Saturday, May 16, 2020

Evolution (2001)

Sometimes, you have to wonder how a movie got made.  I think Evolution is one of those movies that looked good on paper.  It may have even seemed funny at the time.  However, it’s not one of those movies that holds up to repeated viewings.

It starts with a meteor innocently hitting the ground somewhere in Arizona.  In fact, it lands on Wayne Grey’s car.  When college professor Harry Block hears about it, he heads out, taking fellow professor Ira Kane with him.  At first, it’s innocent enough.  A purple goo oozes out of it, but wouldn’t seem to be anything significant.  Life forms evolve from the goo. Within a few days, multicellular organisms appear.  Within weeks, there’s a rainforest. 

And, of course, the military gets involved.  They even bring along the clumsy Dr. Allison Reed from the CDC.  The military takes Harry and Ira’s research and seal off the site.  Eventually, the Army decides to use napalm on the site to prevent the life forms from taking over North America.  Because that’s what the Army does.  When Harry tosses a match on a sample, he realizes that the napalm would be a horrible idea.  The napalm is used, which creates a giant organism that Harry, Ira, Allison and Wayne have to take care of.

The movie isn’t really big on science.  I’m not sure any of the writers even really cared enough to look something up.  The reaction to fire is said to be survival of the fittest, but that’s not how it works.  Survival isn’t a reactionary process.  Throwing a match at a Petri dish won’t force an evolutionary process any more than any other process.

Ira also deduces that selenium might be harmful to the creatures just because of its position on the periodic table relative to arsenic.  That’s bad for several reasons.  First, there are carbon-based life forms that can live on arsenic.  Second, the problems with arsenic tend to be long-term.  Third, why would it be arsenic just because of its position?  That’s an awfully big risk to take, considering that all life on Earth would seem to depend on it.  For that matter, how is life based on nitrogen in the first place?

My biggest problem is that the nitrogen-based life looks like the carbon-based stuff you’d find here.  There’s no reason to this.  Darwinian evolution proposes that life evolves in response to its environment.  Those that are best suited survive.  Those that aren’t suited don’t make it.  There’s no reason to think that the nitrogen-based creatures would evolve into anything that looked familiar.

I tend to see this as a lack of imagination.  Yes, I know that the creatures are there to pose a threat.  There’s no reason to think that they would spread quickly, either.  It’s just another way to put humans at risk.

I think the movie missed a really big opportunity.  As unrealistic as it is that live would evolver so quickly, what would have happened had the life been allowed to evolve at that rate?  Within a month, we had something looking like a primate.  That’s something that took billions of years on Earth.  The meteor gave us life that did it in weeks.  What would that life have looked like in another month?  The real threat would have come from a life form that would have greatly surpassed our own, both physically and mentally.

IMDb page

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