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Review: Where the Screams Began (Prometheus)

Space. A cold, empty vacuum where an incident occurred many millenniums ago. There are those who believe that human existence is nothing more than an isolated accident and those who feel that it was an act of a higher power. The primary offender of Prometheus is Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace). Shaw refuses to believe that this grand universe is empty and without purpose. In exploring space, she seeks comfort. Whatever the crew of Prometheus will find, it will reconstruct the currently held view of the universe. In leading a crew to explore a planet with signs of intelligent beings, Shaw will test her theory.

Creation has been a running theme in the Alien franchise and one that is opened up for debate more in Ridley Scott's ventures than the other films. Offspring allows man to live on forever. What Scott proposes with Alien and Prometheus is that while immortality gleams with promise and answers soothe all wounds, some things are better left alone. This sentiment is echoed in establishing shots where humans are remarkably small onscreen (the shot of Prometheus outside of L.V. 223 being the most obvious of the shots). Not only are we small, but ultimately, unimportant.

The search for answers has often gone unrewarded in human history and the few answers we do have only initiate more questions. If there is a creator, society would be best served without knowing the intents of the act that resulted in our existence. Vickers and Janek (a capable and lived-in Charlize Theron and Idris Elba) are comfortable in the knowledge they possess. They may be company men (the plight of every crew in the Alien franchise), but they have a fierce determination to live.

Despite the inclinations of most, Weyland Industries ignores those instincts and creates inorganic life. With Shaw and crew chasing the promise of purposeful creation, ironically, when David (Michael Fassbender, phenomenal once again) asks about his creation, the response is a curt “because we could.” Man was created and man created David. That level of ignorance regarding David drives most of the drama in Prometheus. There is a primal sense of danger that lurks beneath David's seemingly docile surface. Whatever Shaw's inner curiosities bring about are multiplied threefold by the resident android of the ship. The relationship between creator and created is a delicate one, and the film is at its best when focusing on that interplay.

The confines of the ship are remarkable. It is difficult to discern where the practical sets end and the computer effects begin. Scott is known for his work with technology and he outdoes himself here. Prometheus doesn't just lend itself to fans of science fiction, but the film's effectiveness in creating dread is enough for most fans of the horror genre to head to theatres as well.

The film's downfalls are typical of the genre that it operates in. Characters are developed quickly and thinly, but the main cast of Fassbender, Rapace, Elba and Theron make more than enough for the consequences to matter to the audience.

Yet where the film really succeeds is in generating questions that last with the viewer long after the credits fade. The majority of viewers may not care for the message, but it will undoubtedly serve as a source of debate.

***/****

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