31/05/2012 03:50 BST | Updated 31/05/2012 08:40 BST

REVIEW: Prometheus Is Repulsively Awesome - Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace On Great Form

Prometheus ****

124 minutes

After a 30-year wait for Ridley Scott to dive once more into the sci-fi blockbuster bucket where he first found fame (Z Cars notwithstanding), it was only fair that he shouldn’t keep us waiting much longer for the real action to begin.

And thus it was, with what’s been loosely described as his Alien prequel. After a rudimentary few minutes and a prod around some Scottish caves whose carvings gave us “an invitation to go find them”, we're off in the spaceship, and it feels like we, and Sir Ridley, have never been away.

On this distant planet, determined scientist Dr Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) is determined to discover and, if possible, encounter its inhabitants, which we know of old, probably won’t be a completely good thing. Sure enough, this is a cue for her crew, including an almost unrecognisable Guy Pearce, to spread out and leave themselves at the mercy of their enigmatic hosts.

This makes for, in some cases, comically grotesque results, in others, just truly grotesque ones, including one of the singly most unpleasant cinema scenes I can think of. Scott still has a way with an alien, to be sure. Meanwhile, the special effects and visuals are what you’d expect from an unbelievably large number of digital artists mentioned in the credits who, with their ability to repulse and awe in equal measure, must be doing their job. Prometheus is not for the squeamish.

Of course, as with all these sci-fi blockbusters, all of this would be moot if we didn’t care about the characters.

Idris Elba’s does himself no harm with anyone still thinking he’s American from his Stringer Bell days, striking a light touch as the ship’s captain and providing what relief there is to be found.

Charlize Theron takes the underplaying brief a tad too far. This is an Oscar-winning actress, I had to remind myself, as she struts and pouts, providing seemingly robotic eye-candy in what could have been, for her, an episode of Blake’s Seven.

Conversely, as an actual robot, Michael Fassbender’s Aryan looks and his customary half-smile, half-sneer, lends itself perfectly to the seemingly eager-to-please David, and the film seemed at its most complete whenever he walks, pigeon-toed, into frame. Think C3PO with an almighty agenda.

At the centre of almost all of the action, Noomi Rapace stamps her mark as a surprisingly feminine action-heroine – no shaved head or buffed torso on display here. She’s not trying to out-Ripley any of Scott’s predecessors and is the more interesting for it, with her faith and curiosity in these strange creatures, even when the personal cost is phenomenal, setting her apart. But, who knows, she might turn up, freshly shaved and buffed, if, as is tantalisingly hinted, there’s some sort of prequel-sequel.

Prometheus will be released in cinemas 1 June in 3D nationwide.

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