Routledge – 2008 – 274 pages
In this significantly expanded new edition of his acclaimed exploration of the four Alien movies, Stephen Mulhall adds several new chapters on Steven Spielberg’s Mission: Impossible trilogy and Minority Report.
The first part of the book discusses the four Alien movies. Mulhall argues that the sexual significance of the aliens themselves, and of Ripley’s resistance to them, takes us deep into the question of what it is to be human. At the heart of the book is a highly original and controversial argument that films themselves can philosophize. Mulhall then applies his interpretative model to another sequence of contemporary Hollywood movies: the Mission: Impossible series.
A brand new chapter is devoted to each of the three films in the series, and to other films by the relevant directors that cast light on their individual contribution to it. In this discussion, the nature of television becomes as central a concern as the nature of cinema; and the shift in generic focus from science fiction to thriller also makes room for a detailed reading of Spielberg’s Minority Report.
On Film, Second Edition is essential reading for anyone interested in philosophy, film theory and cultural studies, and in the way philosophy can enrich our understanding of cinema.
'Stephen Mulhall’s On Film presents an always engaging, often provocative, and occasionally brilliant philosophical investigation of the "Alien" quartet of science-fiction/action/horror films initiated in 1979 with Ridley Scott’s eponymous classic… there is little doubt that Mulhall’s metaphysical contentions will be referenced, quoted, and engaged with by other authors in subsequent work on science fiction cinema.' – Steven Jay Schneider, Aesthetics Online
'As a study showing how this particular film quartet thematizes deep metaphysical and existential eissues the book succeeds in an admirable manner, and makes for a thought-provoking read. It is clear, accessible and engaging, and thus certainly fulfills the aims of the series it appears in' – Simo Saatela, Uppsala University, Philosophy in Review
'The themes he identifies as central – most crucially, a concern with human embodiment and thus, with both human generativity and mortality – are explored convincingly, even brilliantly at times…Despite the amount of closely argued material which is packed into a relatively short book, the clarity and precision of the writing make it something of a page- turner' – Deborah Thomas, European Journal of Communication
'Mulhall's philosophical discussion of each film is highly stimulating. His discussion of the aliens' pure, blind viciousness in the service of their drive for parasitic reproduction, as introduced in Alien, is illuminating. The representation of the impregnated humans as victims of their own flesh and blood, their bodies rendered alien to themselves, shows how the film deftly explores what it is to be human. .. provocative and engaging book which makes for stimulating reading for anyone interested in both film and philosophy.' – Matthew Kieran, Philosophical Books
Preface to the Second Edition Part 1 Introduction 1. Kane’s Son, Cain’s Daughter: Ridley Scott’s Alien 2. Making Babies: James Cameron’s Aliens 3. Mourning Sickness: David Fincher’s Alien3 4. The Monster’s Mother: Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien Resurrection Part 2 5. Film as Philosophy: The Priority of the Particular 6. PreCrime, Precognition and the Pre-Reflective Cogito: Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report Part 3 7. The Impersonation of Personality: Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible 8. The Burden of Sex: John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II 9. An Accelerated Mutator: J.J. Abram’s Mission: Impossible III Films Discussed in the Book Bibliography
Stephen Mulhall is Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at New College, Oxford, and author of Heidegger and Being and Time (Routledge) and The Conversation of Humanity.