Okay, y’all… I’m going to criticize this film. But up front, let me tell you that it did keep me riveted to my seat with suspense for over an hour straight. There’s a lot here to like: neato ideas, interesting setting, unusual puzzle, etc. etc. And like Alien, this is another one of those movies that could easily take place in a Traveller universe.
(But seriously, huge spoiler warning here.)
So we’ve got this scenario where it’s completely hopeless and one by one these insane rescue workers kill each other off like some jacked up Lord of the Flies montage. And we know it’s aliens and stuff. And there’s something to this… if only our protagonist can just figure it out, right?
Then we get to the end. After all this violence and daring and gore and adventure… the hero gives a little speech into a mike where the inscrutable aliens can hear… and then he slits his wrists.
So that’s strike one right there. Suicide is never heroic. It’s not artsy. It’s not edgy. It’s not a cool plot point. It’s freaking stupid. And portraying it like it’s some kind of solution is, well,… it’s suicidal. (Seriously, what is wrong with these people?)
So what is the answer…? Well, I guess the aliens are actually capable of shame or something. After killing every human in sight, suddenly… they have to fix this. But only for the team. (Why not for all the dead miners and soldiers? No idea!) The search and rescue team is resurrected by the magic goo… and everything’s cool.
I gotta say, there hasn’t been an ending this stupid since Martians just randomly succumbed to human diseases in War of the Worlds. Strike two for the brazen deus ex machina, y’all. Oh, but this isn’t completely random and capricious on the part of our brilliant plot engineers. No, there’s a reason for all this. And yep, it’s been set up from the very beginning.
As our hero is set to teleport back to earth, he looks out the window and sees the alien goo creatures in humanoid form… and in the thing’s hand it has… the little note his pregnant wife sent with him. D’awwwwwww! Yes, that odd scene at the beginning where the guy’s wife is after him to come back safe… and that other scene where the hero gets razzed by the guys for wanting to be home on time instead of going out for drinks… it all comes together now.
Again, no one saves the universe here. Just an arbitrary group of people out of a stupidly large number of dead. And the ones that are saved is only because the aliens are somehow moved by the fact that (as the “sarge” character puts it) the “hero” is pussy-whipped. Strike three, you turkeys!
This is weird not just because it’s some sort of indirect attack on the concept of heroism. It’s also a fairly uninspiring angle on “true love” as well. Do you think you can salvage a solid hour of mayhem, insanity, and sick self-destructive acts with this saccharine frame of the doting wife and the guy that’s keen on getting home from his crummy day job…? Sorry, but no. I don’t know how much got spent on this film, but it was a complete waste.
For the complete opposite take on practically everything about this, take a look at Leigh Brackett’s classic story The Jewel of Bas. Here’s the opening:
Mouse stirred the stew in the small iron pot. There wasn’t much of it. She sniffed and said:
“You could have stolen a bigger joint. We’ll go hungry before the next town.”
“Uh huh,” Ciaran grunted lazily.
Anger began to curl in Mouse’s eyes.
“I suppose it’s all right with you if we run out of food,” she said sullenly.
Ciaran leaned back comfortably against a moss-grown boulder and watched her with lazy gray eyes. He liked watching Mouse. She was a head shorter than he, which made her very short indeed, and as thin as a young girl. Her hair was black and wild, as though only wind ever combed it. Her eyes were black, too, and very bright. There was a small red thief’s brand between them. She wore a ragged crimson tunic, and her bare arms and legs were as brown as his own.
Ciaran grinned. His lip was scarred, and there was a tooth missing behind it. He said, “It’s just as well. I don’t want you getting fat and lazy.”
Mouse, who was sensitive about her thinness, said something pungent and threw the wooden plate at him. Ciaran drew his shaggy head aside enough to let it by and then relaxed, stroking the harp on his bare brown knees. It began to purr softly.
That’s how it’s done, y’all.