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Prometheus' rises

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Ridley Scott prequel lives up to the hype

Ridley Scott is a master of creating atmosphere. His films always have a lush visual aesthetic that elevates them. He's also got some wonderful horror sensibilities; the first 'Alien' mined epic scares with cardboard cutouts and lighting tricks. His bromance with Russell Crowe has gotten to be a bit much as of late, so it was probably time for Ridley get some alone time.

So we get 'Prometheus.' Scott is returning to the near-future universe of 'Alien' only this time with a multimillion studio budget. Would the money enhance what Scott already brings to the table? Or would he get bogged down by the budget's temptations and expectations?

Turns out it's the former.

Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, 'Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows') and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green, 'Devil') have discovered eerily similar ancient paintings all over the world that they take to be some sort of map a map leading to those others who might have created the human race.

The spaceship Prometheus is sent on a mission to the indicated system in order to meet these 'Engineers.' Eccentric industrialist Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, 'Lockout') has financed the journey, to be monitored by the coldly mysterious Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron, 'Snow White and the Huntsman'). Also of vital importance to the mission is David (Michael Fassbender, 'Haywire'), the quirky android who is essentially Weyland's surrogate son.

When Prometheus arrives on this new planet, the crew discovers huge structures structures that can't possibly be natural. While exploring these structures, they discover ancient technologies and ancient bodies. It soon becomes clear that whatever happened on this planet was very bad for those to whom it happened. And it's happening again.

Scott takes his time allowing the story of 'Prometheus' to unfold. He's very aware of the fact that he is creating a spiritual ancestor to a beloved story, and so allows the mythology to unfold at its own pace. Some might find the relative lack of action a bit of a disappointment, but the backstory that Scott is constructing is both deeply rich and perfectly plausible within the larger canon (see how you do it, Mr. Lucas?).

Of course, none of it matters without people to invest in. Noomi Rapace is rapidly becoming one of the best in the business she consistently creates intelligent, capable heroines that fit easily into any genre of film. She's great here as the moral compass and anchor of the film. Marshall-Green does a nice enough job, but the character's motivations are a bit muddy. He does his best, but Holloway mostly comes off as flat. Theron is on an icy-cold roll with this film immediately following 'Snow White and the Huntsman.' It's like she's running the gamut; from cold, cruel rage to imperious stoicism.

However, the highlight performance has to be Fassbender as the android David. Scott has always had a knack for subtly humanizing non-human characters Ash in 'Alien'; the Replicants in 'Blade Runner' but Fassbender takes it next level. His portrayal of David is wonderfully nuanced, conveying volumes with a vocal inflection or a quirk of the lips.

'Prometheus' is epic in all the right ways. It's the best kind of summer blockbuster the kind with a brain in its head. We all love watching stuff blow up, but if you make us care why the stuff is blowing up, you've got something special. Fans of sci-fi, suspense or just interesting filmmaking would be well-served to invest a couple of hours in this one.

4 out of 5

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