Are you up for a close encounter of any kind? It seems America’s sci fi hero Buck Rogers and his sci fi followers may have a lot to answer for…
English writers Simon Clegg and Nick Frost’s alien cutie, the aptly named Paul, is a pint size evengelising extra terrestrial who wears shorts and thongs, carries a backpack and talks and acts just like a normal dude. This in itself would be scary if you were not busy laughing so hard during this comedy adventure action sci fi flick about two British sci fi nerds helping their new best friend Paul, the E.T. with awesome attitude to escape the wrath of ‘The Big Guy’ so that he can go home. He’s already made the phone calls to be sure it will happen but he needs help to reach his destination.
Following his capture at Roswell New Mexico in 1947, and in his 50+ years here on earth Paul has become very human; totally flawed and a complete slacker. After lurking about gloriously for the whole time at the infamous Area 51, he has become a charming celebrity joker, who is now fleeing along the Extraterrestrial Highway to his point of departure aided by two sci fi nerds and the team of followers, foes and helpers they encounter along the way.
Forgotten until the late 1970’s to surface at the time of the release of movies like Star Wars and Close Encounters, Roswell and Area 51 for sci-fi nerds are havens for conspiracy theories surrounding aliens and unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore. The Roswell event took place not long after World War II when the fear of communism was palatable. It sparked a supposed military cover up about UFO’s and aliens, which although denied by US military many times since has become part of an urban myth. Hanger 51 in the adventurous Indiana Jones franchise, is a delightful reference to Area 51. As well as being the reputed resting place for the so-called Ark of the Covenant it is also where the elusive alien corpse reputedly found at Roswell, rests.
The alien reported as being found at Roswell, was said to be green and just under five feet tall with a large head and abnormally shaped oversize eyes. He bears a striking resemblance to the completely cute Paul, whom our anti heroes first meet following a close encounter of the car crash kind. This happens outside the infamous Area 51, because having just completed a quest to visit the most desired destination of all sci fi nerds, Comic-Con, the largest comic book and popular arts annual convention in the world, our two nerds decide to take a tour of America’s most famous sci fi places.
With his sensational skinny body and totally cute swaggering stance Paul evangelizes throughout their time together, sometimes poignantly like the Apostle Paul his Christian counterpart. However while being kind, generous and giving almost to a fault, Paul is also prone to delicious naughtiness with often delightful and hilarious results.
Willy and Gollings believe they are deeply committed to the sci fi cause and are totally enjoying a personal pilgrimage together until the dream becomes real. The arrival of Paul challenges and tests the courage of all of their convictions, Christian or otherwise.
The subtle references, the dialogue gleaned from movies, tv series, comic books and stories, not to mention the many references to the CGI (Computer generated images) characters you have come to love during the last 50+ years of sci fi fantasy, it’s all here.
Paul’s two writers feature in the main roles of Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, along with Jason Bateman as Secret Agent Zoll, Blythe Danner as the grown up Tara, who as a little girl found Paul, Kristen Wiig as Ruth Buggs, the blind but now I can see girlfriend of Willy, with the voice of Canadian comedian Seth Rogen as Paul.
They are being pursued by two FBI agents, Haggard and O’Reilly as well as Ruth’s preacher pastor father Moses, who believes he is on a mission from God to rescue her before they reach Paul’s point of departure into the heavens.
Dressing to kill was part of a whole golden age for illustrators such as Erté (Russian born French artist and designer Roman de Tirtoff 1892 – 1990) during the brilliance of the age of ‘Art Deco’ when sci fi fantasy really began to take off in America.
It followed the success of futuristic and time travel concepts that emerged during the latest years of the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century and prior to World War I. This is when leisure became something people other than aristocrats began to believe they might look forward to. Ideas such as those put forward in books by such as British novelist, teacher, historian and journalist Herbert George (HG) Wells (1844 – 1946) and novelist, scholar and broadcaster Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis (1898 – 1963) became best sellers and spawned a whole lot more ideas and characters.
Following Word War 1 (1914-1918) members of the pre-war privileged elite, having survived believed they had been liberated from the traditional responsible authoritarian roles of their parents and so they set out to establish a luxurious leisure filled lifestyle. Jazz music trumpeted this new age, casting off traditional sounds to express the hectic exuberance of the new.
The sense of relief people generally felt as the French, English and American delegates parlied the peace in the mirrored hall of mirrors at the Chateau Versailles, flowed over into designs that contained a kaliedoscope of colours produced by graphic artists. They enlivened the scene with fabulous streamlined illustrations for comics, magazines, designs for posters and for couturiers and craftsmen.
