Monthly Archives: June 2012
Mar 29 2013
-WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK FOLLOW-
My vote goes for the best non-interactive cutscene in Video Game history is where Jack Ryan beats down Andrew Ryan in Bioshock. This cutscene, is quite simply (like most things in Bioshock) an amazing thematic tool. It’s not just a cutscene to show off how badass Character X is, it’s a commentary on the nature of control. For the first time in the game, you DON’T want to kill Andrew Ryan, but you’re forced to watch as your character mercilessly slams him with a golf club.
And really, once you’ve figured out that Atlas has been controlling you thus far, it really makes you think about the nature of control, not only in videogames, but in politics too. As soon as you got out of the Bathysphere, you had a single-minded purpose to pursue Andrew Ryan and kill him. But WHY do you want to kill him? Why do you follow Atlas’ every request? Why do you kill innocent violent-only-if-provoked Big Daddies? Because the game told you to? What possessed you to stick a needle full of volatile genetic material in your wrist? The game poses a question no other game I’ve ever played poses, “Why are you doing this?” Why are you taking this at face value? If the player is asked to mow down armies of faceless baddies simply because they are “evil,” what does that even mean? The same thing is applied to politics, when the government tells you faction x is bad, they’re bad. Just because. Don’t question it, don’t find out their motivations, don’t think. It’s all black and white. We’re good, they’re bad. Always. Right? Right??
Now, in this cutscene, the game is pretty much saying, “You don’t want to question WHY you’re doing what you do? Fine– we’re gonna treat you like a slave, you’ve essentially forgone human volition. Now, you hopelessly watch as you beat a man who’s motivations you didn’t even QUESTION before, just because some dude over a radio told you he was a bad guy. Suck on that you little bitch.”
Basically, the cutscene gives immense meaning to Andrew Ryan’s final six words:
A man chooses; a slave obeys.
The 1970′s …. It was a different world inhabited by a bazillion baby-boomers in their sexual prime. They lived in the sweet buttery limbo just after the advent of The Pill but before the rise of deadly STDs. A simpler time when a shot of penicillin could still solve all your problems and get you back to the singles club.
I was watching a mainstream film from the 1970′s last night (The In-Laws) and I was noticing … there is just something about the Seventies where you get the feeling that people’s clothes could go flying off at any moment. Yeah, check out that link and discover that people in the 70′s were always just about 10 seconds away from making pancakes at all times.
The 1970′s really had a lot going for it if your goal was to make pancakes. Alas much of that free pancake spirit from the 70′s is gone… along with a lot of the hair. Still, there are some pancake dreams which can only come true in the modern day thanks to our instant communications network. For example, ever wonder how many tweets it takes to get a porn star date for your high school prom? About 600, apparently.
Warning: Total Spoilers below … Read no further if you are avoiding them.
Q. What is the time relationship with the film Alien
Year: 2093: scientific vessel Prometheus arrives at moon LV-223 where the events of the film Prometheus take place.
Year 2122: USCSS Nostromo encounters what is assumed to be a distress signal emanating from the planetoid designated LV-426 which is where the events of Alien take place.
Q. What’s with the “Engineer” drinking the black goop stuff and dying at the beginning of Prometheus
A. He sacrificed himself to put DNA into the environment which it is assumed later led to the evolution and rise of human beings.
Q. What’s with all the primitive human cultures having the same symbols which eventually leads the Prometheus scientific team to LV-426?
A. The “Engineers” were checking back in on humanity’s progress and telling them about the wonderful gift they would be bringing from their stars when the time was right.
Q. And this gift was …?
A. Death. Humanity was engineered to serve as hosts for the Alien (Alien meaning Xenomorph) life form. Unfortunately for the Engineers the Xenomorph life form got to them first.
Q. What’s the story with Meredith Vickers (played by Charlize Theron)?
A. She’s old man Weyland’s daughter
Q. Why is the Auto-Doc in Vickers private quarters / shuttle calibrated for men only?
A. Because the Auto-Doc was there for old man Weyland (who was near death) and not her.
Q. Where did those first Alien life-form snake things in the film come from?
When the landing crew was walking into the area of the urns which contained the black Xenomorph goo, briefly, there was a shot of very primitive and harmless earth worm creatures they were stepping on. When the Goo was released, it began evolving the earth worms.
Q. What’s the story with the David android?
A. He was built by and belongs to old man Weyland and he is there to find any way possible to use the Engineers Xenomorphic technology to keep Weyland alive.
Q. Why did the David android spike the drink of Charlie Holloway with the black goo?
A. David was under orders to try anything which might either keep Weyland alive or stop his aging. Weyland himself told David to “try harder”. David theorized that perhaps the black goo would have some beneficial effect on humans. He viewed Holloway as both expendable and also likely to have intercourse with and pass biological material to Shaw. In short – it was an experiment and a twofer at that.
Q. What’s with the Alien thing Shaw gave “birth” to?
A. Halloway and Shaw had unprotected sex after Halloway was infected by David. We know it was unprotected because of the plot-point where Shaw is said to be sterile, therefore pregnancy was not a concern. This led to Shaw becoming the host to Halloway’s Xenomorphic biological material (sperm).
The end result of the pregnancy is a primitive early stage “Face-Hugger”. Although it grows to a massive size later in the film and looks vaguely like a squid it has the same biological function as the better developed crab-like ones from the later Alien movies. The face-huggers from the films Alien and Aliens are, of course, farther along the Xenomorph evolutionary cycle and more thoroughly developed for their task of hunting humans.
When the primitive face-hugger in Prometheus gets hold of an Engineer it predictably inserts the tube down the hosts throat, hugs on and plants the eggs which will later hatch from the hosts chest.
