“One thing I love about speculative fiction is its ability to explore difficult topics. Because of it’s separation from our current timeframe, it can comment on Socio-economic and Cultural issues in really engaging and interesting ways” – Anita Sarkeesian
Recently, I’ve seen two fascinating films that take place in “the future”, which tackle subjects in both a political-satirical way as well as asking some basic questions about the general human condition. The six minute long “The Terrible thing from Alpha 9”, a tragicomic animation by Jake Armstrong delves into the human fears of otherness while the gritty and gloomy “Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits”, written by satirical and serial pessimist Charlie Brooker and Kanaq Huq looks to the trajectory of a society created by our own individual weaknesses. The reviews of these works will be featured in this series, “Sci-fi Speaks Of US”, presented in two parts; in part one I’ll review “The Terrible thing from Alpha 9”. Part two will contain a review of “Black Mirror: 15 Million Merits”.
“The Terrible thing from Alpha 9” is a completely dialogue free short, with the character’s actions (and some brief clips of news papers) being the only clues the viewer will get as explanation of what is going on and what the driving motivation is of the two lead characters. The animation begins with an astronaut landing his spaceship on a seemingly empty planet. He’s is in search of a “terrible creature” which has supposedly taken 40 lives. With grim determination the space travel holsters his gun and heads out to kill. However, upon stumbling across the terrible thing, the hunter is cut off guard. The blue, five-eyed alien jumps at the hero, knocking his weapon out of his hand and starts greeting him by licking his space helmet (in attempt of licking his face). At this point it clear to the viewer that the creature is perhaps not a dangerous vicious monster, but more of a dog-like alien which wants to be friends. Despite this possibility, the astronaut runs from the creature, resulting in the accidental death of the supposedly deadly hunter. After this decidedly odd turn of events, the viewer quickly learns what, in humorous actuality, happened to the 40 first “victims” of this creature. The viewer is left with a lingering glimpse of a lonely and desperate creature that yearns for friendship and continually fails to find it. A heart-breaking ending sees the horrible demonstration of a creature, no matter what bad luck it haunts it, will give up its dream of companionship. Hope against all odds lingers in the grand wishes of the creature.
“The Terrible thing from Alpha 9” strength comes from the two main characters in the film. The astronaut is a man who tries to be really overly-manly and macho, seeking without thought to kill a scary looking beast because it is considered, against all fact, to be dangerous. His motivations for going out on this mission are never given, yet one is lead to assume it’s strongly tied with the fame and honor which he feels he would garner from killing a thing deemed to be so dangerous. In fact, he is so determined to assassinate a scary beast that he doesn’t even stop to think how peculiar it is that the supposed savage creature acts gently and playfully towards him while he pursues his fatal vendetta towards his victim. The supposed hero obvious finds the looks of the creature distasteful and threatening (and which seems to be the motivation of all the humans to seek this creatures demise), which drives his already made-up mind that the creature needs to die. The astronaut’s determination ends up fatal for him, making his quick decisions seem unwise. The creature on the other hand acts just like an attention starved pet; from fetching things the man throws away to following him loyally regardless of where he wanders. This makes the creature come off as something in distressed need of companionship, which he seeks from the space wanderer and hunter, in spite of latter rejecting him strongly, fearfully, and constantly. The monsters sturdy willpower is also a great personality trait highlighted in the short. It’s a universal subject of wanting something and frequently doing your best to get it, even if it’s most likely that your desires won’t ever be met, as well as an analysis of the superficial creations of hate which humans impose on what they do not understand.
“The terrible thing from Alpha 9” has a simple, tragic plot point: The creature just wants a friend, but probably won’t get one due to people’s constant disgust with its looks. Isn’t that unfair? Wildly funny, but also a bit of a tear jerker, this short is a must-watch for fans of cartoons and Science-Fiction.
View below the full short “The Terrible Thing from Alpha 9”: