The Box (Potential Spoilers)


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This weekend, I went and saw the recently released movie "The Box" , directed by Richard Kelly and based upon the short story "Button, Button" by Richard Matheson. I can certainly say this movie was nothing like expected from the trailer, in fact I was expecting a fast paced action thriller, instead I wind up with a slower paced, weird, makes-you-think disappointment.

The basic plot of the movie is that a man shows up and offers up a box to Norma and Arthur, our main characters. Should they press the button that is within the box wuthun 24 hours, two things will happen: 1) Someone in the world, whom they don't know, will die. 2) They will receive $1,000,000. The bulk of the movie is then spent dealing with their ramifications of (obviously) pressing the button.

Walking away from the movie, several thoughts occured to me as I pondered what message about morality the movie was intended to present to the viewers, and about what types of philosophical ponderings could be had about points raised in the movie.

1) I wondered if it was drawing a parallel to organized religions, with the end statement that people need to be altruistic, rather than selfish, otherwise this world will be taken from us?

a) There was some sort of "higher being" or "employer" ultimately in control of some sort of end-of-state decision based upon how they interpreted "the data" being collected from this "experiment".

B) They had chosen a messenger to relay their message and to test people.

c) There were "Employees" who seemed more like zombied sheep than free thinking humans, used as pawns in this overall scheme being unfolded. The library scene with rows of these "employees" even reminded me of churchgoers sitting in pews, soaking up every word being told to them.

d) It was mentioned something along the lines of the only way to save humanity was through living altruistically.

Perhaps, due to recent discussion on religion, I had it on the brain, but I couldn' help but draw some parallels here.

2) So after some discussion, Norma presses the button, and the movie cuts to a woman who was shot, a 911 call, and officers arriving to a scene where a woman was shot without a struggle, and a child is padlocked into the bathroom. They recieve a description of a man fleeing the scene with a briefcase.

It's at least obvious to me, that this was probably the couple who had the box before Norma and Arthur, the wife is dead, and the husband nowhere to be found, but the briefcase probably was the $1,000,000 that couple had received.

At the point Norma and Arthur receieve their $1,000,000 they are assured the box would be reprogrammed and the same offer made to someone they do not know. This was obvious foreshadowing that one of them would now be the stranger referred to in the scenario.

At one point late into the movie, Norma and Arthur are given a choice to essentially have Arthur kill Norma, to return their son back to normal (his sight and hearing was somehow damaged while he was in the care of the "Employees" during some strange, unseen ritual), or to all live a life together, but with their son having no sight or hearing. The movie cuts to another couple now pondering the decision to press the button or not. Obviously, our Norma is now "the stranger" that is going to die should the new couple press the button. I submit that's quite a scenario now, both of these couples cannot possibly have free will in choosing their decision as one event is directly linked to the other at this point. Seems like quite the unexplained paradox.

Man cannot possible be given a moral choice to make that has already been predetermined for him by a similar moral decision to be made by someone else. At that point it's no longer a choice, but a literally forced action, and thus, could have no moral consequences. I find it against reason that these "choices" are the core premise of this expirement being done by moving this box from couple to couple, when they can't possible be choices in all situations to begin with, as it seems only those pressing the box at that moment have a choice at all. Now, it could be argued that Norma and Arthur made their choice when they pressed the box in the first place, but it is obious that our messenger intends that they have a choice to make now regarding their son, and who shall live and who shall die.

3) Obviously, there is a message that our choices have consequences we must live with, but the abstract way those consequences were delived was just a bit odd and choppy to me, but then again I've never seen any of the Twilight Zone episodes (which this was once on), and I hear this kind of scenario was commonplace for that show.

I suppose I don't really know where I'm going with this, other than to say the movie was strange, and provokes some philosophical thought about morality, free will, choices and consequences, and at least in my mind, why organized religion seems just as silly as the plotline of this movie. I will admit, I'm not the best writer, and at least with being new to philosophy, I have yet to perfect framing a written philosophical argument as clearly as I would like, but I think there could be some interesting discussion nonetheless from some of the messages within the movie.

Just my .02.

If you've seen the movie, feel free to chime in!


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Welcome to OL:,_Button_%28The_Twilight_Zone%29

I have always liked Matheson. Just a little too much horror and too little "real" science fiction for me.

"Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres, making important contributions to the further development of modern horror. Several of his stories, like "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959) and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954) and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954) and perhaps most famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including "Steel" (mentioned above), and the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", plus "Little Girl Lost", a story about a young girl tumbling into the fourth dimension; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series Lawman between 1958 and 1962. He wrote the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within", considered one of the best.[citation needed] In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers."

You make good points. The beauty, to some degree, about philosophy, is that you can shape the most "unreal" scenarios to cause and create self-reflection as well as intense observation of the real world.

I was doing a good degree of minimalist and tarp camping in the Shenandoah the two years before last year. Now I am in the Northeast and have to look into some spots along the Appalachian Trail.

Do any lake Kayaking out there?


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