Evolution (film)

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Have a nice end of the world.

A 2001 sci-fi comedy film directed by Ivan Reitman (of Ghostbusters fame), and released by Columbia Pictures and DreamWorks.

Glen Canyon, Arizona, the present day. Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott), practicing at night in the desert for his upcoming firefighter entrance exam, witnesses the impact of a meteor. The next day, biology teacher Dr. Ira Kane (David Duchovny) and geology teacher Harry Block (Orlando Jones) from Glen Canyon Community College manage to get to the meteor, which is stuck in the ground at the bottom of an underground cave. By taking a sample, they discover a slimy blue fluid coming out of the meteor.

A little later, Ira finds out that myriad single-celled life-forms dwell in the fluid, evolve at an incredible rate, even while he's watching. What first seems like a sure ticket to Sweden for the Nobel Prize soon develops into a nightmare: by evolving and adapting at that unbelievably fast rate, the aliens start spreading out, killing people, and the military -- led by General Woodman (Ted Levine), who's accompanied by epidemiologist Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore) -- comes in. Now it all comes down to what Darwin so rightfully stated: Survival of the fittest...

It gave rise to a short-lived animated series, Alienators Evolution Continues. It was short-lived for good reason.


Tropes used in Evolution (film) include:

Wayne: (trying to suppress a grin) "Well, uh... that's too bad."

Ira: GIMME BACK MY FRIEND, YOU BIG SPHINCTER!
Harry: IT'S HOR-R-R-RIBLE IN HERE!

  • Big No: Played for comedy during the "alien extraction" scene:

Dr. Paulson: Maybe we can catch it in his colon.
Nurse Tate: How are you going in?
Dr. Paulson: (dramatically) Rectally.
Harry: (in a VERY high-pitched squeal) Nooooooo!

Ira: Snag it and put it in the bucket.
Harry:I've seen this movie; the black dude dies first. You snag it!

  • Bloodless Carnage: A lot of people are attacked and mauled by the evolving life-forms, with little mess to show for it. A flying raptor takes several slugs at point-blank range, and there's STILL no gore.
  • Brick Joke: Near the beginning, Nadine mentions that her ambition is to be Miss Arizona. At the end, she can be seen in the background wearing a "Miss Arizona" sash.
  • Call a Smeerp a Rabbit: For some reason, the lead characters refuse to call the obviously dragon/raptor-looking flying aliens that, and instead insist on calling them "birds." Maybe it's a case of Not Using the Z Word, and they're not shown to be capable of breathing fire either.
    • Earlier models of the dragon/raptor actually show it to look a lot more like a featherless oviraptor. Now that would have been weird.
  • Came From the Sky: How the aliens got to earth.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': In one scene, a shoplifter is wearing her stolen clothes under her already-worn ones. As she comes out of the dressing room, she's snatched away by the flying raptor. Once she's rescued, she vows never to shoplift again to a somewhat confused Harry.
    • It's actually fortunate for her she was wearing the layers, as without them, the claws of the bird thing could have badly hurt her.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Harry vs. the alien fly.
  • Creator Provincialism: Parodied (hopefully).
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: Dr. Allison Reed. She trips over sand.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Shortly after the alien life-forms reach a simian stage of evolution, they get napalmed. And are crushed by one cell. These are the fastest and most violent things to come out of the ecosystem, in the short time they're seen before they're crushed.
  • Eureka Moment: Two of these happen; one leads to the discovery that fire makes the beings grow faster, while the other leads to the discovery that selenium kills them.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Played with. In fact, the later stages of the habitat spawn dinosaur-like creatures and apes. But the last creature to appear is a nigh-unkillable (well, except for the occasional enema) amoeba-like creature. This is lampshaded in the movie.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Oddly enough averted, given the type of movie it was. When Ira and Harry go down into the underground alien world, almost none of the creatures try to harm them. There was a carnivorous tree, but really the only one to go after anyone was that big mosquito.
  • Explosive Breeder

Nadine: Um, Professor, the little wiggly worm things in there are breaking.
Ira: It's not breaking, it's splitting. It's mitosis. It's how they reproduce.
Harry: No sex?
Ira: No time for sex.
Nadine: Bummer.

[Dr. Paulson is going to pull the alien bug out through Harry's rectum]
Nurse Tate: I'll get the lubricant...
Dr. Paulson: No time for lubricant!
Harry: There's ALWAYS time for lubricant!

  • Our Dragons Are Different: Alien predators resembling dragons are prominently featured, though the characters prefer to call them "birds." And they reproduce by regurgitating.
  • Product Placement: Head & Shoulder's dandruff-killing formula also happens to kill aliens. This is parodied after the end of the movie, where the actors do a cliched commercial with forced smiles. And Harry holding his bottle backwards.
    • This was Ivan Reitman's son's idea.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits
  • Sarcasm Failure: As the guys watch an alien give birth to a newborn--which is able to thrive in the Earth's atmosphere--all Harry Block can do is shrug and say, "Mazel Tov! It's a boy!"
  • Shout-Out: Take a long look at the head of the dragony thing. It closely resembles the head of the creature from The Giant Claw.
    • Also, one of the bird calls that Wayne tries is "Aww-aww, ee-ee, tukki tukki!" from George of the Jungle.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Somewhat subverted. Harry is well-aware that he's not on the same-level (scientifically) as Ira or Allison, but that doesn't stop him from milking what he does know for all it's worth.
  • Smart Ball: The two guys who failed biology forever by confusing a prison cell with a biological cell? They help save the day.
  • Starfish Aliens: While the latter aliens resemble dragons, apes and giant single-celled monstrosities respectively, the aliens earlier in the animated series look really odd by Earth standards. Sketches of some storyboards show even more strange aliens, including trees with metallic scales (possibly based on Earth's Lepidodendron?).
  • Those Two Guys: Deke and Danny.
  • Troperiffic: The movie borrows tropes from any number of cheesy 1950s sci-fi films.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Shampoo.
  • What Could Have Been: The film was originally pitched as a serious drama to Columbia and DreamWorks; but when Ivan Reitman came on board, he had different ideas.
    • According to some design sketches, the final form of the alien's evolution would've been a much more humanoid form. However, seeing how difficult about how to make this a realistic threat, they decided with the giant cell.
  • X Meets Y: One critic even said the film is "Ghostbusters meets Men in Black."
  • You Don't Want to Die a Virgin, Do You?: A girl holding an "I can't die as a virgin" sign can be seen during the Arizona evacuation party.