Never underestimate the overdetermined—in the first reel, the Brooklyn artist visits his homeboy in L.A., the latter now a super-successful special effects expert set up in an opulent condo whose tackiness is only constructed to render the appeal of its creature-comforts more explicit. And so when the alien motherships (really, spellcheck?) descend and shine a blue light that hypnotizes all who look at it and draws them into the sky of their needfulness, of course it’s our Brooklyn guy who finds himself rapt, you don’t need a degree in semiotics from Harvard (see Morning Glory) to recognize that the blue light is the allure of the movie business itself, slurping up all the bagel-fed, Gorilla-juiced talent—so why resist? We’re not, we’re just waiting for the call, we’re not holding onto any pride or integrity here. Though by the same token I’m pro-slumming, that supposedly ghoulish act of fraudulent identification down the social ladder that every intellectual is supposed to deplore. Because what else besides erotic curiosity is going to make you shrug off your privilege? The privilege of loving everything.
But the motherships start sucking up thousands of people, and we see the bodies falling upwards, and automatically think, “reverse WTC” until one character actually says, “It’s like the goddamn rapture”—oh, duh—but a rapture of another sort. Because it comes out that the smaller soldier robots that fly out of the big ships each house, and use, a human brain and spinal cord, which explains the whole harvest. The fact that this is our fantasy—the true melding—is only confirmed by the way in which, at the end of all the chasing around, the hero and his girl don’t even escape as we expect but are sucked up, too, and his brain ripped free, and he becomes a robot-monster. I meant to say spoiler alert.
And then, the blue light is the light of the projector. Which makes the venetian blinds that our characters use for protection (and which, Foucault reminds us, Bentham hangs in the central tower of the Panopticon) the implied curtain that parts upon the stroke of the feature presentation. But this technology, for all its recent digital preening, was never really that robot/computer kind. The problem with cyborgs is that they’re expected to work all the time. Whereas the movies and the poor t.v. were always about a whole species taking a well-earned rest. It’s finally happened—the movies seem antique. One wishes to stay just a little while longer in the comfort of their semi-dark.