Prometheus ★★★★½

Viewers expecting an "Alien"-like movie (after all, this is a prequel of sorts to that picture) will be disappointed. Viewers expecting plenty of action will be unsatisfied. Viewers expecting a potent science-fiction film with big ideas and grand ambitions will be delighted. I am convinced that appreciation of "Prometheus" will grow over time.

Here is a movie that provokes thought and discussion. Director Ridley Scott and screenwriters Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof raise viscerally intriguing existential questions, but they provide few definitive answers and certainly don’t engage in spoon-feeding the viewer with information. As frustrating as that may be to some, I like it and consider it a positive quality of the film.

While "Prometheus" is not a particularly scary movie, it nevertheless crawls under the viewer’s skin and causes a feeling of apprehension and dread—and I mean that in a good way. The ominous, often claustrophobic atmosphere benefits the proceedings greatly, too.

The characters in "Prometheus" make a number of bad decisions and don’t always act rationally. One example of this comes near the end of the movie: instead of running to the side and out of harm’s way, two characters stay on the path of danger, which proves fatal to one of them. However, their actions didn’t really bother me while I was watching the film. Besides, I’m not sure most of us would think and act in a perfectly reasonable manner if put in the same situation.

With its majestic visuals—the storm sequence is the first to come to mind—and magnificent, evocative set design, "Prometheus" is a treat for the eye (I saw the film in 2D). On the other hand, some of composer Marc Streitenfeld’s cues are imposing and draw too much attention to themselves in scenes where music of a subtler kind would have been more appropriate and more effective.

The editing, by Pietro Scalia, is problematic at times, with some rather abrupt scene transitions here and there. Furthermore, it feels like too much material ended up on the cutting-room floor. Can we have a Director’s Cut, please?

Noomi Rapace continues her ascent to the Hollywood sky with an impressive performance as Elizabeth Shaw; she goes all in for a very intense, almost physically unpleasant operation scene in the second half of the film. Playing the android David with aplomb, Michael Fassbender makes the most of his ambiguous character and dominates nearly every scene in which he appears. Charlize Theron and Idris Elba have little to work with in the roles of Meredith Vickers and Janek, respectively, but both deliver satisfactory performances. The other cast members, including Guy Pearce, who is virtually unrecognizable under several layers of old-age makeup, do a serviceable job.