I Want You to Believe

In the opening of the movie “The Fourth Kind”, actress Milla Jovovich claims:

Every dramatized scene in this movie is supported by either archived audio, video or as it was related by Dr. Tyler during extensive interviews with the director. In the end, what you believe is yours to decide.

It’s a two-fold lie. First, the original documents the movie is based on are an outright fabrication, including Dr. Tyler herself. Secondly, the movie never leaves any room to make any decisions. It’s almost like the hilarious joke by RedLetterMedia:

I let you decide… but the answer is yes.

I’m struggling which of the two lies is a more obvious mark of a bad movie.

Suggesting that a fantasy movie story is based on facts is a common technique. It actually produced some quite memorable works such as The X-Files or The Blair Witch Project. It enriches even a modest plot with a sense of excitement. It can greatly increase the tension and fear in a mystery movie.

But there are two crucial differences about The Fourth Kind. First, the Fourth Kind is an extremely boring story. It’s not even a story at all. It’s just two hours of dull repetition. One witness after another pops up telling how horrible the abductions are without even explaining what happened. They tried to add some story to it by including some silly mysteries about the Sumerian language and whatnot. All of this leads nowhere. What you already know about the alien abduction myth is probably far more exciting than what the movie has to offer. Hence, the “this is based on facts”-trick is THE ONLY EXCITING THING about this movie. The Blair Witch Project was at least original.

Secondly, the movie makes some extremely bold claims about the factuality of the portrayed events. They repeat it over and over again. There is even no fine-print disclaimer in the credits. It’s outright insulting to make so much a fuzz about what is a flat out lie. It’s also quite unreasonable to hinge so much on a claim that can be falsified so easily. It’s not only a scam, it’s a stupid scam.

But the movie tries to make a fool of the audience in a different way as well. The movie suggests that it merely represents the facts and that it allows the audience to make up their own mind. You wish! That would maybe even save the movie a little bit. But it’s far from it. From the get go, there all evidence is ALWAYS pointing directly to alien abduction. There is one skeptical character who is supposed to be the devil’s advocate. It’s a ruse, of course. The skeptical character never attempts to seriously debunk any of the conclusions. Instead he blurts outs some ridiculous, completely unrelated lines about weather balloons even if the evidence is right in front of his face.

A good skeptical character would act logically and attempt to respond to any shown evidence. For example, if there is evidence that somebody repeatedly enters a house at night, the reasonable thing to do is to call the police or at least set up some surveillance equipment. What the characters do instead is to rely on hypnosis. This is what really gets on my nerves.

Hollywood is responsible for the spread of some dangerous myths. One of them is that hypnosis is a reliable tool for psychotherapy. It’s not. Hypnosis is poorly understood, highly controversial and not used frequently at all. It’s not a scientific tool at all because it is highly susceptible to manipulation and suggestion. In fact, the very nature of hypnosis is suggestion.

It is almost certain that the entire myth of alien abduction was fabricated during hypnosis sessions. It is a powerful myth because it taps into very basic fears of supernatural nocturnal predators (monsters in the closet), being helpless and medical examinations. No wonder the meme spread so well. So it is quite ironic that The Fourth Kind relies almost exclusively on Hypnosis as evidence.

But even with an ensemble of idiotic characters, the movie could have created at least some room for interpretation. The police always suspects that the main character herself is responsible for everything. Her motif would be a psychological trauma caused by the death of her husband. It seems like a reasonable explanation at some point and it would be a great way to open up the plot for interpretation. Sadly, the movie does a great job at providing enough evidence to discard that branch of though entirely. The police ends up being just the ignorant bad guys and the movie goes down the drain.

And I haven’t even begun how bad the acting and the special effects are. The Fourth Kind is a rare occasion of a thoroughly ill-conceived movie. It looks down on it’s audience as being gullible, stupid and incompetent. It tries to succeed by exploiting these faults. This is not only morally reprehensible but also extremely reckless. If such an approach fails – as it does in The Fourth Kind – the underlying prejudices are exposed and the movie’s reputation is destroyed beyond repair. This reminds me of a TED talk I can’t find anymore. Somebody mentioned a great quote I can only party reproduce here: the best way to lie to somebody is when the other guy understands that you are being dishonest.

Krystian Majewski

Krystian Majewski was born in Warsaw and studied design at Köln International School of Design. Before, he was working on a mid-size console project for NEON Studios in Frankfurt. He helped establish a Master course in Game Design and Research at the Cologne Game Lab. Today he teaches Game Design at various institutions and develops independent games.

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The Game Design Scrapbook is a second blog of group of three game designers from Germany. On our first blog, Game Design Reviews we describe some games we played and point out various interesting details. Unfortunately, we found out that we also need some place to collect quick and dirty ideas that pop into our minds. Hence, welcome to Game Design Scrapbook. You will encounter wild, random rantings. Many of then incoherent. Some of them maybe even in German. If you don't like it, you might enjoy Game Design Reviews more.


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