Thursday, June 12, 2008

To Serve Man

Author(s): Maia
Location: LA

"To Serve Man"

Written and Directed by James Cameron
Produced and Distributed by DreamWorks SKG
Edited by Michael Kahn
Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki
Sound Effects by Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstorm
Special Effects by Dennis Muren

Main Cast

Edward Norton as Dr. Wallace Hawthorne
Scarlett Johansson as Patricia Madison
Miranda Richardson as UN Secretary-General Adele Wellington
Forest Whitaker as US President Michael Bates
Cameron Bright as Terry Hawthorne
Hugo Weaving as Alien Leader (Voice)

Tagline: "Sooner or later, everyone ends in their menu"

Synopsis: Invasion! That’s what worldwide media reported when the International Space Station released the first photograph of their spaceship… At first, world armies tried to battle them together but they were defeated within hours. Oddly enough, there were no casualties during this brief encounter and contrary to everything earthlings could have thought; they came in peace…

Humans were in shock: when their leaders and that mysterious tall “man” came out of the United Nations headquarter; they shook hands in front of thousands of reporters and announced the beginning of a new era... Days went by and humans quickly learned through the news that this outer-space race had spent their last years studying their dying planet. At first, they couldn’t belief why these "men" would help them (without asking for anything in return) and analyst debated for weeks before they started proving themselves.

While their mind-blowing technology quickly ended famine, global warming and brought peace to all nations; the US government had spent the last weeks trying to decode a signal constantly emitted from their spacecrafts. The world renowned (and recently widowed) cryptanalyst Wallace Hawthorne was brought back from his early retirement to lead a team of scientists dedicated to the discover the meaning of the signal. Among them, young Patricia Wilson had quickly become Hawthorne’s right hand. Hawthorne and his team spent weeks trying to decipher the signal with little success. Then, Patricia got the answer...

Hawthorne sent the results to President Bates and his advisors, they were pleased with the results of Hawthorne’s research: the message was "To Serve Man".

That was enough for the government to trust them. After all, the "strangers" had already solved most of the Earth’s problems and this discovery only confirmed their kindness. Hawthorne and his team were dismissed right away, while Hawthorne couldn’t wait to go back home and spend more time with his depressed son Terry; Patricia became obsessed with the rest of the signal.

With nothing else to fear now, world leaders embraced the visitors and naturally (they were politicians after all), they got to be the first ones to visit their self-described paradise. While they were gone, most armies were discharged and most military vehicles and equipment were turned into waste. Many jobs were lost but now that food and all resources were available for everyone, it didn’t matter much.

Strangers no more, the “men” started to recruit individuals around the world for holiday trips to their planet as our leaders had suggested them. Large families were last on the never-ending waiting list and that worked fine for Hawthorne and his son: they were both dying for a new start and this was their chance…

Their day came… they were about to get on board of one of their ships when a homeless person (a rarity then) stopped them… It was Patricia; she had spent all this time trying to decode the rest of the signal… When she discovered the real meaning of To Serve Man, Patricia went crazy; she refused to eat their food or drink their water. She needed to tell the truth but nobody was willing to listen. She saw Hawthorne and she had to warn him but he wouldn’t listen either… Patricia tried to explain everything to him but he was as confused as Terry was excited. Terry ran ahead of his father into the spaceship and waved at him. Hawthorne tried to follow him but Patricia stopped him once again; then she said those words…

Hawthorne tried to get Terry off the spaceship but it was too late, that was the last time he saw his son. Patricia then explained everything to him and Hawthorne realized how stupid they were and how does his wish to take care of his son and stop working had been his very own doom.

When the truth was out and they found themselves vulnerable, earthlings returned to panic but still; they decided that they would prefer to fight for their lives than end up as their meal…

What the Press would say:

“To Serve Man” is not your typical alien film and for that matter, is not your typical summer blockbuster either. Yes, we have an amazing display of special effects and some of the most memorable sequences of the year so far (Johansson revealing the signal’s full meaning to Norton’s character just when his son has boarded the alien spaceship is definitely among the most shocking film twists ever) but this is not what this powerful sci-fi drama is about. Inspired by the 50’s cult classic, “To Serve Man” (smartly modified to fit the new millennium standards by James Cameron) is a story of strong metaphors and mostly, a moving tale of faith. Cameron makes us (the humans) primitive but not by comparing us to our technically-superior visitors; the gifted director emphasizes on how deep is the human need to find something to believe in and something to rely on through our worst times. Aliens arrive to our world and first thing we do is fight them because we don’t know otherwise… Yet, when help is offered to us we can't trust it (sometimes accurately). The amazing cast, especially Edward Norton and Scarlett Johansson, carry the film with respect to the source material (and a bit of campiness to remind us the story is based on a 50's novel after all). The rest of the ensemble also shines: from the supporting turns of respected figures like Whitaker and Richardson to the short but meaningful performance of youngster Cameron Bright.

Nonetheless, Cameron’s vision is fundamental on the film’s achievements because only an expressive director like him would have been able to add a new meaning to this unforgettable genre reinvention. To Serve Man is incisive, it’s dark but ultimately, it’s very satisfying entertainment.

Although unlikely given the typical bias against science fiction, many industry insiders are rooting for the film to be honored with these Oscar nominations:

Best Picture (HFPA - Drama)
Best Director – James Cameron
Best Actor – Norton
Best Supporting Actress – Johansson
Best Supporting Actor - Bright
Best Adapted Screenplay
Creativity Awards

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