Friday, March 20, 2015

Leviathan: a short from Ruairi Robinson on hunting for flying alien behemoths

Concept art for Leviathan by Jim Murray (based on creature by Jordu Schell)  

I came across a Kotaku post today that introduced me to a short film just released by Ruairi Robinson (known for his sci-fi short films, but also for directing The Last Days on Mars). The film, called "The Leviathan" is a teaser/pitch from Robinson for an idea about humans hunting large alien creatures which fly through the atmosphere of some alien world.

The film begins with the lines: "By the early 22nd century mankind had colonized many worlds. Faster than light travel was made possible by harvesting exotic matter from the eggs of the largest species mankind has ever seen. Those that take part in the hunt are mostly involuntary labor." Okay, that sounds intriguing enough. The film is just under 4 minutes in length. Give it a watch and see what you think:

Pretty cool, huh? Definitely looks like it could become a pretty sweet film, yet there are definitely some aspects of the film that I would have done differently. 

For instance, it doesn't make any sense to have a guy standing on the deck of that airship. It kind of reminded me of the scene from Deadspace 2 where Isaac Clark and Ellie have to use a mining drill to carve their way through the rock to the government sector of Titan Station. In that scene, Isaac has to stand on the deck of the drill to kill off necromorphs that are trying to board. It was a fun way to setup the game, but it doesn't really make all that much sense for a film. 

I have read some comments that the airships shouldn't have just one guy with a harpoon gun on the front. Even though the airships in the film beg the question of why not just try building bigger ships with better firepower, it's kind of fun to have one little harpoon gun on the end of a ship that may or may not be destroyed by the large creatures. I think that kind of makes it fun.

I had to wonder why they didn't give the Leviathan larger wings/fins. Since it appears to float well in that atmosphere we can make the logical conclusions that the atmosphere is probably very dense (could even be a gas giant world) and that the leviathan itself is probably not very dense (it's far easier to float when you're full of gas). Still, it seems like such a large creature would have larger fins (but maybe I'm thinking too Earth-centrically about it). For that matter, we're left wondering why they're going after the Leviathan when it's the creature's eggs that are the valuable resource. Perhaps the creatures store the eggs internally until they are ready to be born into the atmosphere or perhaps the creature guards the eggs and the humans choose to hunt the Leviathan first: there are a lot of ways to take such a story.

There are always plenty of things that some of us would do differently in making a film a writing a story, but Robinson's Leviathan looks like it could be a promising story of future resource exploration while harkening back to a time where we ventured on the seas to hunt some of the most beautiful creatures that had ever come to be on our planet (which obliterated many whale populations; driving many close to extinction). Whaling in space... for space whales. Interesting idea.

Jack Reickel's Space Whale
Space Whales

Space Whales are a trope that have been used and reused many times, and, although Robinson's Leviathan isn't exactly a space whale (it appears to live in an atmosphere), many people are making the connection between previous space whale stories and Robinson's teaser. For instance, in the episode Möbius Dick of the cartoon show Futurama, the crew of Planet Express take on a 4-dimensional space whale that looks very similar to Robinson's Leviathan (see the image below). There have been space whales like the Star Whale in Dr. Who, the Acanti in the Uncanny X-Men, and the Whaladons from the Star Wars universe. The idea of large, whale-like creatures has been around for decades in science fiction. Will we ever discover creatures like the Leviathan living on other worlds? I sure hope so.

The White Space Whale in Futurama

Update (24 March 2015):

I just came across an article in Popular Mechanics announcing that Simon Kinberg and Neil Blomkamp have decided to support The Leviathan and help bring this idea to feature-length. Here's a little more about this announcement from The Verge.

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