Is it a prequel to Alien? Screenwriter Damon Lindelof has said some vague stuff about how it is a companion piece or a story set in a parallel universe to Alien rather than an actual prequel to the 1979 movie. It doesn’t matter.

In the same American summer blockbuster season that has already received an Avengers movie and will receive a new Spider-man and Batman movie this tale exploring the age old question of where we—all of us humans come from—is a special piece. It is high art and high concept in the same package. It is wildly ambitious and totally entertaining. There is imagery in Prometheus that sits so beautifully in the continuum that extends from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Moon that it deserves one viewing without sound. Just so that we can take it all in. The question it implants into the collective consciousness of moviegoers justifies that second viewing.

Above all, this is formula filmmaking at its maturest. There is love, there is greed, there is the quest for immortality and the pursuit of an inheritance. There are unanswered questions and new spins on familiar. Prometheus, when I watched it, felt like the cinematic manifestation of what studio executives and producers are always asking of filmmakers and writers: something different.

It is only different enough to keep our attention throughout its running time but it is also so familiar that we are never lost. The exposition we receive in this movie is nothing like that clunky ‘I’m telling you what I’m doing so you understand that this is being done to you’ exposition that riddled Inception.

No this movie is so smooth, the filmmakers only need to resort to a voiceover once. Swedish sensation Noomi Rapace handles the responsibility of being Ripley before Ripley with equal measures of doubt and faith. Ballsy-fierce Ripley was fine for the time she was created in, but this is a new world and it calls for a different type of heroine. Michael Fassbender is really effective as the robotic David (and he may even be re-entering Christian Bale territory with the amount of weight he lost to play this part) and it is really interesting to me that the filmmakers seemed to sympathize most with his view of the world. Idris Elba, Logan-Marshall-Green and Guy Pearce are also effective in their parts. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t notice before or maybe something has changed recently but Charlize Theron’s arched eyebrows acting seems better suited to a Bollywood melodrama that the understated activity on display here. Her performance is still only a minor blemish upon the complexion of this movie.

Which brings me to the 3D. I am aware that many movies get a lot of grief for employing the technology just so that higher revenues can be earned from the higher ticket prices. Not true in this case. I would go so far as to say that Prometheus might be a lesser experience on smaller screens, or minus the 3D. There are large, dramatically lit sets and set pieces that need to be viewed in all their big screen glory.

After watching Prometheus, I am officially excited about Ridley Scott’s desire to return to the Blade Runner universe. The possibilities truly boggle the mind.