More on Prometheus

One of my cow-orkers pointed out there’s a popular theory going around that Prometheus is all about classical mythology in an SF setting.  Most SF movies are, but the theory outlined here actually does a pretty good job of explaining some of the more baffling aspects of the movie.  I’m not equipped to spot this kind of stuff, not having a religious background and not having studied mythology.

The links and videos at the bottom of his post provide some good counterpoint though, and if you invest the time to read the article I suggest you also watch the videos – especially the first half of the Akira the Don one (the second half is irrelevant).

In addition to what is said in the latter, an obvious flaw with the Space Jesus theory is that wiping out humanity because we nailed their peace teacher to a tree is a pretty hypocritical lesson in peaceing out, space dudes.


While there’s nothing wrong with weaving mythological references all through a movie, even an SF movie, it still doesn’t feel like a well-put-together story.  Also, I wish people would stop relying so heavily on this material – consider the underlying values behind things like the Prometheus myth.  They’re outdated in that they severely undervalue life – depending on how they’re told, they’re almost death propaganda.  I’d like to see some more sensible SF flicks made to establish new, pro-life mythology.

On Prometheus

Actually not just on Prometheus, but on how it ties in with the Alien movies.

I enjoyed Prometheus.  It was an entertaining film.  But it wasn’t what I was expecting – namely a prequel to Alien.  At best it’s the first half of a prequel.  But I’ll get back to that.  First, some comments about standalone flaws of the film:


The opening scene and comments made later in the movie suggest these humanoid aliens set the ball rolling to produce human life on Earth, and that they’ve visited Earth many times over the last few thousand years and had contact with primitive humans.

So what about our primate ancestors then? What about the amazing genetic similarity between humans and other mammals?  Did they start all life on Earth instead – in which case their first visit would have been many hundreds of millions of years ago, and in that case why are they themselves so unchanging?  Or are we to suppose that it’s a coincidence that their DNA happened to be nearly identical to that of Earth life in general?  Do we have a Progenitor situation here where most life-bearing worlds were initially seeded by some long-gone civilization?  And why did the alien at the start of the movie have to sacrifice himself to make life happen?  And why by drinking what we’re later told is a bio-weapon?  Couldn’t they just engineer something in a lab and send it to Earth in a missile?


So, a pair of archaeologists, Dr. Holloway and Dr. Shaw, who are also lovers, found a series of cave paintings from different cultures and different eras that all feature a tall humanoid figure pointing at a uniquely identifiable constellation.  From this Dr. Shaw (an admitted religious nutter with psychological problems related to her infertility) somehow concluded the tall figures were aliens that created humanity and that they invite us to visit them in this constellation, and she convinced Peter Weyland to fund an expedition to look for the aliens.  He agreed, secretly hoping that she was right and that the aliens would therefore be able to cure him of old age, somehow.  Weyland was also a nutbar; while he quite rightly wanted immortality, he inconsistently called his android “son” unfortunate for possessing it.  This is probably just the same anti-android racism we see in the other movies.


Weyland put 17-odd people on this mission aboard a spaceship that took 28 months to reach its destination at the aforementioned constellation.  Given that relativity does’t seem to have a huge impact on travel in this universe, let’s assume ship time is 1:1 with Earth time – this still means these people signed on to a mission that put them at least five years out of touch with friends and family.  Without knowing anything about their crew mates – indeed, in most cases without having met them before the mission.  Without having been given a thorough psych evaluation.  And without even KNOWING WHAT THE DAMN MISSION IS!!  WTF!  Clearly the Weyland Corporation had the dumbest recruiting department in the history of for-profit exploration.


Once on the destination planet, identified as LV-223, the ship landed near a line of artificial structures and half the crew entered one to explore.  The geologist released some robot probes that started mapping out the extensive network of corridors inside. The air inside the building was mysteriously breathable, and like a bunch of fools the exploration party all took their helmets off.  Breathable is a long way from safe!  It could be a temporary condition, and there could be pathogens in the air, in the water dripping everywhere or on the surfaces they touched.


