Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water

Bomb Rating: 

Here are a few of the things more nerdy than dedicating your life to studying the Klingon language:

  • Being mistaken for The Simpsons' Comic Book Guy.
  • A "Magic: The Gathering" marathon.
  • Blogging obsessively about how much you're kicking ass in your fantasy chess league.

Not surprisingly, it's a pretty short list.

However, let's add just one more entry: Making a documentary about people who study the Klingon language. Such is the riveting topic of "Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water."

The film starts with some words from Marc Okrand, who created the Klingon language for "Star Trek III" and seems both delighted and amazed that his linguistic experiment has gotten out of the lab and seized the imagination and ample free time of nerds everywhere. At the annual meeting of the Klingon Language Institute, we meet a cross-section of the language's adherents:

  • A Klingon warrior who outlines how he and his Klingon friends like to go to restaurants and order their meals in Klingon. All I could think about was that poor, poor, hung-over waitress. One just hopes the Klingons didn't tip in darseks.
  • A parent who spoke only in Klingon to his child for years. In what seems to be a nod to Social Services, the movie makes a point of interviewing the kid to demonstrate that he appears to have emerged from his ordeal relatively (and miraculously) unscathed. Until dating age rolls around, that is.
  • A guy who writes his notes at work in Klingon and admires the language's utter abandonment of social graces. His pet peeve: people who say "good morning." His favorite topic: his proficiency at paintball. The next time I have my head on my desk thinking that the social dynamics at my day job can't get any weirder, I'll just think of this guy.
  • Michael Dorn -- known to Trekkies everywhere as "Hey Worf! WORF! Look over here, Worf!" -- talking about Klingon language, Klingon culture and Klingon sex. Dorn, like many other once-respectable actors dropped into the needy, sleeve-grabbing vortex of the Sci Fi fandom circuit, seems a bit a uncertain about the whole phenomenon. He labels the Klingon Language Institute's attempt to translate the works of Shakespeare into Klingon as "misguided," an offhand comment on his part that probably resulted in most of the members of the KLI being on a week-long suicide watch.

You'd think there'd be ample opportunity to mock this curious assemblage, but director Alexandre O. Philippe passes up this opportunity and instead focuses on two things:

1. Linguistics and social dynamics and how studying a "constructed language" like Klingon can provide insights into our own and... zzzzzzz....
2. Lamps. Given that the KLI's interplanetary gala seems to have been held in a motel off the interstate somewhere, Philippe takes the only visual prop available to him -- lamps -- and uses them the frame the film in otherworldly ways. Which helps explain why I spent so much time feeling like I was lost in space.

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