Monday, June 9, 2014

On (the) Edge of Tomorrow

This movie is a film that copies Groundhog Day, lacks its philosophical wisdom and intellect but then creates the poor substitute of having a truly perfect organism (at-least as perfect as an organism can be more-or-less without the ability to do in potential humanity can do to their sentience) asides from the fact that it lacks sentience in any meaningful sense of the word; making a mockery of the creature in Alien in its comparison to it.  Ooh, you bleed acid, this fuckers blood will make you relive the same day over-and-over until you go through an incurable existential crisis and kill yourself from either it or boredom.  Also the fact that it has two sets of teeth in its mouth always seemed a bit ludicrous to me and made frilly or “pansy-ish” in comparison to giant-fiery-burrowing-squid-creatures.
This isn’t a terrible movie, just an incredibly basic film that doesn’t do much with the concept that it utilizes.  It has a very small amount of humor but nowhere near the level of Groundhog Day.  And as I’ve already said it lacks the whimsy and intelligence of how we are all in a sense living the same day over and over again and having a certain Existential quality come out of the film because of this.  Also the ethics or rather the psychology of the motivation of ethics is radically different in the films.  Both are selfish guys but Bill Murray is always likable because of his wit and intellect.  Tom Cruise’s character (yeah, I know his name is Cage but half of the movie I was calling him Private Ryan because that’s what I call the protagonists of all war movies; also it’s a happy coincidence that the character’s name is Cage because in my Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans I refer to the character almost every single time as Nicholas Cage.) is someone who seems to be respectful to others just because it helps him get his way and also is incredibly stupid when not getting his way.  Guess what?  You don’t have to follow an order from such dillweed army Nazi.  You could just leave, go on a plane, and just hang low at your Mom’s house saying you didn’t want to give your life to a cause you didn’t consider worth, well, giving your life for.  Is that cowardice?  That’s arguable and certainly dependent largely on the context of the severity of the situation, but regardless of which no one should ever be expected to give their life to a cause they don’t find themselves willing to sacrifice themselves for.  History is wrought with millions upon millions of lost souls giving their lives needlessly to Governments and religions that were almost the very embodiment of evil while claiming to act in the name of moral good against godlessness (because not having a God is such a crime right?), Communism or the French. 
Tom Cruise ultimately becomes moral out of necessity.  He has no choice, for not only the survival of the human race but his own of course is attached to his success.  However in Groundhog Day we see a legitimate change from someone who at-first is a Hedonist, gets bored with Hedonism, tries romance just to save him from boredom, fails at romance, tries to kill himself several times, fails at suicide, and then becomes a nice guy more-or-less because he’s tried everything else.  You could argue it’s still in-part selfish but to the extent that all actions that contain some virtue are.  He does it for his psychological and moral health perhaps more-than the actual good he does, but in the end he does become a virtuous character and escapes the monotony of Hedonism or superficiality.  Only by being not only genuine, but genuinely applying the best of himself does he escape the loop.
Now to the organism; it is perhaps the most interesting alien I have ever seen.  I’m trying to go through different aliens in different series, and though Q and the Borg from Star Trek are quite interesting concepts none I think are as intelligently conceived as an organism that can rewrite time for its then inevitable success.  For this is a concept completely outside of analogy to anything experienced by people.  Analogy to the evils of religion, Capitalism, Government, and social hierarchy and conformity needs to be addressed and continuously reasserted in society; but depictions of things that are outside of daily phenomena are certainly greater in intellect at-least in some regard.  The aliens are some of the most creative in design and remind me of David Hume and his writings of how we are incapable of imagining anything totally outside of our experience.  They’re more-or-less fiery-shadow-squids, but it certainly beats Star Trek in imagination of the possibility of alien life – at-least in design.
Of course the most interesting thing about them is in combination with their phenomenogical brand of time travel (similar to that of X-men Days of Future Past) is that it is essentially a Borg or hive mind creature.  The main question is whether or not it is sentient and with it allowing humans to think they’re winning so as to wipe out humans more efficiently in-terms of time (because that is really all it would be accomplishing asides from I suppose having less battle fields where a human would be filled with one of the Alpha’s blood or whatever it would be called by the interplanetary biologist community – interplanetary in that they study alien life not that they are alien life but aliens are welcome to join; we’re not bigots.) it would seem so.  But their sentience is a rather crass and rudimentary form of sentience no matter how clever.  They seem to have no interested in art, science, philosophy or anything that makes us human – much like the average human being whose soul has been dulled or even extracted by the forces of Capitalism, religion (or belief in God in-general) and the State – and yet it possesses a bare minimum type of awareness of being necessary for the critical thinking involved in strategy – at-least we would assume.  But is awareness of self, a primary trait we make a prerequisite of sentience a trait which can only be attached or found in sentient entities?  Could a machine be capable of perfect strategy given it knows the necessary facts and be incredibly clever and capable of critical thought without the thought that we assign to a self-aware conscious being?  Very-likely.  Exploring the criteria for sentience and distinguishing conscious life from the Philosophical Zombie is a difficult task, though ultimately I would say it hinges largely on the capacity for reflection.  If this alien organism can reflect in a way of interest in mind rather than curiosity; that is not attached to its survival but rather out of the naturally occurring ponderings of an intellect, than I would say that it fits the main requirement for sentience; otherwise I would say that it is simply a clever organism, like a parrot or a dog, and only more in-regards to its incredibly trait that would be an evolutionary marvel to think upon – but so is the presence of thinking itself.
