Prometheus finds director Ridley Scott returning, after three decades, to the science-fiction genre he revolutionized with Alien and Blade Runner. In the new film, set 30 years before the first Alien, Noomi Rapace plays an archaeologist who discovers a pictogram showing humans worshipping the stars, suggesting that aliens had a role in mankind's creation. She travels to an alien planet to resolve the question, with Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba along for the bumpy ride. Box-office experts predict that fans will make Prometheus the highest-grossing entry in the lucrative Alien franchise, while critics are praising it as the best sci-fi film in years. But does it improve on the movie that many still consider the benchmark of the genre, the original Alien?

Yes. It's that good: This is the perfect sci-fi movie, says Roger Ebert at The Chicago Sun-Times: A "seamless blend of story, special effects, and pitch-perfect casting," with virtuosic 3D elements. There are echoes of Alien, but it's in a world — and a class — of its own. The horror scenes resonate as much, if not more than Alien's, and are extra action-packed, particularly a harrowing sequence in which the crew members traverse a series of dark caverns and passages. The actual creatures: Terrifying. The film centers around profound questions about the origins of life on earth, elevating a film that already "has staggering visuals [and] expert horror...."

It's good, but not that good: Prometheus is arresting, thought-provoking, and gorgeously designed and shot, says Kenneth Turan at the Los Angeles Times. It blows summer's other blockbusters away, but "by the standards set by its wizardly director, it's something of a disappointment." While Alien is downright scary, Prometheus is more creepy, and pushes too hard for profound significance. The "thrills are less visceral than Alien and the world imagined [is] less mind-altering than Blade Runner."
"It's no Alien, but Prometheus still delivers thrills"

No. And it's a misfire: "Watching Prometheus is like opening a deluxe gift box from Tiffany's to find a mug from the dollar store," says Ty Burr at The Boston Globe. It begins tantalizingly with crisp, epic visuals, a provocative creation question, and allusions to the Alien mythology. But it collapses under its own ambition. "You might go a little bonkers" trying to keep track of the layers the film adds to the Alien mythology, and it's problematic that the most emotionally involving character is an android (Fassbender). While Alien was "demonically streamlined" and Aliens "one of the purest, most beautifully crafted action movies of all time," Prometheus is "just big, beautiful, and empty."