We all have movies that we defend as being good or underrated even though we know we probably shouldn’t.
One of these for me is Alien Resurrection.
Part of that is most likely set and setting. It was the final movie in one of those all-night movie marathons when I was in high school.
So the first time I saw it would have been around 5am, after all the smuggled-in schnapps had gone, after we’d smoked all the cigarettes we’d brought with us (during Titanic which was the middle film), in that eerie mental state where you’ve stayed up all night on nothing more than the excitement of being with your friends.
The other argument in its defence is that, even though he took his name off it, I can still see the wonderful Joss in parts of the script… particularly the dialogue.
And… I dunno… you can see that there was probably a good film in there waiting to get out. The fact that cloning Ripley brought back an alien queen hints at an extraterrestrial beginning of our shared DNA. Presumably an unmolested script would have explored that more in the climax with the hybrid. (As it stands, I still think the ending works but that’s entirely down to Weaver’s acting chops… she worked a sophisticated ending to Ripley’s character journey into an absolute dog of a scene. The mythos is let down but at least the heroine isn’t.)
But that’s fine. The story’s been given back to the master (fuck you James Cameron) and he can pick up the DNA/AAT theme in something I’m looking forward to with the shrill excitement of an eleven year old girl/paedophile going to a Bieber concert.
In preparation I’ve been buying cheap space DVDs on Amazon of similar creepy-yet-visionary scope. Last night was Event Horizon (£2!) and while watching it I started making a list on my phone. What good space movies have come out since Alien Resurrrection? There’s been a bunch of great sci-fi… but specifically space movies?
And even more specifically, movies that use space to inspire Big Thoughts… movies that can only be told in space because it’s the only canvas large enough to take the paint. Why was there no 2001 in 2001?
Here’s my list of sci-fi films that came out between Alien Resurrection and now:
- Solaris. Film school be damned. Soderbergh’s version is better. I watch this film at least once a year. Death, memory, regret. Wonderful.
- Sunshine. Everyone has a problem with the final act but it’s still a good film. And upon re-watching I don’t see what all the fuss is about.
- Event Horizon. Answering the childish but also childlike question of where, say, the Enterprise goes when it’s at warp. (This actually came out two months before Alien Resurrection but slides through based on the sequence in which I saw them in Australia. Presumably that will hold up in court?)
- The Fountain. Is this even a space movie? If it is, it’s a good one.
- Wall-E. Is this really the best space movie of the last fifteen years? Try and think of a better one.
- Moon. A lot of people haven’t seen this. Do so. Actually this might be the best one.
Then we get to two excellent space movies that owe their existence to television. (It feels like there was better space television than movies but is that just because Battlestar really is that good?)
- Star Trek. Possibly one of the best reboots of anything, ever. (Why can’t it be JJ Abrams messing with my childhood rather than this arrogant, ruinous shitbag?) Self-referential, swashbuckling, it restores the original “wagon train to the stars” ethos that Roddenberry pitched his show as but never quite delivered. The paring down to its core is essential as Star Trek had well and truly collapsed under the weight of its own backstory.
- Serenity. The death rattle of what should have been television’s answer to Star Wars. Joss’s love letter to space as freedom, opportunity and the call to individual destiny. But still with a super-powered teenage girl because it’s Joss and that’s what he does.
What’s not on the list:
- The Fifth Element. It came out six months before Alien Resurrection. Also as I grow older I’m no longer sure how I feel about this film. Is it too derivative? Some days I love it.
- District 9. Not in space. Also potentially too ham-fisted with its meaning. Space is a place for Big Ideas, not obvious ones shouted really loudly. Space is for space babies.
- Contact. Not in space. Also came out a couple of months before Alien Resurrection. (But you see what I mean? 1997 was quite the year for space movies.)
- Avatar. I know a lot of magic people seem to like it but… here’s the thing… Avatar’s not on the list because I’m pretty sure it’s the most racist film I’ve ever seen and I studied Riefenstahl at university. It’s racism cooked down to its purest essence… the very idea of it. It’s a White Saviour story where indigenous culture is so insignificant that you can just smoosh together the bits you think should go in there. It’s like the girl who has never seen Star Wars describing all the tribes of the Amazon. It is the White Saviour of all indigenous culture. (He. Wears. Their. Skin!) Coupled with the fact that James Cameron -as for all his movies- writes dialogue with the competence a non-native English speaker makes Avatar’s shitness incandescent like lit magnesium. Battlefield Earth is a better space film.
For a couple of years at university I was adamant that you couldn’t have a run of good fantasy films and good space films at the same time. The fantasy films of the late seventies and early eighties were massively shit, as were those of the mid-nineties. (First Knight anyone?) The last decade has given us Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter.