The android, David, found inscriptions carved in the walls and correctly identified them as controls, using them (with his deductions about the alien language resulting from two years of language training during the journey) to open doors and trigger apparent security system recordings to play back.  The security recordings showed a group of the humanoid aliens running from an apparent immediate threat, into a room that proved to contain a giant head bust, a lot of drums full of the black goo bioweapon, and relief murals on the walls that started dissolving on exposure to the carbon dioxide exhaled by the explorers.  One of the murals clearly depicted a xenomorph queen, though the implication is that the first one is born at the end of the movie.  Why did this room even exist?  The aliens clearly go in for ornamentation, but why put a small collection of bioweapon containers in a room with a giant bust of what could be either a human or an alien head? (Ignoring scale the aliens’ heads look identical to human ones.)

The aliens sealed their containers with something that dissolves on exposure to carbon dioxide, which is a good idea if you want to set a trap for oxygen-breathing carbon-based life forms, buy why did they also make the murals on the walls out of the same stuff?  Did they just have some left over and decided to paint with it out of boredom?

The aliens in the security recording were likely fleeing from one of the tentacle monsters that we see later on.  But why did they then run into a dead-end room full of the same stuff that gave rise to the monster in the first place?  They would have had a better chance going outside and splitting up.


The explorers found a 2,000-year-old alien head and stuffed it in a bag for later study – completely ignoring any risk of damaging it or contaminating it in the process.  Grossly incompetent!

The geologist and the biologist got freaked out by the security recording and the bust room, and left the group to return to the ship.  But they got lost along the way and ended up trapped in the alien building when a storm arose outside.  How did they manage that?  It was that same geologist who released the mapping probes, and they all have reliable radio contact with the ship where the results are being collected – plus, entering an alien edifice for the first time would kind of make an impression in your memory.  There’s no way in hell they should have been able to get lost.   Anyway, later on these two (now with helmets back on) encountered a snake-like alien life form, and in a complete reversal of character they tried to pet the damn thing, even ignoring what in an Earth animal would unmistakably be a threat display.  They got attacked and died horribly, of course.


Back on the ship, Dr. Shaw determined that the alien head (the same vaguely elephantine type we saw on the dead alien pilot in Alien) was actually a helmet encasing a large humanoid head.  The head had been exposed to the bioweapon and was undergoing some sort of biological activity, presumably triggered by the same exposure to carbon dioxide.  For some reason she thought that sticking a giant electrode into the alien’s head would wake him up – not only ridiculous, but what an awful thing to do to any being!  Anyway, it worked, and alien head predictably freaked out and then exploded.  WTF?  This makes no sense.  And then the alien DNA proved to be identical to human DNA – wait, what?  Then why are they larger and white-skinned?  Why did that one alien sacrifice himself and undergo an apparent DNA restructuring at the start of the movie?


When David found the bridge of the alien ship, why does the moving chair at the console react to the holo replay but not to him?  Makes no sense.


Things went further south when David deliberately exposed Dr. Holloway to a small amount of the black goo.  That David did this makes sense, as he was following orders from Weyland and needed a human guinea pig to see what the stuff did.  It did the same flesh-eating thing it did to the alien at the start of the movie, but at a slower rate and not before Holloway had sexy times with Shaw.


Dr. Shaw found herself knocked up with an alien tentacle monster and rushed to the autodoc to have it removed, but the machine objected that it was only programmed to deal with male patients.  But when we were shown the autodoc earlier, it was clearly the personal property of a female character, so this makes absolutely no sense at all.  Anyway, she made the machine remove the creature from her abdomen anyway, at great risk of killing herself in the process.  When she later returned to the same area, the creature had not only survived but grown to about a hundred times its size at time of extraction.  On what? Did it find a food dispenser in the sick bay?

