Ridley Scott spent so many years developing this prequel to his masterpiece Alien that anticipation outweighed anything he could deliver, frustrating movies with an enigmatic prequel that seemed to raise as many questions as it answered. Still, you can’t fault the film for its ambition. Its seed was one short scene in Alien – where the human crew of the Nostromo finds the skeleton of a giant space traveler in an abandoned ship, a corpse whose broken ribcage was a harbinger of the gestating xenomorph that would soon kill crewman Kane by bursting out of his torso. In an effort to answer the question of who that long-dead space jockey was an how he got there (not to mention the question of how the corporation behind the Nostromo seemed to anticipate the prospect that the Earthbound ship might run into such a creature as the xenomorph), Prometheus wound up posing some much bigger questions, about the origin and purpose of human life on Earth.
The resulting tale is maddeningly vague about the answers, in a way that seems designed to necessitate more sequels, but the telling nicely parallels the plot of Alien, with Noomi Rapace (as the lone sensible person on the mission) serving as a worthy precursor to Sigourney Weaver’s pragmatic Ripley in the first four Alien films. And Scott’s unfailing visual sense (with the veteran director making valid use of 3D) serves to open the imagination to the appropriate sense of wonder and awe.