Explainers

Netflix’s Rim of the World, Explained

May 24, 2019
14 min read

After releasing a series of great films and TV shows for its adult audience, Netflix has provided a treat for the younger audience. ‘Rim of the World’ is a sci-fi movie that focuses on four teens trying to survive an alien invasion. If you love ‘Stranger Things’, then this movie is a perfect weekend watch for you. The tone, the chemistry of its lead characters and the movie references that just keep coming, the movie is practically a sibling to the TV series. It is also reminiscent of alien classics like ‘Aliens’ and ‘Independence Day’. One of the scenes gives serious ‘Jurassic Park’ vibes. So, if you want to make a game out of picking up all these references, you are going to have a lot of fun. If you haven’t yet seen it, watch it on Netflix before continuing further.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Summary of the Plot

Alex is a know-it-all who spends his days with his books and computer. His mother wants him to go out and do some outdoor activities, so she signs him up for “Rim of the World Adventure Camp”. Zhen Zhen travels all the way from China to attend this camp. We would like to know why she bothered, but she doesn’t talk much. We do know that she is not the one you would want to mess with. Dariush has rich parents, but there is some other reason behind them sending him to the camp. Once there, they are joined by Gabriel, who appears out of nowhere, and five minutes later, an alien invasion begins. A brief meeting with a scientist leaves the fate of the world in the hands of these children.

The Anatomy of the Aliens

Taking a few pointers from popular sci-fi films, ‘Rim of the World’ creates an alien species of its own. For all we know, they have come from a galaxy far, far away, and despite looking like Demogorgon from ‘Stranger Things’, these aliens are highly advanced and pretty much indestructible. As Alex put it, “they are like Wolverine”. The first scene of the film introduces us to a catastrophe at the International Space Station. The aliens attack it and kill everyone on the ship. I am guessing the first casualty was the astronaut who went out for a spacewalk and ended up with a hole in his head. But how exactly did they manage to make their way to the Earth from the god-knows-what end of the universe?

For a moment, it seems like the ‘Alien’ scenario. Scientists ventured into deep space and brought a new species home. However, as it appears, humans haven’t become so advanced yet. There are no flying cars and rich people don’t have robots as their maids. This means humans didn’t find this species. It found us. This is further asserted by the presence of another spacecraft in the sky. Alex is able to identify the jets and missiles made by humans, but there is one thing in the sky that he hasn’t “seen anything like it before”. This spacecraft looks a lot more sophisticated and more technologically advanced than the ones humans are using against it. Hence, these aliens are superior in that respect.

Why Are Aliens on the Earth?

Gabriel answered this for us. “It’s ‘Independence Day’.” Why does any superior species attack its inferior? To subdue it, to rule it, or to destroy it. The aliens seem hellbent on destroying everything they see and since they are not taking any prisoners, we are clear about the killing part as well. “It is a textbook alien invasion”. They knew what they were doing. The first thing that you want to cut off your enemies from is the rest of the world. If no one can help anyone, how will they save themselves?

The aliens knew that humans used satellites to communicate with each other. They also knew that cars and every other electronic device would be an asset to them. So, they did the one thing that would not only stop the communication between humans but will also render them helpless because they won’t have the technology to save themselves. They brought about a nuclear explosion in the upper atmosphere. This destroyed the satellites which resulted in the EMP, the electromagnetic pulse, around a very large area, due to which every electronic device stopped working. If this is not the start of a perfect plan, I don’t know what is!

How to Kill the Aliens?

The where and the why aren’t the questions you ask when you see a monster running towards you. What becomes the most important question at such a moment is how do you kill this thing. The teenagers try out a number of ways from their first encounter with the aliens to the last, and after repeated attempts, it becomes clear that they can only win this war by “fire and blood”! As mentioned before, these aliens are indestructible. What makes them so is their ability to heal, in a manner which is eerily similar to Wolverine’s, hence the reference. When the four of them are caught by the monster and it inserts something in Dariush’s mouth, a fighter plane shoots down the thing. The children believe it is dead, and so do we. But a couple of scenes later, the bullets just fall out of its body and it goes back to being normal.