In the end the tentacle monster that came out of Dr. Shaw used an organ that looks just like the snake-creature from earlier to impregnate the one surviving alien, who then hatched a creature that looks a lot like a xenomorph.  When I first saw this scene I took the implication to be that the crashed alien ship is the one we see in Alien, and this creature will be the one that lays all the eggs in the cavern (now known to be a hangar) below the ship.  But it doesn’t work because the dead alien pilot in Alien was found in the pilot’s seat with his helmet on, whereas this one died in a human escape pod that was somehow missed later.

Fortunately it doesn’t need to work, as this is a different planet.  The planet in Prometheus is referred to as LV-223, whereas the one in Alien and Aliens was identified in the latter film as LV-426.  (I take the names to be Leviticus references.)


At the end Dr. Shaw states the conviction that the crashed ship was intended to deliver large quantities of the bioweapon to Earth.  This is hard to make sense of – why would the aliens create humanity and then destroy it?  Regime change at home?  Why would they get primitive human tribes to document their invitation to a planet that turns out to be just a weapons dump?  If it wasn’t an invitation, then it must be a warning – and why reveal the location of your weapons dump to a bunch of savages?  And if they were actually going to wipe out humanity, why wait for us to find them first?


Others have documented some flaws of the film elegantly here and here and here.


Here’s how I rationalize a few of these things:

I think the easiest way to explain all this is to accept the evidence that Dr. Shaw was high on godcrack, and that we still have absolutely no idea what the relationship is between humanity and the aliens or what their motivations are.  The scene with the dying alien at the beginning was some fantasy of hers.

If the alien ship was really intended to deliver the black goo to Earth, the reason it didn’t was because of some accident on LV-223 that caused the incident recorded on the security holo; the one alien survivor survived because he was in stasis when the rest of his crew was wiped out.  So it was really just an accident that humanity wasn’t erased 2,000 years ago.  This is supported by the fact that the surviving alien attempted to resume that mission immediately on being awakened.

The biology of the xenomorphs just got a lot more complicated too.  We have this black goo that is apparently an engineered bioweapon.  Humanoids exposed to it get their DNA unwound and their bodies fall apart and/or explode, and rate of decay being proportional to the quantity of goo that gets in them.  A human female who copulates with an infected individual bears a squid-like tentacle monster, which has a detachable tongue that can impregnate any humanoid with something that comes out as a proto-xenomorph.  Xenomorph queens lay egg-traps that hatch face-huggers, which in turn impregnate human hosts with more xenomorphs.

What is all this?  It was simpler when the xenomorphs were just a species with an odd reproductive cycle and a high suitability to be used as antipersonnel weapons.  Now we have some kind of nanotech-like weapon that gives rise to them, as well as doing a bunch of other things?  Is the black goo supposed to be some kind of genetic randomizer?


Fixing this

Here’s what we know.

  1. With farfetched evidence, Dr. Shaw somehow convinced Peter Weyland that possibly-benevolent aliens could be contacted at LV-223.
  2. The events of Prometheus took place on a different planet than the events of Alien and Aliens.
  3. Therefore the two crashed alien spacecraft are different ones.
  4. Weyland-Yutani knew there was an alien lifeform on LV-426, as documented in Alien.  How they knew is unknown.
  5. Dr. Shaw and David absconded with a third alien vessel and departed for points unknown, intending to find the homeworld of the humanoid aliens and get some answers from them.

Obviously there is a hell of a lot we don’t know.  What happened to Dr. Shaw and David?  Was there ever a return mission to LV-223?  Given the caginess of the Weyland corporation, I would expect them to have been transmitting all data live from the Prometheus, so they would have a pretty good idea what went down.  How did the Weyland-Yutani corporation know there was something interesting on LV-426?  Did they plant the supposed distress signal?  Was it really a warning, as Ripley suspected?

