The following brief and quite intriguing survey was originally posted to io9’s Observation Deck. The writer asked that the post be shared around so by way of doing just that, I thought I might post my answers here as well.
1) At the end of Inception is it important to you to know if the top falls or not? Do you try to figure this out using the clues you are given or do you think the ambiguity of the spinning top is what the filmmaker wants you reflect on?
At the end of Inception, I felt that Nolan made the perfect choice of giving us the impression that the top could go either way. The consistent turn lends to one train of thought and the possible wobble another. What I think is important is following each of those threads through to their results and ramifications. Is it real or not? Doesn’t matter. What does it means in either case?
2) During the director’s cut of Blade Runner, Deckard has a strange dream about a unicorn. Is it necessary for this unicorn to have some concrete explanation or is it OK if the scene exists as something lyrical, impressionistic, or vaguely symbolic?
This scene has always felt like Scott’s attempt to invoke the empathetic importance of animals in the adapted novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Between these snippets and the “Tears in the Rain” soliloquy, it seems like Scott is trying to bring that underrated substance of the novel (IMO) over into the adaptation. Even if that is the intent, I think the inclusion of the unicorn is pretty laughable. The status symbol and symbolic meaning behind the animals make the novel for me and reframing Dick’s ethical and symbolic choices in the novel always left the film lacking for me.
None of that quite addresses the question though. I feel making the unicorn scene more obvious or literal would serve two antithetical purposes. First, it would make concrete the attempt I mentioned above. Second, it would undermine the image and the symbol behind it and make the film weaker than I already believe it is.
3) In Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining, Jack Torrance is locked in a pantry. He encounters the ghost of Delbert Grady on the other side of the door. Grady says he will let Jack out. The door opens.
By relying only on Kubrick’s film, is it absolutely clear to you that Grady or some supernatural force let Jack out of the pantry? Was Jack merely hallucinating and somehow got out by himself? Is it OK not to know whether either of these is true?
In Kubrick’s adaptation, King believes that his focus on the weight of alcoholism in the novel was dismissed for a Kubrickian maniac. Towards that end, and assuming that was purposeful or is at least evidence of Kubrick’s influence on the story, I think most people who view the film are going to take it one way or the other. Unlike the case with Inception, I don’t really think this question in the film deserves a devil’s advocate. If you’re watching the film intent on the supernatural, there are bread crumbs to follow. Likewise, if you see in it the deranged and an unreliable POV, there’s evidence for that as well. We don’t need to know which is true.
4) Do you prefer viewing The Cabin in the Woods as a regular fictional world or are you more comfortable with it as a type of meta-fiction which only exists as a commentary on the horror genre itself? Is it OK if it is both?
It has honestly never occurred to me that one might watch The Cabin in the Woods as a pure fictional world. From the very premise, it has always seemed a meta-fictional world operating inside the tropes and expectations of horror films to subvert and create an amusing and at times terrifying commentary on the subgenre.
But for that matter, I feel the same of the Scream films which are probably more transparently trying to function as regular horror and satire. The bias here may be that I don’t like horror films on the whole. I appreciate the tropes and clichés and I even enjoy some of the older ones, but most of the time they just upset me. It’s certainly possible for TCITW or the Scream series to function in both ways, but for me they never will. It would actively take away from what I love about those movies.
5) In Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, do you personally need an explanation for HAL 9000’s homicidal behavior or do you like it better if left as one of the many mysteries of the movie?
In this instance, and only in this instance, I kind of wanted more of a straight explanation, and yet I’m marginally ok with the fact that Kubrick doesn’t give one. This is based for me much more on the novel, however, and in the adaptation I feel once again that Kubrick’s interpretation deserves examination on its own merit.
Clarke’s novel is one commonly identified as hard sf that I actually like on that definition. I tend not to care about how “hard” sf is and when works are touted on that designation first and foremost, I steer away from them. Right now, Andy Weir’s The Martian is being talked about everywhere but it wasn’t until the fourth or fifth time that I heard about the book—this time in a science related interview with the author—that I finally took a shine to it and a lot of the reason is that the first several kept harping on how good the science is without saying much else.
So, with a bit of a digression, I have to say that while I wanted the film to explain it, in the Kubrick frame it makes perfectly good sense why it wouldn’t be and why, despite my wishes, I have to be ok with that.