Prometheus director Ridley Scott remarked that although the movie certainly has “strands of of Alien's DNA,” it's not technically a prequel. And that is absolutely correct. The first two Alien movies were highly enjoyable action films that gave us one of the best protagonists in film that set the precedent for great heroines to come.
Part of its genius of Prometheus is that rather than try to recreate the feel of an amazing franchise that went horribly wrong, this is the relaunch of Alien for a new generation, one that incorporates all the great effects and CGI they've come to expect, but also refuses to believe that requires the film to dumb itself down. It also wisely realizes this won't satisfy everyone, so it doesn't bother trying. Purists won't have much good to say about it, since the film's appeal means that the original franchise's grittiness and claustrophobia are absent, mostly because this is a scientific mission sponsored by a corporation, not a mining ship or remote colony.
While this is still an action film, it's one that explores the origin of the original movies' elements: where did the eggs come from? Does it have anything to do with our own origins? Did someone created us? If so, then why? Are we alone in the universe?
These question begin 30 years before Alien when archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover that several ancient cultures described the same star map, which they believe is an invitation from humanity's creators, and they assemble a crew and set out to explore it. What could go wrong? But when they reach the world, they certainly do find several interesting things, some of which will be familiar to Alien fans. Chaos soon ensues, along with a high body count.
The cast is perfect, one which includes Idris Elba as the ship's captain, Charlize Theron as the icy corporate mission director, and most fascinating of all, Michael Fassbender as the android who serves the crew and longs to have his competence and humanity acknowledged. His perspective of humanity certainly adds an interesting twist to the questions that have troubled humans since they were first able to think.
Of course, one thing Prometheus must have in common with its predecessors is an engaging heroine. And with one like Ellen Ripley, Elizabeth Shaw certainly has a lot to live up to. Following the pattern, Prometheus sees her as someone completely different, but certainly strong enough in her own right and one worth rooting for. And just because this movie is about elite scientists rather than miners or Marines doesn't mean that there aren't a few grisly surprises in store for her as well.
Yet for all its greatness and technical beauty, there are a few flaws in regards to the human element, one that's mostly a consequence of its cool, detached view and philosophical exploration. That means that some of the characters don't feel fully fleshed out, and some of them make mistakes that seem completely unlike people with their qualifications, even for people in such a stressful situation.
Prometheus also doesn't provide all the answers, and that's not just because of the sequel they're hoping for. Rather, it presents it as a product of insufficient evidence, villains that withhold information, and creators who may be even more flawed than their creations.
Give Prometheus a chance, and certainly don't let nostalgia get in your way. Ridley Scott sure didn't. And I mean that in the most complimentary way.