Saturday, August 06, 2011

Cowboys and Aliens--a parable?

The just-released movie, Cowboys and Aliens presents the most fanciful, unlikely storyline imaginable. 

Here's how the entertainment website, Monsters and Critics sees the new film: 

The Old West.. where a lone cowboy, Jake Lonergan (Daniel Craig) leads an uprising against a terror from beyond our world. 1873. Arizona Territory. A stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist. What he discovers is that the people of Absolution don't welcome strangers, and nobody makes a move on its streets unless ordered to do so by the iron-fisted Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). It's a town that lives in fear.

But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the desolate city is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation.

As this gunslinger slowly starts to remember who he is and where he's been, he realizes he holds a secret that could give the town a fighting chance against the alien force. With the help of the elusive traveler Ella (Olivia Wilde), he pulls together a posse comprised of former opponents-townsfolk, Dolarhyde and his boys, outlaws and Apache warriors-all in danger of annihilation. United against a common enemy, they will prepare for an epic showdown for survival.

I saw and enjoyed the movie.  I know, I know.  Call me superficial and prone to the enjoyment of a thriller of an action flick--boy, I can tell you this guy Jake Lonergan knows how to handle an opponent!  Tough, fast, direct and endlessly! 

But, in reflecting on this really weird film, a strange realization caused me to think more deeply about the plot. 

The monsters from another galaxy/world show up with a two-dimensional mission.  One is to study earthlings to discover their weaknesses so that attacks can be more efficient and effective.  More important to the invaders is gold.  That's right.  They love gold.  They came to get gold.  They set up an elaborate station for extracting gold from the ground outside the town. 

As I watched the locals respond to the challenge presented by their horrible guests and as I observed the aliens' gold mining operations, the realization of my possibly being in the midst of a parable of sorts hit me. 

I mean, the folks from earth who battle the outside menace aren't exactly prepared for the challenge.  Beyond their obvious technological and physical disadvantages, they lack any sense of community.  To say the least they are completely divided, hopelessly, hatefully divided.

Presented with the threat of certain death, they get their collective act together right before viewers' eyes! 

The newly formed community's mission?  To unite to destroy their enemies before they are destroyed. 

Not exactly the highest of motives, or is it? 

People, previously divided now coming together to overcome old differences for the sake of embracing a higher, common concern:  that is always right and usually produces magical results.  And, it's important to note, the hero of the story is a tough, no nonsense "community organizer," to use contemporary vocabulary. 

Watching the "invasion" of the gold mining operation that doubles as an escape ship equipped with giant propulsion rockets and all, I came face-to-face with the all too common lure of gold (wealth) and the power of greed. 

I left the movie satisfied by an unusual story, but also convinced that greed contains the power to destroy.  Community presents the right antidote to the poisonous threat.

But then, maybe I've been working on the problems associated with poverty far too long.


Frank Roby said...

You just took this movie from a "want to see" for me to a "must see". And by the way, you have not been working with poverty too long. What you have done is stay on the front lines of what happens when there is community and when there is not community. Realizing what we have in common is the first step to solving problems because we see ourselves in both the problem and the solution. But, of course, you know that my friend. Thank you.

Larry James said...

Thanks, Frank. We need to find ways to connect more often. I need to understand what you're up to in Africa.

chris said...

Just keep the community organizers in the real of film and fiction and not in the white house. Our country has gone nothing but down during his administration.

Roger Cook said...

Greed isn't the only reason for wanting gold. It's the only metal that doesn't tarnish or rust, and because of that has lots of uses in electronics--if you open up your computer, you'll find that most of the contacts where one component is connected to another are gold-plated.

They could have just been needing it for their computers. I wonder if they even looked at all the silicon in the crust...

At any rate, it sounds like a good movie.

And I think that what Chris is saying is that too often, when we see the words "Community organizer," what those of us on the right hear is "One who asks the government to take money from one person and give it to another without buying products or services from that second person."

Anonymous said...

Roger, are you kidding us??? The greatest "redistribution of wealth" in the history of this country has been underway since 1980. Both pol parties have been complicit in the dealings. Result: widest gap in history between top and bottom. What are you thinking? You must be a billionaire! What benefits are directed toward the bottom could/should be considered national compensation for hard work and little return to labor. Give us a break, would you?

Chris said...

That's "realm of film and fiction."

Anonymous said...

Wow! What country do you live in? The one I'm in - the USA - has the widest income gap in 100 years. Since the 1980's, the rich have truly gotten richer and the poor poorer. Exactly where and how and to whom is income being redistributed? I'd really be interested in any facts you have (but not ideology) to support this assertion. As far as I can tell, if anyone in this country is trying to redistribute wealth, they're doing a really bad job of it.


Anonymous said...

The latest attempt at wealth redistribution is to transfer everything but money. Healthcare. Education. Transportation. Mortgages. Cell phones, anybody?

But I do agree. Someone is really bad at it.