Here’s how I would fix all this:

  1. Peter Weyland already knew intelligent aliens existed, but didn’t know where to look for them.  Dr. Shaw answered that question, and that was all he needed.
  2. In order to pilot the alien craft, Dr. Shaw had to put on one of their spacesuits – namely the one built into the pilot’s chair.
  3. Towards the end of Prometheus, Dr. Shaw was frequently gasping and pain and clutching her belly.  This was not an after-effect of the surgery, but was because she was gestating another monster.
  4. The crashed ship found in Alien was the one piloted by Dr. Shaw; that was her in the pilot’s chair, having been killed by the emergence of what became the first xenomorph on LV-426 and laid all those eggs.  Presumably it tossed David’s remains outside somewhere.
  5. Dr. Shaw activated the distress/warning beacon that the Nostromo picked up, and it was actually received and decoded by Weyland-Yutani long before then, which is how they knew to look there.

On having re-watched Alien and Aliens for this post, I’m struck by how well they hold up – they’re still awesomely good movies.  The rest, not so much.


What I’ve Been Watching

Latest batch of movies I’ve seen:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) – Not my usual type of movie, but it was pretty good.  A pretty typical Mundane detective thriller – and I admit I didn’t anticipate who turned out to be the bad guy.  The only part that was worth seeing on the big screen was the (awesome) opening credits – the rest, while competently filmed, didn’t have any eye candy.

The Adventures of Tintin – I wrote a separate post about this one here.

Cry Baby Lane – This one attracted my attention because I heard it was made by Nickelodeon (unusual for them to make a thriller) and was not aired because it was deemed to scary for the intended audience at the time.  I’m not sure I agree – it’s pretty tame by today’s standards.

Battle Los Angeles – I swear I’ve seen this movie before.  A bunch of alien retards with superior tech launch a freaking ground war against Earth to steal resources they could much more easily obtain out in space.  Humans lose ground until a small group of jarheads get unreasonably lucky and find the invaders’ critical weakness (in this case, a stupidly centralized resource again).  The only thing this movie has going for it is the animation on the alien aircraft – I love their hover mode propulsion method.

Darkness (2002) – Surprisingly one of the better horror movies made in the last couple of decades, in my opinion.  Unpredictable.  Fairly standard genre story, but well executed.  I especially liked the ending.

One Week (2008a) – Recommended to me in a conversation about my recent cross-Canada road trip, and very appropriate.  Lots of scenery and stretches of road I’ve seen in this film – the story perhaps didn’t have the intended impact on me because I was too busy letting it lead my reflection on my own journey to concentrate on the character’s journey.

Sharktopus – Poster child for the current trend of the B-monster-movie genre self-parodying.  It’s the usual thing: Misguided scienticians create a monster that runs amok for a while until they kill it.  Only this one is tongue-in-cheek.

Stonehenge Apocalypse – Contains everything bad about prophesy-driven disaster movies, though it does go further with the actual disasters than most.  Very skippable.

The Thing (2011) – I dunno.  It didn’t have anywhere near the impact on me that the Kurt Russell one did.  Maybe I’m just too desensitized now.  This one is a prequel and does seem to fit well in that role, though it’s been too long since I saw the two originals that I can’t be sure it meshes cleanly.

The Tunnel (2011) – Above average as modern monster/suspense movies go, though still not great.  This one did appeal to the urban exploration nerd in me.

The Hole (2009) – I really liked the concept of this one.  The execution was competent but unremarkable.

Killer Tomatoes Strike Back and Killer Tomatoes Eat France – I’ve long been a fan of the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, and was somewhat disappointed with the sequel, Return of the Killer Tomatoes.  The first movie didn’t really need a sequel.  I only recently discovered these two additional sequels, and they’re not needed either.  The three sequels (plus TV series!) smell like a poorly executed attempt to build the original film’s cult following into something with enough inertia to become a money-making merchandising property.  Each sequel is even more self-conscious and over the top, with the final one making extensive use of the fourth wall.  The only saving grace the sequels have is the villain, Dr. Gangreen, and his henchman Igor – they’re actually somewhat amusing, and Gangreen is a respectable evil mad scientist – too bad he’s trapped in these turkeys.

