Digital Faith: Visual Effects and Religion in ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Life of Pi,’ and ‘Prometheus’

Equipped with ever-improving technology and visual effects, filmmakers have often used new tools to turn back time. As Svetlana Boym notes in The Future of Nostalgia, filmmakers used developments in computer-generated imagery to recreate the past: the titular sinker in Titanic, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and the Colosseum in Gladiator. Faced by a perceived acceleration of time in the age of modernity, progress “didn’t cure nostalgia but exacerbated it,” Boym says. As I have previously explored, David Fincher has also employed cutting-edge digital technology to revive the San Francisco of the past and literally reverse the life cycle of one Benjamin Button.

In 2012, a different trend emerged. If a desire to turn back time is implicitly rooted in a fear of impending death, then last year’s visual effects–driven cinema offered an alternative: transcending time and death. All released within months of each other, the big-budget features Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi, and Prometheus explored issues of faith and religion and asked questions about our existence. Continue reading “Digital Faith: Visual Effects and Religion in ‘Cloud Atlas,’ ‘Life of Pi,’ and ‘Prometheus’” »

Ripley/Scott: Gender in ‘Prometheus’ and the ‘Alien’ Movies

There have been few film franchises with a greater gap between their initial and latest offerings than the 33 years that passed between Alien and Prometheus—and no other franchises with a significant gap have had the same director at the helm for both movies (though I am open to being proven wrong about this film factoid). Upon Prometheus‘s announcement, fans of Alien and other Ridley Scott-helmed films immediately began prognosticating up a storm of possibilities for the new film in addition to voicing concern that it could not possibly live up to their very high expectations. Yet Scott is the type of director who, because he has directed films revered by critics, scholars, and the public, cannot be discounted. This was particularly true when he announced that not only would he be directing a new picture but that it would take place within the same movie “universe” as one of his former films, and would be in 3-D. As a rather casual Scott fan, I can pick out a handful of his films that I genuinely enjoy and can watch repeatedly (Alien, Blade Runner, and Thelma and Louise). Then there are others that I can really only take on as an exercise in cringing and camp bravado—which can still be enjoyable (G.I. Jane, Legend, and Gladiator). A great deal of my personal Scott film preferences and viewing habits, however, have to do with the representations of gender in his films, which are often very complex and infuriating in the ways that they simultaneously break away from “traditional” or classic female representational tropes and yet still conform to them. Continue reading “Ripley/Scott: Gender in ‘Prometheus’ and the ‘Alien’ Movies” »