While chasing the children, it is hit by a car and crushed under it, they drown it, and whatnot. But nothing else seems to affect it. It makes its way on the Earth by latching itself to the space capsule, which is intensely heated during the process of re-entry into the atmosphere. The friction between the capsule and the air is so great that no living cell can survive it. The capsules are designed so as to withstand this energy. The creature was literally melted by that energy, but it wasn’t really destroyed. It would have taken a few more minutes of friction with the atmosphere to completely evaporate it. Maybe, it would have died then. But unfortunately, it didn’t, and a few minutes after the capsule crash-landed near the adventure camp, the regeneration of the creature’s cells kicked in and it put itself back from its melted form. (The next time you are asked about liquid to solid conversion, you know what to answer!)

Fire, and in extreme amounts, is what is needed to kill this thing. When Gabriel and Dariush hide in the space capsule while Zhen Zhen and Alex are chased by a smaller monster, Dariush pushes some button by mistake which releases a whoosh of fire, which I am guessing is the fuel. If you remember, in his first scene, Alex tells his mother about the fuel that NASA uses in its rockets and spacecraft and how powerful it is. The energy is more than produced by the normal fires and kills the little monster. Similarly, in the end, the bigger monster is killed by an insane energy flow that burns it to a crisp.

Speaking of the little monster, can we take a moment to talk about that instant reproduction scene! Just as we thought we had learnt a lot about the anatomy of the alien, it does something that I don’t think has happened before in an alien movie. In a jaw-dropping scene, the alien pushes out a smaller, yet no less deadly, version of itself from its back, or spine or whatever, and sets it loose on the children. The baby monster is just born ready to kill. It doesn’t take time to adjust to the surroundings. It doesn’t take time to learn to walk and doesn’t even need the bigger monster to perform something so as to understand what its task is. It just comes out and starts killing. And you thought you were a quick learner!

What did the alien do to Dariush?

The million dollar question is what exactly did the alien do to Dariush? Was it really thinking along the lines of laying eggs or something inside the human and produce more progeny? But then, wasn’t there a quicker way for it to do so? What exactly was the purpose of that thing? The children thought that either the alien was kissing Dariush, or something worse happened there! Do we have a perverted alien here?! I think that it had something to do with taking control of Dariush. Maybe, the alien was using its organ to find a way inside Dariush’s brain without actually killing him. Perhaps, it wanted to control his mind. Or maybe, it just wanted to eat his brains. We don’t really know what their appetite includes!

One more thing that we get know about the aliens is the way they perceive things around them. Now, this wasn’t anything new. If you are a fan of alien movies, then you must know that in almost every film, they have the ability to read the temperature of their surroundings and figure out the location of their prey. Alternatively, it could also involve something with the use of infrared. We also get to know that these aliens respond quickly to sound, however, I wouldn’t say that they have an acute sense of hearing. While they are in close vicinity, the children talk a lot. If the aliens were able to hear in the spectrum beyond the human ability, they would have been better at their job. But then, nothing is perfect. In return for so many strong points, a weakness is mandatory.

The Ending, Explained

How do you win a war against an enemy so powerful, a creature that is virtually indestructible? Bullets can’t kill them; regular fire can’t destroy them. Water doesn’t affect them and the foreign atmosphere of the Earth is not poisonous to them. Moreover, they are better at killing. And what’s worse is that they can produce hundreds of their own while you are busy reloading your guns! Killing one of them is a hassle of a lifetime. How do you kill them all?

The answer is simple, as obvious as it has always been in sci-fi movies- destroy the mothership. I don’t know how humans have only encountered the aliens who have their lifeline with a direct link with their vehicle, but the filmmakers are convinced that it is so! It’s like a serial circuit, if one dies, all die. (So glad to be a human right, to every man his own!)