Tetsuo the Bullet Man – OMG this was dumb.  The usual Guyver genre crap, plus weird-ass ideas about genetics, largely incomprehensible characters and really bad cinematography, and a climax that felt like a bad ripoff of Tetsuo’s situation from Akira.  Waste of time.

Psycho (1960), Psycho II, Psycho III, Psycho IV and Psycho (1998) – The first movie has been on my to-watch list for ages, and upon discovery of the sequels and the remake I finally got around to it.  Watched them all in the space of a week.  Despite its firmly entrenched place in pop culture, the first one surprised me with how much I didn’t know about it – for example I thought the famous shower scene was near the end, but it’s actually at the halfway point.  I quite enjoyed it.

The three sequels actually do a pretty decent job of maintaining continuity with the first movie, though they unavoidably get increasingly contrived.  Psycho II in particular was a pretty well done sequel that actually made sense relative to the events of the first movie.  Psycho IV is missing half its ending in my opinion – given the way the story is structured, it needs two resolutions for the two sets of principal characters, but it only has one – leaving the first group of characters we met hanging in a suspenseful limbo.

The 1998 remake was a bit of a train wreck. It’s a scene-for-scene, word-for-word remake of the original movie, with just a couple of (completely unnecessary) embellishments.  That by itself wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.  The problem is that it’s full of anachronisms.  The scene-setting text at the opening says the story is set in 1998, but using the dialogue from the original script makes the characters act like 1960s throwbacks.  Most of the cars are modern, but the clothing is 1960s style.  In the scene where the Sheriff’s wife phones the hotel, she still asks the switchboard operator, by name, to connect her – in 1998!  Very confusing.  This would have been better if they had either preserved the 1960 setting with all its trappings, or fully updated it to the 1990s, including rewriting the dialogue appropriately.

Edit: I meant to add that Anne Heche was incredibly cute as Marion Crane in the remake.  My new mental image of the term “elfin beauty”.


Tintin not in need of rescue after all

Just back from seeing the Tintin movie, and I have to say I liked it.  That deserves comment because I’ve been looking forward to this movie for a long time and living in fear that they would ruin the property, just like almost every other movie made in the last 15 years has been a disaster.  I’m delighted that I was not let down tonight, because that’s such a novelty.

Now, Tintin purists must be warned: It’s not a direct adaptation of any single Tintin story.  It’s a mashup consisting primarily of The Secret of the Unicorn with significant chunks of The Crab with the Golden Claws, and a handful of characters from other stories make brief appearances too.  But that’s OK.  It works, and canon or not it most certainly is a Tintin adventure.

The characterizations are all bang on, the choice of voice talent is good, and they did a really good job on the face modelling too. (Although a live-action Tintin movie wouldn’t hurt either.)

I think I spotted a few easter eggs.  At the start of the desert sequence there was something in the background that made me think of the latest Uncharted video game – and now that I think of it, the Uncharted series could be said to have taken some adventuring lessons from Tintin.  Also in the train station scene in the intro sequence there is a sign listing some of the places Tintin has been – perhaps hints about upcoming movies?

Speaking of what’s next – we were originally promised three Tintin movies.  I’m going to guess the next one will likely be based on Red Rackham’s Treasure with perhaps bits of The Black Island or Flight 714 thrown in, and the third will have to be Destination Moon plus Explorers on the Moon.  But I’d also like it if they did The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun.

Now, I feel it is my duty as a nerd to find something to nitpick, so here goes.  None of this is in any way irritating enough to color my enjoyment of the movie, but if you haven’t seen it yet I would suggest you stop reading now, go watch the film and then come back and compare notes.

