Director Ridley Scott returns to the darkest, most Alien corner of the universe for this long-awaited prequel to his sci-fi masterpiece. On a mission to reveal the origins of mankind, the crew of the research ship Prometheus - including scientist Noomi Rapace, corporate overseer Charlize Theron, captain Idris Elba and android Michael Fassbender - voyage to a planet at the edge of the cosmos. But while their discoveries offer the ultimate answers, it soon becomes a question of who will survive. And that far out, nobody can hear them scream...
Awesome (adj.): very impressive or daunting; inspiring awe. It's an overused word. Air guitaring is not awesome. America's Next Top Model is not awesome. Adam Sandler is not awesome.
But as a reinvention of sci-fi cinema, 1979's Alien was undeniably awesome. And in terms of white-knuckle thrills and dispelling the notion of the inferior sequel, Aliens was awesome.
Now, with three more decades' worth of personal experience and technological advances at his disposal, original director Ridley Scott has managed to combine the achievements of both.
As a spectacle, Alien -1 is awesome.
Wisely, Scott and his co-writers - Lost scribe Damien Lindelof and Jon Spaihts - don't stray from the franchise's basic template: motley space crew encounters something nasty at the arse-end of the universe and see their number depleted by bad luck, bad management and bad lifeforms.
Technically and thematically, however, Prometheus takes Alien lore way beyond anything previously seen. Indeed, so rigorously policed has the production been that the plot itself has become the stuff of legend.
Those familiar with the teaser that saw visionary gazillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) spout forth about playing god may have gleaned that it involves a quest for humankind to finally meet its makers.
And so it is, with archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) about to explore the remote, Earth-like planet LV-223 with the crew of Weyland Corp's research vessel Prometheus.
It's 2093, four years after the pair discovered an incontrovertible link between all ancient human civilisations and beings that appeared to come from this point in space.
Shaw calls them 'engineers', potential creators of our species. The majority of the crew are unsurprisingly sceptical. From ship's captain Janek (Elba) to antisocial geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), they're in it for the money.
Frosty Weyland exec Meredith Vickers (Theron), however, appears to be working to a different agenda, set by her long-dead boss and aided by his creation David (Fassbender), an enigmatic android who keeps the mission's cogs moving and models himself on Peter O'Toole's Lawrence of Arabia.
You'd think they might have more open minds, what with their ship named after the Greek hero who sought to put man on an equal footing with the gods - and paid horribly for it. After all, gods often turn out to be monsters.
For characters and audience alike, this particular penny drops when they set foot on LV-233 with its caves full of otherworldly artefacts, oozing vases and the crumbling, mutilated remains of another humanoid race.
Remember the elephant-headed "space jockey" with the busted chest, first glimpsed in Alien? Looks like his mates met the same fate. And the same thing's about to happen to the Prometheans.
Beset by gravel storms, nasty DNA-hijackers, and good, old-fashioned human panic, the noble mission becomes a dirty fight for survival.
Scott is not mucking around here, clearly determined to rebuild and restore credibility to a cinematic legacy which has been allowed to fade since 1985 with a slew of lacklustre sequels and spin-offs.
As you'd expect from a Scott production, they've designed the hell out of it. On land and in space, it's a jaw-dropping collision of cultures forgotten and futuristic, shimmering holographs and hi-tech pizzazz. The result is the most immersive 3D experience since Avatar.
It's also designed for anyone alien to Alien, carefully pre-empting the original story while provoking thought with questions of existence... and less voluntary reflexes with a gutful of face-hugging, head-exploding body horror (Shaw's ordeal on the operating table is enough to give anyone stomach ache).
Any quibbles come at the character level. Because while Fassbender's David is a constant source of intrigue and, surprisingly, wit, we've seen most of this lot before. Even the big roles, with Shaw coming across a bit too Ripley and Vickers effectively Aliens' Burke in a fetching catsuit.
But this is one film where familiarity should breed no contempt.