While the “creeper” at the heart of Jeff Vandermeer’s book is absent from Alex Garland’s adaptation of Annihilation, the film is filled with unsettling, hybrid creatures. The “bear” that terrorizes members of the expedition while they’re tied to chairs might be the most disturbing of all. What makes this creature so unsettling? Why is it more creepy than an actual bear would be? Or, if several others have written entries on the “bear”, ask yourself what makes another creature from the film unsettling.
Throughout Annihilation, the Biologist struggles to understand the natural world—in the swimming pool, the bay, and, of course, at many points during her mission in Area X, to name just a few examples. Choosing just one instance, one particular moment of her thought, what paradigms do you see shaping her thoughts about the relationship between humans and the natural world? Be specific about the passage of text that you’re referring to, since we may want to look at it in class.
One admirer of Children of Men has claimed that the real story of the film takes place in the movie’s background, not the foreground. From this point of view the story of Theo matters less than the depiction of the world around him that he simply takes for granted. Do you see a particularly striking moment of this dynamic, where we (or the camera) might be focused on Theo, even as the most meaningful aspect of the scene is the depiction of some part of the world he lives in?
Butler published Parable in 1993, but in 2017, one critic wrote of the book and its sequel that “in the ongoing contest over which dystopian classic is most applicable to our time, Octavia Butler’s ‘Parable’ books may be unmatched.” Where, if anywhere, do you see the present day in Butler’s book? Does the novel seem particularly applicable or insightful about the present in ways that other dystopian texts don’t?
In Blade Runner, what (if anything) distinguishes the natural world from the man made? Originals from copies? Discuss one particular moment when these questions seem to be central to the movie.
What kind of world does Dick start to build in the opening paragraphs of “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale”? In what ways does it seem futuristic? In what ways is it utterly familiar?
Critics celebrate Lang’s Metropolis primarily for its visualization of urban space. How does Lang glamorize or romanticize the city above ground? Think about the angles and proportions of buildings and other structures, the vantage point of the camera, his use of brightness and shadow.
Interstellar was among the stranger films we have watched. It many ways it seemed to build on Arrival in that one of the central themes was how the universe can be perceived differently (there being 5th dimensional beings that created the wormhole and the black hole structure), but interstellar’s vision isn’t as clear as Arrival’s. Rather than trying to understand the aliens (possibly future humans?), the audience is simply supposed to accept that they exist. The movie sort of tries to explain the idea of the 5th dimension, but it doesn’t do a great job and doesn’t seem committed to making the audience understand, and tries to cover it up with scientific principles that anyone can understand.
The other driving theme in Interstellar is the power of love, which feels out of place in a movie that otherwise takes science very seriously. It isn’t impossible for a movie to be about both science and love, but in Interstellar the two feel disparate. It doesn’t help that the science in interstellar is not consistent at all. Much like in the cold equations, attempts to justify the plot with real scientific principles simply make the pieces that don’t add up stand out more. On the giant wave planet, if gravity was so strong it slowed down time, why could our protagonists walk around easily? Additionally, their time on the planet seemed to be in real time, but when they returned to the ship they had missed 23 years, implying they had been on the planet for over 3 hours. Overall, the film just doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be, and it tries to cover everything. It tries to be about relationships, but the characters are wooden, tries to be about hard science, but can’t stay consistent, and tries to be existential but just confuses viewers.
As one of the more modern films we’ve seen up to this point, Ridley Scott’s “Alien” mirrors many of the contemporary patterns in space-based science fiction that main stream works exhibit today, while serving as a reflective piece of popular culture from the late 70s and early 80s. The design of the spaceship in the film itself is not speculative, as it might have been in a previous generation. In terms of chronology, the film has a basis for depicting space travel since the United States put Neil Armstrong on the moon in 1969. As part of the space race that contributed to American lunar missions, there was an associated movement to increase interest in science and technology within popular culture — math and science education were prioritized in order increase the number of people with the training necessary to help the United States win the space race. While “Alien” came out almost a decade after Armstrong walked on the moon, the film can be considered as part of the growing cultural appreciation for science, engineering, and space — a trend visible in the popularity of modern films such as Interstellar. “Alien” depicts notions of space travel and human contact with a deadly organism. The alien form in the film is monstrous and its actions are based in hostility towards humans — this hostility is central to the depiction of many modern Alien vs. Human films. While the depiction of the alien is speculative, this film and science fiction works dealing with space in this era can be considered both a product and catalyst of a larger cultural appreciation of science, especially in the wake of Cold War conflict. Much in the way that the Apollo 11 mission inspired a cultural reverence for science, films like “Alien” were able to generate a popular base for scientific exploration and speculation.
“Story of Your Life” tells two primary stories, one about Louise’s encounter with the heptapods, the other about her life with her daughter. What, if anything, connects the two stories? Specifically where and how does that connection take place?