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Gurglings of a Putrid Stream

Thoughts on books and other assorted topics.

See also:  http://goppf.wikidot.com/swstart

My name:  Brian Martin

Dark Skies (2013), directed by Scott Stewart

Dark Skies [DVD] - Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton

Moviegoers are an exasperating bunch. They've turned the works of producer Jason Blum, which include Paranormal Activity and this film, Dark Skies, into huge moneymakers. It's hard to imagine a similar lack of discernment on the part of readers. That would be like elevating a piece of self-published trash to multi-million dollar--

Look, I didn't come here to knock Blum. I came here to congratulate him. Not just for all that money (Dark Skies has made, if not precisely earned, over 20 million), but for his taste in movies. It's not as if I know this guy, but watching Dark Skies has given me a pretty good idea what he likes. To rip off. Close Encounters, Poltergeist, The Birds -- not bad. For those I'll give him Fire in the Sky and Communion.

When I was younger, wistfully looking at the writer's guidelines for science fiction magazines, I noted a common theme: No UFO stories. The editors didn't say why; guess they thought if I couldn't figure that one out on my own, they probably didn't want my stories anyway. It took some time and some thought, but I did eventually work it out. Now I think it would have been easier if I'd just waited to watch this movie.

What I finally realized is that UFO stories aren't really stories at all, that they're all beginnings with no middles and no ends. 2001 is what a UFO story with all three elements looks like, and it looks nothing like a UFO story. Paradox -- or Drama 101?

In a UFO story, the antagonists are the aliens. This, of course, is the writer's first mistake. For the aliens are incomprehensible and unknowable. As antagonists, they rank somewhere below the stupid vines in The Ruins (or would, if the vines were indeed the antagonists).

His second mistake is one of self-contradiction: he defines his aliens as creatures of science, then removes all barriers to their power. The result is an anything goes approach that may work in isolated instances, but which turns the whole into undifferentiated mush.

This movie begins with a quotation from Arthur C. Clarke. No, it isn't the one about science and magic; we can be thankful for that at least. It is this: "Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying." It is the last time, during the next 97 minutes, that you will find thinking a profitable exercise.