Q. Why does the “Engineer” freak out and immediately try to kill the Prometheus crew when old man Weyland wakes him?
A. The Engineer was about to embark on a mission to bring the black goo (Xenomorphic genetic material) to Earth. That is, before the Xenomorphic genetic material got loose and wiped out the Engineers. OK, so he gets awakened and here he is surrounded by humans – one of them screaming questions about why he was taking black goo to Earth.
The Engineer logically concluded that things had gone downhill and it was time to get back on track with the original plan – starting with the death of the humans in front of him. To the Engineers humans are just hosts – hosts which had gotten way too sophisticated. Their plan to infect humanity with Xenomorphs went off the rails some 2000 years before the research team of Prometheus showed up. If the Engineers plans had worked out correctly they would have infected humanity around Industrial Revolution period – and I’d have to say that would make for an interesting Steam Punk take on the Alien franchise.
Q. Why does the Engineers base have a picture / idol of an Alien (Xenomorph) Queen on the walls?
A. Because the goo in the urns – the base Xenomorphic genetic material – eventually follows an evolutionary path which leads to a Queen. And the Engineers know that.
Q. Why did the Engineers create human life on Earth just to later infect humanity with Xenomorphs?
A. Shaw and David go looking for that answer at the end of the film Prometheus. It is unknown.
Q. How come the creatures in Prometheus do not look like the Alien we are used to in the other Alien movies?
A. The Xenomorphic genetic material starts out as a black goo. It uses whatever living host it bumps in to to begin evolving towards a specialized end state. The “perfect organism” as it has been referred to throughout the Alien franchise.
Whatever intermediate genetic steps it needs to take in evolving towards the goal it takes. The intermediate steps may be more generic and adaptable in order to ensure the propagation of the evolutionary cycle towards the goal. However there are some similarities. Acid for blood as a defense mechanism is seen in Prometheus in the evolved earthworm Xenomorphs.
Since the Engineers have images of an Alien Queen among the urns of Xenomorphic genetic material, we might assume that in the end that’s where it gets to.
Q. Why is the Xenomorphic genetic material that the crew of Prometheus finds a simple black goo but the downed Engineer spacecraft the Nostomo finds 29 years later is laden with fully evolved Alien eggs?
That link has never been explored in the films, but it does not seem like a far stretch to say that the Engineers had a stock of off-world humans they could use as hosts to evolve the Xenomorphic genetic material towards its final form.
Since the Engineers are shown at the beginning of Prometheus to be giving rise to humans on Earth and were known to have visited Earths primitive cultures, it’s probably a given they kept a stock of humans to evolve the Xenomorphs in controlled situations off world.
Sir Ridley Scott, the man who gave us the film Alien in 1979 has returned to the franchise 32 years, five directors and two movie monster mash-ups later. What is the result? I think the way to explore that is to ask what was the intent.
The “Alien” (more appropriately called the “Xenomorph”), has been woefully abused as a film property since James Cameron filmed his classic sequel to Alien, “Aliens” in 1986. Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s Aliens stand as seminal pieces of science fiction to this day.
However, since then, the property has been thoroughly demeaned in the saddening but predictable search for Studio Profits. Indeed, the Alien property’s most recent outings were in throw-away “Frankenstein vs. Wolfman” B-Movie fare aimed at titillating the PG-13 crowd. Such debasement is not easily turned around.
Ridley Scott himself would seem to agree. When asked about the Xenomorph being in Prometheus he is reported to have said
“No. Absolutely not,” states Scott, “They squeezed it dry. He (the Xenomorph) did very well. (He laughs) He survived, he’s now in Disneyland in Orlando, and no way am I going back there. How did he end up in Disneyland? I saw him in Disneyland, Jesus Christ!”
“They” (the studio execs) squeezed it dry, says Sir Ridley Scott. With that glimpse into the directors mind, it would seem clear that he would not be filming another derivative Xenomorph creature feature.
But, as it turns out, there was a lot of fruit left on the table from 1979′s Alien and 1986′s Aliens that nobody had thought to explore or even ask about in any subsequent film. The big question being what was that derelict spacecraft doing on LV-486 and what was the “Space Jockey”. Those questions make for some rich pulpy juice which yet remained in the franchise fruit.
That made the director’s intent to return to the same universe as Alien but without the Xenomorphs not a hard jump at all. The result is a stunning, enigmatic, intriguing and, yes, occasionally horrifying piece of excellent science fiction.
The sets, special effects and costuming are all amazing. This film should be seen on the biggest screen possible if it is to be seen at all to fully take in the details of the set pieces. This film is not done on a green screen – the sets are real and it shows. It seems so rare, now, to see hard science-fiction which isn’t filmed on a green screen sound stage. In this case, the real set design by H.R. Geiger is a wonder and provides the actors a real atmosphere to get spooked in.
The story I’m not going to discuss except to say there are some plot holes during the film and a lot of unanswered questions are left behind when the credits roll. However, I do think that is part of the point – explorers go looking for answers there is no easy and neat answer for.
The production weighs in at $130 million dollars and carries an R rating. This seems like a miracle considering how hard studios push for a watered-down PG-13 rating. To put it in perspective, Alien vs. Predator (PG-13) had a $60 Million budget and AVP2 had a $40 Million budget. A studio takes a chance when it releases an R rated film with a big budget like this because the age restriction means less ticket sales. This film is $130 Million and it is all up there on the screen to be seen and marveled at. The technicals and visuals are stunning and the 3-D is very unobtrusive if you see Prometheus in that format, which I do recommend. However, for its chancy R rating it still comes across more tame than it needs to be. It could have gone much further in gore than it did.
I would give it 3.5 of 5 stars.