Between World War I and World War II Metropolis, produced in Berlin in 1927, became the most expensive silent film ever made. It was set in a mega city of the future where workers of the underworld sought unity and reform in the world above ground where owners had a machine-man set to destroy all who opposed their idea of Utopia. The futuristic streamlined posters and images produced in the science fiction genre set in concrete a streamlined poster style illustrators and image makers would take up with alacrity.
‘Art Deco’ was named for the designers and designs on display at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held at Paris in 1925. Technology was picking up pace with the telephone, electric lighting, the automobile and moving pictures becoming more and more accessible to the working man, helping to change people’s aspirations, attitudes and their ways of looking at life. Reading fashion reviews of the times it seems that critics suspected that society’s moral code and religious beliefs were seriously threatened by ideas such as style and fashion, which were now reacting to customer demand, rather than the complaints of moralists.
In America after 1929, a new hero emerged and gained an important place in pop culture during the 30’s and 40’s. Anthony (Buck) Rogers appeared first as a character in the 1929 issue of a magazine, and then on radio from 1932 onward. By arriving at that moment in history Buck Rogers kick started a whole new genre of entertainment, sci fi, while expanding ideas about the future.
Up until then historical events, musicals with dancing, horror and dramatic movies were enjoying the greatest success. Ideas of taking off into space inspired and motivated men with thoughts of landing on the moon, which the finally knew wasn’t made of cheese.
Buck Rogers became the subject of a serial at the movies during the 40’s and a serial on ABC TV from 1950 – 1951. His creator, Philip Nowlan, following in the footsteps of pioneers such as Jules Verne and was aided by the National Newspaper Syndicate, which inserted the Adventures of Buck Rogers comic strip hero into an environment of swashbuckling space style heroism.
His character helped bring about the concept of space exploration which flowed on into the sixties when President Kennedy announced the space race. This was also when the members of the Starship Enterprise, James T. Kirk, Spock and his team were boldly going where no one had gone before lighting up television screens well into the 70’s.
“Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper” said Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) when he arrived to rescue her from a fate worse than death in George Lucas‘s epic Star Wars, the space movie franchise created by Lucas that began in 1977. It’s hard to believe it’s over 30 years since the first of the trilogy, that eventually became one of six, burst onto the screen and spawned a whole new era in pop culture phenomenon. My three sons and I still remember cheering when it ended, even though they were all pint size at the time. Amazingly it would take Lucas until 2005 to finalise his incredible ‘space opera’.
Producer Director Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind came out the same year as Star Wars. It has since been deemed significant culturally, historically and aesthetically by the Library of Congress in Washington, who have placed a copy of the ground breaking movie in its archive. It was all about civilians being drawn to a military site in Wyoming where officials communicated with Aliens in UFO’s by the use of light and sound.
With the enormous successes of the space age and space movies Buck Roger’s was revived again on TV in the late 70’s with Gil Gerard featuring as Captain William ‘Buck’ Rogers who is frozen for 500+ years before returning to earth in the 25th century. The 70’s ended with Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) bringing actress Sigourney Weaver well into the light. When she was confronted with more action and adventure in 1986 in Aliens and its sequels, courtesy of James Cameron, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) gained sci fi legend status.
During the 80’s a whole host of celebrities continued to go Back to the Future courtesy of Steven Spielberg, whose science-fiction and adventure films have since been regarded as an archetype for modern Hollywood blockbuster film making. Of them all E.T., the Extra Terrestrial is perhaps the most emotional, because its all about a lonely child who befriends an alien and without any thought of self helps him to return home. It has since become regarded as an enduring example of what friendship really means, which is taken up so delightfully in Paul.
While there has been many sci fi movies since, including five additional television series, 11 theatrical films, and numerous books, games, and other products under the Star Trek banner it would be James Cameron‘s Avatar in 2009 that would change the sci fi adventure game again.
With a budget of $237,000,000 we can see just how serious the genre had become and it grossed over $2 billion on its first weekend (January 31 2010) world wide.
It’s been reported a great deal of the small (under $50 million) Budget for Paul, was spent on getting the little guy right. Producing computer designed masterpieces these days takes very big bucks.
So, if you want to enjoy a close encounter of the very best kind remember that in space no one can hear you scream but if you remain here on earth you can have an enormous lot of fun with Paul, the E.T. with awesome attitude.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2011 -2012
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Blythe Danner, John Carroll Lynch, Sigourney Weaver and the voice of Seth Rogen as Paul.
Writers: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Director: Greg Mottola
Official Site: http://www.whatispaul.com
Watch the You Tube Trailer of Paul