If it weren’t for the cleverness depicted in the film, one could say that any form of intellect isn’t required at-all save a memory of the future once one’s consciousness has been transported to the past.  If this ability existed in a dog for example, it would be unable to comprehend what extraordinary ability it has, and would be able to distinguish most-likely the future from its past; but that would not change its likeliness to remember or to act in-regards to that memory.  For example if I beat my dog to death and whatever limited degree of consciousness it has is transported to the past, though it might be confused that it’s not in any pain or suffering from any physical maladies, it would remember that I abused him severely and would immediately distrust me or attack me.  The same could be said of these creatures.  It could remember that a threat is coming and act on impulse rather than stratagem or intellect.  Like a predator that on impulse moves to a watering hole for prey though it hasn’t heard or seen its prey to bring him there.  Though the latter of course involves millions of years of evolution while the former involves only a few iterations of repetition from a parasitic organism – but it could still learn according to the definition of psychology (the ability to alter one’s behavior) nonetheless.  Which reminds me for whatever reason that we never do learn what the aliens feed off of, but since it came from an asteroid rather than a ship it seems that its arrival on Earth was pure happenstance (unless it can somehow alter the asteroids trajectory whenever one of its Alpha’s dies to more effectively traverse the cosmos, though how it would manage to do this I’m uncertain) rather than planned deliberation and this furthers the claim that it acts on impulse though of course its trickery would discredit that idea.
We of course moralize and depict the alien as malicious and its trickery seems to be evidence to the case; however, someone like Foucault would bring up how we see these intruders from a perspective of malevolence because of their otherness and we have always been told that aliens are harbingers of death and destruction – rather than the fact that they actually do bring death and destruction to humanity.  But if a sentient being was also parasitic in its nature – which you could argue human beings are relative to the extent they can be – what choice would it have from ending life wherever it may go, even if the planet has sentient life as-well, save from ending its own existence?  If Man was traveling in space and had to feast upon sentient entities for survival, surely it would rationalize it but would it be just?  No.  For there is nothing particular or exemplary (in-that it is an exemption from otherwise universal moral rules) from human beings save their sentience.  So, just as it is immoral to kill a man, so it would be to kill an intelligent form of alien life.  In-terms of cannibalism, asides from the expectation of killing the worst of those available for consumption, this act is overall exempt from moral judgment.
There are some things however that remain a mystery.  If he were to fall asleep and then die, would he “respawn” back at the base camp every single time or at the first point of the re-entering of consciousness?  Also the ending seems to be a cop out.  Even with the goo entering his system once again, why would time be altered in the sense of the alien(s) being destroyed?  Is it once the alien is destroyed, then its death somehow manifests throughout the timestream?  But then wouldn’t it be that it would never have existed?  When did it die in this new timeline?  Also why didn’t Tom Cruise just tell Emily Blunt that the helicopter would explode or that there is no possible scenario that he knows of where they can survive the attack from the alien?  Then tell her that they haven’t tried sleeping in the farmhouse and taking the car or simply leave her as she is sleeping.  But of course this all is effectively pointless because it turns out the visions are false and an attempt for the organism to regain its powers.  Which gives two more things to discuss.
Firstly, it’s assumed then that the organism somehow can sense Tom Cruise and that he has its blood inside of him.  But in the battle field all the aliens don’t seem to treat him any differently.  So it seems then that only the hivemind knows that Tom Cruise is, well, Tom Cruise and that is why it sets up a trap for Cruise to go to a certain location and drain him of his blood to regain its winning strategy.  Which brings me to my second point.  If when Tom or Emily is able to respawn to the start of the level, why not just stay alive and see how long humanity can last against the alien Borg entity without its ability to reshape time whenever an Alpha is killed?  It might seem selfish, but if you fought the alien and it drained your blood like it nearly did with Cruise, then you would have allowed it to regain its ability and humanity would be finished.  Instead, wait several months and see how humanity handles the Alien, and if it seems like that we’re going to be wiped out then kill yourself and restart.  Unless of course it would only bring you back to that morning.  Then it would be far-more of a gamble and you perhaps should take the route they did.  Also does the alien sleep?  It must or do something similar if it restarts because it would assumingly restart the beginning of each day for the same reason that Cruise and Strong do – it woke up. 
Asides from a few points this really is the perfect organism.  Like I said it lacks any appreciation of higher things let-alone appreciation or higher consciousness in-general – unless it does possess a higher state of mind that we cannot have any evidence of asides from its level of cleverness due-to its nature and make-up.  It also seems to be parasitic (or at-least that is what we are told, though how a parasite could exist on an asteroid without any other organisms to utilize is befuddling) in nature and will very-well destroy the life of the given planet it’s on; not only brining death to billions but ensuring its own destruction.  If it simply wanted to replace humanity as the dominant life forms on the planet that would be an entirely different scenario, perhaps of little distinction to us but they would be able to sustain themselves almost indefinitely and not be incapable of lasting for long periods on any given planet.
Its major flaw being that without sentience – or at-least the particular kind of sentience necessary to build tools and realize one’s own mortality and all the possible causes of it and solutions to prevent it – it could never create new stars to bring new life to itself which human beings could do.  It could replay the same day an innumerable amount of time but not only would it not be able to cure its death it wouldn’t be able to appreciate that day lived an infinite amount of times.  So this film is a perfect expression of – though it doesn’t state it for the common unthinking audience who don’t appreciate or comprehend the complexity of life due-to their own base nature, the ignorance of religion, other anti-intellectual forces and intelligence not being an expectation and highly deemed trait of virtue in our society – sentience being necessary not only for us to create lives worth living, but as the quintessential essence to have anything worth living or doing in the sense of a conscious being being capable of enjoyment, appreciation and value-placement and deliberation as expressed in Nietzsche.

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