this movie focuses on the Space Jockey (the thing in the chair in the derelict spacecraft from Alien.) You don’t have to have seen any of the other movies to enjoy this one. A few archeologists discover in ancient relics a recurring motif of people worshiping a giant, which is pointing to a cluster of stars. They have figured out the location of the only life-bearing world in the star configuration and a science vessel funded by the Weyland Corporation, Prometheus, is dispatched to investigate. Suffice it to say, things go badly.

There are big questions thrown out here: Where do we come from? Why were we created? Why did the Alien v Predator franchise get made (not to mention Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection.) Very few are adequately answered, something that seems to be the big bugaboo with the critics. Unlike, say, Battlestar Galactica which tried to anser a lot of the big metaphysical questions, and did it a bit clumsily, Prometheus leves us to interpret the clues ourselves. Part of the problem with the story is that it veers from the big questions film that it starts out as into a space-horror movie. We should expect that, but it does draw the grandeur of the movie in for the last half the film.

The picture is, to my mind, stolen by Michael Fastbender as David — the vessel’s android butler. The character is introduced as we see his life, alone, while the others are in cryostasis. He’s learning languages, he’s watching movies, playing basketball on a bicycle, and styling himself after Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia. He is portrayed as fastidious, smart, and restrained. There is a lack of emotion to the portrayal that conflicts with David’s actions, which suggest much more is going on in his artificial brain. It’s a very nuanced and powerful performance.

The other lead is Noomi Rapace from the Swedish The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo flicks. She plays the lead archeologist, Elizabeth Shaw and a woman of strong faith. She’s looking to find mankind’s maker and will find she doesn’t like what they find. She is less the action heroine that Ripley becomes in the Alien movies, but is a stronger character in many ways. Rapace is good in the role, and she makes the shift from abject terror to fearful but pissed off very well.

The supporting cast are solid, from the icy corporate bitch played by Charlize Theron, to the acerbic but underutilized Idris Elba as the captain of Prometheus, to Shaw’s adventurous, but callous and clueless boyfriend — played capably by Tom Hardy lookalike Logan Marshall-Green.

Overall, I was very pleased with Scott’s return to the genre he redefined. I thought the movie was a masterpiece, visually, although the high def camerawork exposed the biomechanical sets’ plastic quality, making it seem less organic and squicky. A good wetting down of the set would have sorted that, I think. The soundtrack is on my to-buy list. The acting is solid, and there are a few scenes that manage to hit the same level of shock that the chest bursting scene from the original movie did.  It can be taken as a good popcorn flick with some pretensions to being deep, or as a deep sci-fi movie that had to stoop a bit for commercial success.

It was, in my rating style, worth full-price admission. Style 5 out of 5, substance 4 out of 5. Go see it.