  1. It’s being pushed as a 3D movie. I didn’t have the option to see it in 2D, which annoyed me.  That said, the 3D isn’t bad – most of the time I didn’t even notice it, which means it was done reasonably well.
  2. As some reviewers have noted, they did go a bit overboard on over-the-top action sequences.  Tintin always did have a bit of over-the-top action, but not to this extreme.  I’m told, however, that making it a 3D movie was necessary to get the studio to greenlight production, so obviously they needed some place to showcase the 3D gimmick, and action sequences are tailor-made for that.  I can live with the 3D and the extra action if it was a necessary price to make this film for me.
  3. Captain Haddock’s eyes were a little too close together, the twins a little too chubby, and Nestor’s head too thin depth-wise.  Also the Sultan seemed a bit stiff – I don’t think his animation was mocapped.
  4. I don’t recall Haddock having any specific nationality in the books. In the film they gave him a Scots accent. It works for me, but YMMV.
Overall, I’m quite pleased and looking forward to the next one.

What I’ve been watching, Spring Edition

Haven’t been watching movies much recently, hence the change from monthly posting.  Lately I’ve been watching the Stargate TV series a lot.  It’s actually better than I expected; enough to keep me going, anyway.  A little surreal to see the parts shot on location at Simon Fraser University – I saw them filming some of them.  Anyway, to movies:

Naked Ambition – A little dull, actually.  It’s basically a documentary about a fashion photographer who discovered the porn industry’s annual trade show and wanted to make a non-pornographic coffee table book about the culture.  Some interesting commentary, but I think I would have found the book itself more engrossing.  I tend to dislike making-of stuff.

The Social Network – Not what I expected, and also better than I expected.  It’s basically a fictionalized and dramatized origin story for Facebook.  Very much like Wall Street but with an Intarweb-based theme rather than stock market machinations.

True Grit (2010) – Entertaining, but ultimately unsatisfying.  I kept expecting there to be a moral or a revelation for the main character towards the end, but there wasn’t (or I missed it).  Basically some shit happens, not quite the way she wanted, the end.  I’m not one to want everything spelled out for me – I like stories that are open to interpretation, but I’m not even sure if there’s anything here I’m supposed to interpret.  Maybe if I had seen the 1969 version or were more familiar with westerns I might have got something out of this.

Forest of the Damned – Unhappy campers get picked off by a herd of succubi.  There’s also a bit about a psycho corralling victims for them because they’re the most beautiful things in the world and nothing is worth living for but to see them.  Basically this flick an excuse to get some hot chicks running around naked in the forest biting people.  It’s a yawner with a couple of terrible cliches.  Also, there is a really super-annoying brass horn sound that accompanies most of the suspense scenes.  I can easily imagine someone on the sound crew having a kid learning the trumpet and thinking, “Wow, if our visuals and direction don’t disgust the audience, this incoherent blatting sound sure will!”

Bilitis – Stumbled over this while researching controversial photographers.  It’s directed by David Hamilton, who is no stranger to controversy – or rather to uptight Americans making a fuss about his work while nobody else bats an eye.  You’d have to be pretty prudish to want to ban this one, although it is definitely a French film – slow, undramatic, and I thought I understood the characters until the ending, which I found confusing.  Also, while there is a competently written plot, good direction and good acting, this film is still clearly a vehicle for the photographer directing it; there is plenty of exhibition of his favorite subject matter.

Lust for a Vampire – Gotta love Hammer schlock horror.  This one actually seemed pretty original to me – a flavor of vampire tale I haven’t encountered before.  Typically passable and yet somehow amusing Hammer acting too.  Sadly it had a predictably tragic ending.

Kingdom of the Vampire – Here we see what it would be like, in an unhumorous way, if the last remaining vampire family were dysfunctional American white trash.  As you might expect, they don’t last long.  Bad acting, bad pacing, poorly lit, inappropriate soundtrack.  Don’t bother.

Super Monster Gamera – Yet another pastiche of clips from previous Gamera movies, glued together with a typical cheesy Japanese superhero/pseudoscience-fiction plot about space women hiding out from some sort of pirate conqueror.  Disappointing.

