By Alexandra Wells
ArtsPost Staff Writer
When you think of term “alien,” little green men often come to mind, sometimes having scales or even antennae. But in K-PAX (2001), directed by Iain Softley and based on Gene Brewer’s novel, the possible alien is Prot (played by Kevin Spacey). He is physically normal, but hides his oddness inside.
Prot simply shows up in Grand Central Station, one sunny afternoon and is thought to be crazy because he claims he comes from another planet. After being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, he’s taken to a psychiatric ward and assumed to be mentally ill. Dr. Mark Powell (played by Jeff Bridges) meets Prot and decides to try and treat his condition with psychotherapy.
Yet along the way Powell begins to wonder: is Prot really crazy or is he from outer space? However, Powell can’t seem to stump Prot with his questions relating to his home planet and even asks an astrophysicist friend to fact check some astronomy that Prot can’t possibly know. When the doctor feels as if he has no other options, he decides to put Prot into hypnosis and finds out some unfathomable answers.
In this science fiction movie, Powell does find his answers, but near the end of the movie, he says, “he wishes he hadn’t.” Prot stays optimistic and is an inspiration for all of the patients, but mostly for Powell.
Although Prot looks just like a human, he doesn’t seem to know basic things: He eats bananas with the peel still on and talks/barks with a dog. Spacey is the perfect man for this job, and pulls it off by convincingly acting a tad out of the ordinary throughout the entire movie.
The two actor’s performances were so spending throughout the film that no little green men are necessary. In addition, movie watchers each are allowed their own assumptions and views, as a definite answer is not always given.
Prot steps around some major questions, such as light travel, by using metaphors or excuses; this only allows viewers to create their own answers. The conclusion of the movie has multiple surprises and leaves any viewer wishing for a sequel. As he exists, Prot turns to Powell and adds with a sigh, “I shall miss Earth. It has great potential.”
The touching film was nominated for the Saturn and Image awards and brought in more than $50 million in 2001, the year it was released to the public. At least for a few hours after I watched the film, K-PAX altered the way I see the world and how I interact with it.