Were humans placed on Earth by extraterrestrials? That's the central question in this visually striking adventure, which brims with tension, intelligence and Alien-esque grossouts. The year is 2093, and a group of explorers led by a corporate exec (Charlize Theron, captivating as ever) and a scientist (Noomi Rapace, equally superb) visit a distant star to look for the origins of man -- then get hunted by slimy monsters.

PHOTOS: Charlize Theron's hottest looks everThe 3-D flick looks breathtaking, with the planet feeling realistic. And the action pauses for some laughs, too, thanks to Michael Fassbender as a droll android.

Still, prepare for preposterous moments, even by sci-fi standards. (Would a scientist really swig booze while colleagues examine an alien nearby?)

PHOTOS: Charlize Theron and stars who have adopted

Plus, horror cliches pop up occasionally, including a slain staffer who returns as a zombie. But mostly the thriller is smart -- and shocking. Just try not to close your eyes during the jaw-dropping scene involving Rapace, a slithery beast and an operating table!Us Rating: 3/4 stars

This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Prometheus Review: Charlize Theron "Captivating as Ever"