Meteor Storm – I keep watching these meteor impact movies in the hope of finding one that is actually good and treats the subject intelligently.  So far nothing measures up to Immeteor (that’s how I read the poster title as a kid, and it stuck).  Meteor storm is above average for the genere, having sufficiently good acting and decent effects, but it still flunks in the science department.  Something about meteorites being attracted to San Francisco because of large deposits of a previously undiscovered element (huh? nobody ever mined there?) which emanates measurable “vibrations” that unlike the vibrations of other elements attracts more of itself.  Congratulations on overlooking the simultaneous discovery of deep mineral radar and tractor beams!  Plus, the big rock has a stupid shape (speed icicles) and is easily deflected by a single nuke (oh, spoiler BTW).

Demon of Paradise – When I was a kid there was a movie that really scared me involving a coastal village, dynamite, and humanoid monsters with ugly heads.  I’ve been trying to find it again.  It’s amazing how many movies there are that match that description.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t it.  Completely unremarkable example of the genere.

The Last Lovecraft – I think this may well be the best Lovecraft-based movie I’ve ever seen.  Good acting, good effects, good cinematography, decent soundtrack.  It makes me sad that this is the best one, because it’s comedic.  Give me all this plus make it scary, someone!  (And by scary I don’t mean spring-loaded cats or gratuitous gore!  Doesn’t anyone remember how to do suspense and dread anymore?)

The Man Who Haunted Himself – The plot is in the title.  Pretty decent British Twilight Zone style mystery story, featuring a very young Roger Moore.  Complete with the psychedelic montage representing the descent into madness at the end, and the slightly ambiguous ending.

The Man Who Changed His Mind – Starts off promising; scientist has perfected a means to transfer minds between bodies, with intermediate storage.  A media mogul funds his work in expectation of PR payoff, without understanding enough to anticipate the predictable backlash from skeptics and god-botherers.  End result, the two get in a fight and the scientist loses everything thanks to IP law and not reading the contracts, then turns all mad scientist and uses his invention to get what he wants.  Obviously everything goes south after that and he ends up dead (I was surprised he didn’t end up in the body of an animal, actually).   There was lots of the usual ignorant railing about “unnatural” research and “affronts to the sanctity of the soul” and so on – really sad.

The Monster and the Ape – Wow, this was long.  I thought it was a movie but it turned out to be one of the old serials – about fifteen 20-minute shorts stitched together.  There was an ape. The “monster” was actually a robot, remote-controlled and powered by “metallogen”, an element found only in meteorites.  The story followed the common theme of small-time crooks trying to make it big by stealing an invention.  Every episode ended with a cliffhanger, and the start of the next episode often contradicted it – for example, there’s one ending where we see the unconscious hero fed into a brick oven, but when the story resumes he wakes up and escapes before reaching the door.  Also amusing, the narrator ending the episodes with quotes like “Will $VILLAIN succeed in his dastardly plans?  Will Thor the Ape finally revert to his killer instincts?  Find out next week, in this theater!”  But the ape never did act up much, the villain was always 50% stymied, the hero had always had fisticuffs with at least two thugs at once, and and the good and bad scientists always found a way to trick each other. The token black character was kind of sad, because his amazingly stereotyped behavior wasn’t done tongue-in-cheek at the time; he was first-order comic relief whereas today he’d be second-order.

Dr. Caligari (1989) – Wow.  In my years of hunting down B-movies to watch, I’ve seen some pretty fucked-up shit.  But this is near the top of the fucked-up scale.  It’s sort of halfway between an art school student film and a proper surrealist flick.  I don’t think I understood any of it.

Night of the Creeps – Somewhat unique.  Aliens in conflict jettison a cannister containing brain slugs, which lands on Earth in 1956.  30 years later, the one infected person is accidentally released from cryonic suspension and the slugs start spreading, turning people into zombies as they reproduce in their brains.  It falls to plucky teenagers and a morose lawman to put things right.  Somehow this manages to combine 80s teen movie, zombie horror and a pinch of science fiction in a way that almost works.

Indestructible Man (1956) – Pretty much the same as other movies with the same title.  A convicted criminal is executed, then accidentally resurrected in a science experiment, gaining super-strength and near-invulnerability in the process.  He then proceeds to wreak vengeance on the people he blames for his execution, until the good guys finally find the limits of his indestructibility.  Not a bad story, if a bit linear.