Anyway, this is the plan of the government. Find a way to destroy the mothership, you can save the entire Earth. The scientist who crash-lands near the camp has a key that she instructs the children to take to JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). She tells them to give it to a scientist who can stop the whole thing with it.

At first, the children plan to find a way to some responsible adult whom they can trust with the key. They hope they won’t have to travel all the way to Pasadena for that. When the soldiers find them outside the sheriff’s station in the town, for a minute, it feels like they have accomplished the task. Turns out, the scientist in JPL had been sending instructions in Morse Code, asking the armed forces to locate the other scientist and extract the key from her. With the key in the right hands, the children board the evacuation bus. But, before they can make it out of there, the aliens attack them and the soldiers die in the struggle. This means that the children are back to square one. Turns out, they will have to travel across the state and will have to save the world by themselves. The adults have proven to be very incompetent when it comes to surviving the alien attack.

After playing hide and seek with the aliens, having a sleepover at an abandoned house, crossing path with a bunch of hillbillies who are clearly “in the wrong genre”, and surviving another attack from the same alien, the children finally find themselves at JPL. However, just as everything else, this place has also fallen victim to the alien invasion. What’s worse is that the scientist who was supposed to save the world is dead as well.

What use is the key now if no one can operate it? To the surprise of the kids, an army general’s face appears on the screen, whom they tell about the key. Even when he is glad to hear about it, he seems to have lost hope and tells the children to leave the facility because it isn’t safe for them there. Alex refuses to let things be and demands the general to tell them how to use it. The general realises that he had underestimated these children and lets them in on the elaborate process of gaining access to the system, called Excalibur, that was designed by the Americans to shoot down Russian missiles. There is a lot that needs to be done and so, they have to divide the tasks and exhibit perfect co-ordination to make it work. With their tasks decided, everyone finds themselves facing their worst fears. They realise that they can only win by confronting their weaknesses. Except for Zhen Zhen, of course. Dariush was right, “the aliens don’t stand a chance against her”.

Someone needs to align the satellite dish on the right angle and Alex decides to be the one to do that. If there is one time to let go of the fear of heights, it is this. Even when Gabriel volunteers, Alex tells him to stay. While Alex goes about conquering his fears, Gabriel faces a difficult choice as well. In a previous occasion, we see him struggling with numbers.

At first, I thought he had trouble reading, or didn’t know how to count numbers. In my defence, he did appear out of nowhere in the middle of the woods. I thought he lived in the forest! But that turned out to be wrong. He actually lived in the town and had been sent to juvie because of an altercation with a customer. He ran away from that place and before he could decide what to do with himself, the world was invaded by aliens. The reason for the fight between him and the customer was that Gabriel had trouble with numbers. He had a problem where he would mix it up and would get the calculation wrong.

After Zhen Zhen and Alex are gone, Gabriel is left with a wounded Dariush who is close to falling unconscious. The general asks him to punch some numbers to activate Excalibur. This is where things get complicated for him. However, with Dariush’s help, he is able to find a solution to his problem and succeeds in completing the step. Zhen Zhen returns, Alex aligns the satellite after fighting off the alien and the mothership is destroyed. The world gets a happy ending.

‘Rim of the World’ is nowhere near the classics that are so often referenced in its dialogues. It is a fun film that is perfect for young viewers who enjoy the sci-fi and monster genre. It is adventurous, funny, educational (at times) and, above all, puts some good characters in the front, the characters that can be used to teach some lessons to children. You can be a genius like Alex, fearless like Zhen Zhen. You should learn not to be materialistic like Dariush and should try not to find your way to juvie like Gabriel. You can always turn your life around for the better and emerge heroes in the end.

Read More in Explainers: Prometheus | AnnihilationEdge of Tomorrow

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