The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed artists down some interesting avenues.
Audiences have been given movies that literally face the global lockdown within the reality of their story. But, not many of these titles persevere and are seen as using the pandemic as a cheap narrative mechanic (terrible movies like Songbird, The Bubble, and Book Club 2: The Next Chapter to name a few). Then, we have more reflective examples. Bo Burnham: Inside was an expressionistic concert-doc that featured the titular alternative comic trying to create music and art during the lockdown, only to find himself struggling with his own mental health. Much of the special comes from a helpless place, but viewers who could identify with Burnham’s isolated feelings found the special to be a cathartic outlet.
Scott Bateman’s 5000 Space Aliens comes from the same ballpark as Bo Burnham: Inside in that it’s also a one-man, COVID-era project that strives to find inspiration through limited resources. But because this meticulously-made film is much more experimental and abstract, Bateman lands in a world of mind-bending madcap escapism accompanied by bombastic electronica. The former example of self-reflective, pandemic-era art may be more emotionally accessible, but the latter is an explosive creative epiphany that acts as healthy reassurance for the imagination.
Packaged like stolen evidence, viewers are “exposed” to an exclusive tape owned by the Space Alien Commission (SAC). The tape features 5000 known space aliens that currently occupy Earth but, due to health and safety concerns leading to “serious damage”, each entity can only be shown on screen for one second. We’re warned to watch the video through “anti-alien glasses” and are advised to “dispose of the film by eating it”. It’s an absurd introduction that properly warms up the kaleidoscopic presentation that follows.
5000 seconds translates to, around, 84 minutes. Over the course of this runtime, viewers experience a range of distorted visuals. Bateman, who has collected and manipulated the footage we see, finds all sorts of different ways to present his “aliens”. Using overlaying filters and quick edits, there’s never a moment in 5000 Space Aliens that feels like a copy. The results range from eccentrically funny to ghoulishly creepy to curiously sensual, and that only scrapes the surface. The eclectic music, also created by Bateman, is extremely catchy and some of the best tunes you’ll hear this year. And even though the soundtrack has a wide range that rivals the images, the paring never feels out of sync. The fleeting nature of 5000 Space Aliens also assures the viewer that they’ll watch a new version of this movie every time they experience it – talk about spinning unpredictability on its ear.
As standalone components, the music and visuals work on their own (the soundtrack is available online for free on www.5000spacealiens.com). But together, Scott Bateman creates a supernova of fervent creativity in this pop art masterpiece.
Do You Tweet? Follow These Tweeple:
Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie