So this film starts and I’m already thinking this is one of those movies where you don’t know what’s going on for half the time. This is true for the first hour of the film, but things start to make sense if you pay attention and, well, if you’re into movies that fuck with your mind. Even though I have to admit my tastes have gotten a little more commercial since the days when I would devour Stanley Kubrick’s Blu-Ray Collection in a single weekend, whenever I come across a film that is both strange, well-done, and also understandable, it grabs my attention.
And this movie did.
Scarlett Johansson plays an alien who came to earth to feed off humans. In the film, this isn’t as gory as it sounds. She learned our language, got herself a human skin, learned which humans to target (the lonely ones who don’t have anybody who’ll come looking for them) and then lures them into her alien machine with her looks, where they are murdered and their flesh is used to nurture this sadistic alien race and / or their killing machine. Sadistic isn’t the right word, though. They’re alien… knowing nothing about human compassion, love, mercy, or happiness. Knowing nothing about what it’s like to live like us. They’re predators, and we are their prey… it’s just the way nature made them.
Until Johansson catches her reflection in a worn-down mirror, and then everything changes. She begins to identify with the humans. Relate. Understand…
Suddenly she finds that she knows our language, but she can’t verbally express this whole new range of emotions she’s feeling. She used her looks to lure men but didn’t even know what sex was. She tries to munch on chocolate cake but of course she’s an alien so our food is toxic to her. She begins to want what humans have. And then all her alien friends freak out and seek to destroy her.
I have to mention there’s very little dialogue in this film. Everything I have described about what Johansson’s character was feeling and thinking I picked up from her non-verbal cues, which goes to show how good she is at those.
The greatest thing about this film is that as an audience, I was interested in these aliens and their mission even if I knew next to nothing about them. Their callousness was intriguing, and more so when you discover Johansson’s character wasn’t being callous at all, she just didn’t understand anything about anything, basically.
The worst thing about this film is the ending. Like, I know this isn’t E.T., but I still think the ending shouldn’t have been so depressing. The alien goes through an awakening, she starts to discover human life and all its facets, and then a few days later it’s all over for her. This minimized the emotional impact of what I just experienced. Her alien friends didn’t kill her, humanity did. Because she never really belonged in the first place.
Of course if you want to look at it from an existentialist point of view, human life is also sort of like this. We all grow old and die, disappear into nothingness, if you will. Just like the alien did.
But then again I guess this is why my tastes have grown more commercial over the years. I still enjoy these types of movies, but when I get an ending like this… Well, I get pissed. I invested time and emotion in this, and all I get in return is meaninglessness?
Rating: *** (I’m throwing in an extra star there because I enjoyed Johansson’s performance, but I was planning on giving it two.)