Apr 30 2010

Article XXIV – In Which There is Either An Alien or a Psychotic

God, even the poster for this turns me off

Woohoo I’m kind of back on a roll with the updates.  It was touch and go there for a while, but I think I’ve overcome my aversion to entertaining you and after weeks and weeks of therapy, I can go back to being funny on command for you.  Unfortunately, the movie I have to present to you today (tonight?  Who knows anymore) is neither entertaining, nor enjoyable.  I’ll do my best with the source material, but I’m pretty sure most of you will stop reading after this paragraph.

K-PAX, a 120 minute affront against the science fiction genre released in 2001, is a film about a man (Kevin Spacey) who goes by the name of Prot who believes that he’s an alien.  You know, from SPACE.  Jeff “Starman” Bridges, who is not an alien in this film, plays a psychiatrist or psychologist or something who has to deal with Prot and his incredible influence over the other inmates mental health patients.  Naturally, because of his advanced worldview, Prot is able to cure most of the other patients with his positive attitude and his dedication to an alien way of life.

Ugh.

Okay, I guess we have to look at this film objectively.  First.  The music is TERRIBLE.  While surfing the forums on IMDB, I found a couple of comments and threads on how people loved the music in this film.  They loved it.  It makes no sense.  The film has this shitty midi-synthesized sounding score that doesn’t really fit the mood or the attitude of any of the characters in it.  I guess they were going for an uplifting kind of thing, but in general, in science fiction, synth kind of reminds you of a darker feeling movie.  Not to mention the quality of the music is terrible.  It literally feels like someone composed it for a 8 bit video game.  EXCEPT 8 BIT VIDEO GAMES HAVE BETTER MUSIC.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system – Kevin Spacey.  He’s quite possibly one of my favorite actors.  Pretty much everything he’s ever been in, I’ve at least liked him.  But this film brings him down to the level of a mediocre performer.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s definitely the best part of the movie.  He’s quirky and pretty funny, and he even has a little bit of an otherworldly quality about him.  In short, he plays this role perfectly.  Even so, there’s only so much you can do with a script like this.  I will say that there were moments in the latter bit of the film where he is under hypnosis that his acting really shines through the script.  But overall, he was just kind of average.  It pains me to say it, but it’s true.

This is Kevin Spacy in a Train Station

Jeff Bridges is the other character – he plays the psychiatrist/psychologist (just what the hell is the difference between those two anyways?*) who Prot is referred to for therapy.  Now, I have no problem with Jeff, I actually like Jeff.  In this movie, I even kind of like him.  In fact, I’m going to end this paragraph here.

Okay, where this movie fails utterly is in the plotting.  It starts out innocently enough, with Prot arriving on Earth on a beam of light.  Then a bum acts like he’s just seen Jesus or The Prophet or Luke Skywalker return to Earth after two millennia.  It’s all downhill from there.  People don’t treat Prot as a crazy person.  It’s pretty much as simple as that.  Throughout the whole movie (aside from some of the hard, solid factual evidence to the contrary) people are constantly SAYING that they believe Prot is clearly mentally disturbed or imbalanced.  But they really don’t act like it at all.  They don’t once seem to entertain the notion that he’s crazy and may need medication.  I mean, when you look at it, they all act one way, then say something completely different.  It’s odd, and really hard to explain.  I would say go see it for yourselves, but I would not want to punish you like that.

There’s also a little subplot in the film about Prot’s family being murdered or something, but it only halfway pays off, and is barely worth mentioning.

Now.  My major gripe about this film: There is a question as to whether Prot is an alien or not, and this question persists through most of the film.  I don’t have a problem with this.  A lot of movies have this as one of their plot devices: is your main character really what he seems?  It’s kind of interesting in most movies to see where this plot goes.  Of course, as a science fiction film reviewer – this is the farthest possible from what I was feeling as I was watching the movie.  The film is billed as science fiction, and I expect science fiction, dammit.  What do I get at the end?  A lot of ridiculous sentimentalist nonsense with an unclear ending and a surrender to the greater mysteries of the universe.  I was pissed.

After the picture might be spoilers.  But can a movie like this really be spoiled?

I'm sorry I couldn't find a more interesting picture for you.

After a little research watching the movie, I’ve concluded that it was, indeed, a science fiction story because of a couple of factors.  Prot is an alien.  1. He takes an inhuman dose of thorazine (300mg) and is unresponsive.  2. When he leaves back for K-PAX, he takes someone with him.  3. He accurately describes orbital patterns of a star that haven’t been published or theorized yet.  Of course all this can be explained away with pseudoscience (he’s a savant, he…um…doesn’t react to drugs?).  No.  It can’t, which at least made me realize that I wasn’t wasting all of my time watching this film.  Now I know I don’t ever have to watch it again.

But Fil, what did you really think about this movie? I really didn’t like it.  It had some interesting ideas, and two excellent leads, but ultimately it doesn’t do anything with the story other than spout sentimentalist nonsense.  I think I’m just adverse to the story of a crazy man helping cure other crazy people through the power of love and self discovery.  It seems disingenuous and even kind of dangerous and childish.  If you want to see a movie that you don’t have to get invested in, but ultimately ends well and leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy, then I guess you should see this one.

I’ll leave you on an up note: if you watch this, you get to see Kevin Spacey eat a banana without peeling it first.  And that’s the highlight.

*Psychiatrists are medical doctors who go to medical school and can prescribe drugs, psychologists cannot.

One Response to “Article XXIV – In Which There is Either An Alien or a Psychotic”

  • Mitzi Says:

    The other highlight: his running. Dude, that shit was funny.

    The music was awful. At first I thought they dropped the shitty synthesizer when we start finding out about Prot’s possible human life (because humans don’t like synthesizers), but I like to think someone ripped it from the composer’s hands and broke it in the process of bashing him over the head with it, and due to having to finish the score in a hurry, there was no time to find a replacement. So bad, so bad.

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