Lazy Luddite Log


Movie von Alien

I saw Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen a few night back and it reminded me how popular the thesis of Eric von Daniken has become within the context of science fiction specifically. Eric von Daniken - a Swiss author - published Chariots Of The Gods (1968) (which got television documentary treatment in the 70s and 80s). It it he argues that space-faring extra-terrestrials have visited Earth and influenced the development of human civilisation. The arguments depends on a very blinkered interpretation in which facts are cherry-picked to allow for only one possibility - that the author is right. The attraction of Chariots Of The Gods comes from a desire for the wonderous to still be a part of our lives in this age of skepticism and rationality. It also comes from a lack of appreciation for human ingenuity. "How could our ancestors possibly have made the Pyramids?" asks Von Daniken. "They were too stupid to and had to be helped by aliens" is the answer given (which to my mind shows a lack of wonder).

As science Chariots Of The Gods is dodgy. However as an inspiration for science fiction it is fantastic and there are a growing number of movies and programs that utilise the concept of alien visitation inspiring ancient humans. I first encountered the concept in the original Battlestar Galactica (1978-1980). In this back-story humans were the aliens that had colonised Earth long ago. The Cylons are designed to be reminiscent of Roman centurions while the human pilots have helmets modeled on the head-dress of Ancient Egyptian pharaohs. It looks hokey now but it was lots of fun then.

The 80s seemed relatively free of the Von Daniken thesis in science fiction but then along came the movie of Stargate (1994) which has done more to popularise the concept than any other show. Since then other SF movies to incorporate alien impact on ancient ancestors include The Fifth Element (1997), Alien Versus Predator (2004), Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2008) and now Transformers: Roll On The Floor (2009). They vary in quality and plausibility but they are all fun and the Von Daniken concept gives them a wonder they may otherwise have lacked.

I think we love bringing together the things we love and the sharp contrast makes it all the more thrilling. We love the pop-culture interpretation of ancient civilisations. We love technologically advanced aliens. Bringing them together is an evocative and enthralling thing to do. It makes us contemplate both the long ago and the far away.

And Another Thing

I saw the Land Of The Lost movie recently. I had to even if I expected it to be crappy. It was a kind of 'brand loyalty' thing. Land Of The Lost (1974-76) was a show I loved as a kid. It had claymation dinosaurs! But rather than living in some secret valley they were preserved within a pocket dimension into which the flotsam and jetsam of the universe got stuck. Talk about bringing together things I loved. There were hominids (The Pakuni) and reptilian aliens (The Sleestak). There were ancient ruins. There were also the Pylons (small pyramid-like structures) inside of which were control panels consisting of crystals - arrange them correctly and you could open a portal back home. This was amazing stuff for a child that totally drove the imagination. Why did they have to make it into a low-brow comedy spoof? Still it did remind me of the original show and that is worthwhile in itself.

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