Avatar – Yes, I watched it again.  I was sick at the time, OK?  My mother insisted I watch the making-of material, which was somewhat interesting since I have a very, very indirect connection to the process through work.  Then since I was sick and lazy, I decided to watch the main film again with the deleted scenes in.  It holds up well enough on a second watching, but the same plot holes are still there.

The Living Matrix – Another thing my parents suggested I watch.  Non-fiction – technically.  Actually I think it’s 95% snake oil.  It’s all a bunch of reinvented faith healing crap dressed up in quantum physics clothing.  They’re using misquoted, outdated and/or misunderstood information about quantum physics to assert all kinds of crap about the power of the mind to heal the body and how modern medicine is bunkum.  As usual they ignore the fact that we use modern medicine because it works.  Really the only two things said in this movie I can agree with are that (1) high stress can have a negative impact on your health and (2) if you’re sick, positive thinking can’t hurt; anything else is at best self-defeating.

Eden Log – Interesting.  Very visual – there’s not a lot of dialog so you have to keep your eyes on the screen or you’ll miss stuff.  Having just completed Portal 2, it’s hard not to make comparisons, but there are similarities with the Cube series too.  The protagonist awakes in an unfamiliar environment with missing memories, and must piece the situation together while trying to survive and escape, discovering evidence of corporate and civil malfeasance along the way.  In the end the situation the conflict centers around is as stupid and impractical as the human power cells in The Matrix, but since so many SF flicks require amazing suspension of disbelief around their premises, I’ll do so and say it is still entertaining despite the flawed premise.

The Descent – Surprisingly, one of the better cave-monster flicks I’ve seen.  Very similar to The Cave.  Group of female thrill-seekers explore a new cave and are trapped by a cave-in, then hunted by blind cave-monsters.  Dirty laundry comes out along the way for character development.  Simple formula but reasonably well-executed.

The Brain Machine – Interesting sort of SF government double-cross setup with a computer as the core monstrosity, though unlike most films with a computer villain this one doesn’t have a personality and isn’t bent on conquest or extermination.  One good, prophetic quote by one of the government characters driving the project: “You know, it’s not vigilance anymore, General. It’s surveillance. Eternal surveillance is the price of liberty.”

Plaguers – Zombies in space.  Never seen that one before.  Tedious.

The Blue Lagoon and Return to the Blue Lagoon – Somehow the two-movie set made its way onto my shelf, and having not seen the second one I decided to refresh my memory of the salient plot points – er, I mean memories of Brooke Shields frolicking in the nude.  Anyway, in a nice ironic twist the baby that survives the first movie gets beached back on the same island again, this time with a new parent-surrogate and another appropriately-gendered baby for company.  Pretty much the whole plot of the first movie repeats, with one element added: a visit from some not-so-noble potential rescuers.  In the end, not worth watching – especially given the deplorable lack of nudity.  If you’re going to make a sequel to something as blue as the original, it had better deliver on the same promises and more.

The Host – Pretty darn good.  Nice creature design, decent effects, good acting.  A little over the top and overacted in places, but it evens out.  I like how a lot of the stupid things that happen get called out as stupid by peripheral characters, unlike American monster movies where we’re expected to empathize with incredibly stupid characters as if they’re doing the right thing.  I can’t figure out the English title though – it has no connection to anything in the story that I can see.

Vanilla Sky – Recommended to me as a movie showing a rare favorable slant on cryonics.  I’m not sure I agree with that – at least not entirely.  For one thing, the cryonics org in the film seemed very slimy; I wouldn’t want to sign a contract with those people.  For another, the role that cryonics played in the story is something that can’t happen – and while suspension of disbelief is fine in fiction I guess I feel a bit sensitive about it because it’s a subject close to home and subject to a lot of misconception that could affect me in real life.  Those two quibbles aside, it is a very good, engrossing movie, and I’d recommend it.


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