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Prometheus 3D IMAX review: Fassbending Friday night fun

Jason saw Ridley Scott's sci-fi action film at the Waterloo IMAX last night -- could it possibly meet expectations? And is the 3D worth it?

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Jason Jenkins
Jason Jenkins is the director of content for CNET in EMEA. Based in London, he has been writing about technology since 1999 and was once thrown out of Regent's Park for testing the UK's first Segway.
Jason Jenkins
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Thanks to a cracking viral campaign, Prometheus is one of the most geekily anticipated films of the year, and last night I was treated to a preview by distributor 20th Century Fox at the whopping IMAX in London's Waterloo, which has reportedly taken more than £500,000 in advance ticket sales -- on just one screen.

Everyone I've spoken to about it is understandably keen to avoid hearing too many spoilers, so I'll try and keep them to a minimum, but to be honest there isn't much to spoil. It's been widely trailed that this is an Alien prequel, and for anyone who's seen the original -- also directed by Ridley Scott -- Prometheus is exactly what you would expect an Alien prequel to be.

Even if you haven't seen any of the Alien films (and Prometheus works equally well as a standalone piece), you'll feel like you've seen this film before somewhere. All the science-fiction boxes are checked -- a slightly bonkers robot with questionable motives. A far-away planet with a dark secret. Lots of questions about the nature of existence. A truckload of suspense and gore (wait until you see the operation scene -- eww).

A formula is definitely followed, but that's not necessarily a bad thing when it's followed so well. I spent much of the film in a state of cringing anxiety, inwardly shouting, "Don't go in there! No, don't pick that up! DON'T PRESS THAT BUTTON! ARGH!" What more can you ask for?

Michael Fassbender's turn as the robot David steals the film. It's a creepy performance that's almost worth the price of a ticket alone, although perhaps I've been swayed by the fact that David deliberately styles himself to look like Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, my favourite film of all time.

The whole cast put in convincing, committed performances, although the presence of Benedict Wong pulled me out of the moment a few times. Nothing to do with his performance -- I just couldn't help but laugh remembering him on the IT Crowd as the overseer of Street Countdown. I don't think that'll affect too many of you though.

The effects are mostly amazing, as you would expect. Right at the beginning there's a terrific shot of a strand of DNA breaking up which sets the piece up perfectly, and that standard continues throughout. The sets hark back to the earlier films in many ways too.

The 20-metre-high IMAX screen I saw it on has the best 3D system I've seen in a cinema, with large glasses that don't obscure the action. Despite that, though, the 3D didn't add much for me. It's very well done, with very few of the shots showing any problems, although during some of the faster action sequences with lots going on, the 3D occasionally made it harder for me to work out what was happening.

My overwhelming feeling was that I would rather just take the 3D glasses off and watch the 2D version on the huge IMAX screen in comfort. Save yourself the extra cost of the 3D ticket and see it on a decent 2D screen instead, if you can find one.

Ultimately this is a good Friday night film -- an action-fest with a bit of gore -- but it probably can't live up to the huge expectations the marketing campaign has whipped up. I don't think we'll be talking about this film as a seminal piece of work in 30 years the way Alien is sometimes referred to. But if you can put the hype to one side and take it for the popcorn fare it is, you'll have fun.

If you're planning on seeing the film this weekend, let me know in the comments below -- and of course tell me what you think of it once you've seen it, here or on our Facebook wall. In the meantime, click through the promotional stills above and watch one of the viral videos below. It doesn't give anything important away, promise!

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