But when it comes to space films it just feels like there is something wider going on. Can you correlate between decent space movies and a culture’s proclivity for vision and imagination? Possibly. Here’s a lengthy quote from Seth’s latest ebook:
When life is short and brutish, and when class trumps everything, fairy tale dreams are about all we can believe we are entitled to.
The industrial revolution created a different sort of outcome, a loosening of class-based restrictions and the creation of new careers and pathways. Suddenly, folks like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford became the pickers. Now there were far more people who could pick you (and offer you a job), and thus the stakes were even higher because the odds were better. Not only were there more ways to be picked, but suddenly and amazingly, there was a chance that just about anyone could become powerful enough to move up the ladder.
Our fairy tales started to change.
When the economy hit its stride after World War II, it led to an explosion in dreams. Kids dreamed of walking on the moon or inventing a new kind of medical device.
They dreamed of industry and science and politics and invention, and often, those dreams came true. It wasn’t surprising to get a chemistry set for your ninth birthday—and it was filled not with straightforward recipes, but with tons of cool powders and potions that burst into flame or stank up the entire house.
A generation dreamed of writing a bestseller or inventing a new kind of car design or perfecting a dance move.
We look back on that generation with a bit of awe. Those kids could dream.
Which is pretty much the exact opposite way of seeing the world we had in the nineties as explained in this song about Portland. And the vision of the noughties, looking back on it now, seems like the mutant offspring of a borderline-consensual sex act between these two monsters.
Does it feel to you that we are about eighteen months past the peak of that way of thinking? To me, Occupy, space films, a rejection of New Atheism, the move from uppers toward entheogens as recreational substances are all blind men fondling the new elephant in the room.
We demand to see our leaders’ tax returns now. We all know that creating a better future than our present relies on nothing quite so much as having better ideas. The world has permanently changed.
If Ken Livingstone loses the London mayoral election on May 3, it will be because he inexplicably underestimated the likely impact upon public opinion of the disclosure of his own impenetrable finances. The figure that will lodge in voters’ minds is that the former Mayor paid an effective income tax of 14.5 per cent – less, as his opponents never tire of reminding us, than a City Hall cleaner.
Win or lose, Livingstone has ensured that – in future campaigns, mayoral and national – the publication of tax returns by candidates will become the norm. Why? Because, in straitened times, we demand, more than ever, to know that those who aspire to govern us play fair, and play by the rules that they set for the rest of us. The fact that we are ambling heedlessly towards such a profound reform of electoral practice – open your books, or forget it – is a measure of forces operating at a much deeper level of the collective political unconscious: a deep, inarticulate awareness that austerity is here to stay, and that political behaviour must change accordingly. [...]
Which is why this fawning article annoyed me. Jason Silva is telegenic. Fine. But his cosmology is genuinely anachronistic and in my view profoundly deranged. As well as being spectacularly on the wrong side of history. Read how he just brushes aside the concerns for the majority of mankind because he hopes his rich friends might make him immortal.
I’m annoyed at the implication that the natural home of having better ideas belongs with people who think we are about to turn into immortal robots. Or at least the ruling elite are about to turn into immortal robots. Because, alarmingly, some of the richest people in the world really do believe so. (Suddenly making the connection between Eric Schmidt’s obsession with having Google create robot cars and his singularity-based religious beliefs. Wow, creepy.)
Singularity-based immortality as exemplified in these videos may actually be the worst ever cosmology. It is the only afterlife the Archons will permit their servants to have. It is an atheist version of the Astral, the subconscious mind of the Demiurge-as-egregore. And if you fall into the trap of connecting up all your conspiracies or if you are so paranoid that people begin to believe you are a possible disinfo agent then artificial immortality looks like The End Game. (As opposed to one accidental End Game.)
You can see how it wound up being so popular at the pointy end of the plane. If you were a billionaire the desire to remain so for eternity would be almost impossible to resist. (Something something camel something something eye of a needle.)
The idol-worshipping savage in me suspects that the Powers have not built this presumably very expensive universe for us to simply upload our artificial Rainbow Bodies to Amazon’s cloud service. The Singularity is little more than the billionaire’s version of the spaceship behind the comet.
Seems to me spiritual development is firstly binary and then progressive:
- There is the explosive initiatory realisation that your meat suit is actually just a rental.
- Then there is how you integrate that realisation into the remainder of the rental period.
Initiatory systems grid the second component into maps of varying degrees of usefulness. (Good ones also trigger the first component.)
We choose the material world because it is a better way to learn consequences than the immaterial. (Try and burn your hand in a dream.) Downloading yourself into a Google car seems like cheating.
But imagining yourself in a cryotank on the way to an alien planet you found by analysing cave art from all over the world? Totally worth your time.
The future of planet earth may even depend on it.