K-Pax: Is He Or Isn't He?

I just saw K-Pax and even though I watched the whole movie including the ending, I still have no idea whether Prot was an alien or not. Anyone have any ideas?


This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to movies. K-PAX is set up so that the ending is intentionally ambiguous. The filmmakers have set up the plot so that both possibilities are supposed to be equally likely. There is a hole in the “he is” side, though. Does the travel by light beam move the whole body? It seems to move Prot physically to the northern countries for three days, but it leaves Robert Porter behind when Prot leaves with the mute woman.

For my money, “Prot” (which is a partial anagram of Porter) is a psychological defense mechanism created by the traumatised Robert Porter. There are some small inconsistencies in Prot’s story and in how the travel by light beam works. So I think the evidence is on the “he’s not” side, but I also think the filmmakers wanted to have it both ways.


If you haven’t seen this movie yet, read no further and go see it! I loved it.

Mods: maybe change the title of this thread to include “major spoilers” or some such warning? Perhaps this could even be a convention for this particular board?


OK, you asked for it :slight_smile:

I had several theories while watching this movie. I agree with the previous post that the ending is left deliberately ambiguous. I applaud the producer for that; he/she resisted the Hollywood temptation to have a neatly packaged, black-and-white ending. It was daring to have the movie end that way. (Or perhaps they’re just looking to produce a sequel? :slight_smile: )

While watching the movie, I was convinced that we would find out (don’t laugh) that Prot was an ex-DJ from a radio station called KPAX; something traumatic had happened, rendering him psychotic with a fake “past” created around what happened to him at KPAX. (Maybe because I saw Spacey recently in “The Usual Suspects” - think about it)

OK, that wasn’t it.

Then I thought that it would turn out that the psychiatrist played by Jeff Bridges (sorry, can’t remember the character’s name) was himself going crazy, and that there was no Prot (anyone who saw a certain other big movie in the last couple of years - don’t want to spoil THAT one - will know what I mean - and it’s not “The Usual Suspects”). What Jeff saw as the effect of Prot and the reactions of other people and cow orkers were in fact the reactions to and results of his own growing madness. (This explanation is still possible even given the way the movie ended, though you have to stretch credibility more and more to make it fit).

Another possibility that occurred to me (I like this one, it’s kinda neat): Prot is really an alien from K-PAX.
Jeff Bridges is actually Prot’s friend “Pete” from many years back. It was mentioned that each time “Pete” is in trouble, Prot “somehow knows” and comes to Earth. Jeff’s character is currently having big domestic troubles with his wife and son, so as usual Prot comes to Earth to help him. Jeff’s character has forgotten all about Prot, his “guardian angel”.

One last possibility: “Prot” is an alien that inhabited Portman’s body, “possessed” him if you will. The movie pretty much makes sense with that premise.

Problems with Prot being an Alien:

  • why would an alien, with presumably a very different physiology to us, be so readily hypnotised like a human being?
  • why would there be a simple English translation of the name of a planet as yet undiscovered? (“K-PAX”) Bit of a nitpick, but still…
  • his story about reproduction on K-PAX being “unbearably painful” doesn’t seem right. How could any species survive if reproduction were not very pleasurable, for at least ONE of the participants? :wink:

Problems with Prot being “just another delusional”:

  • the whole disappearing thing, of both “Prot’s” personality and the mute African American lady - how could he have pulled that off?
  • the fact that he knew the orbits of planets and could redraw them from memory, to the amazement of one of the few astrophysicists who could have known that (OK, he might be an ‘idiot savant’, but even so…)
  • his ability to converse with the dog and find out facts about the psychiatrist’s family that, a priori, he had no way of knowing.

My verdict? He is what he says he is.

OK, I’ll stop now.

The title of this thread really did kind of spoil the movie it would seem. I had no true desire to see the film at the theater so I don’t feel to bad, but it was obvious from the title that the OP-er saw the film and it was ambiguous (not that I didn’t guess the film would end so true to formula.

Obviously there’s going to be spoilers (boogity boogity) here too.
It is obvious that they meant for this question to have no answer. No matter what you think he was there’s something to shoot a hole in it.

The things that the whole second half of the movie never mentioned -that this guy had the ability to see ultraviolet, or that he had astronomical information you couldn’t get just by looking out your bedroom telescope. Or that he talked to dogs -fly in the face of a theory that he was a normal man.

He couldn’t be an alien (who’s life force is trapped in the form of Porter) because, well, that would mean the alien had hidden memories about being human for whatever reason. It would also mean that he by some accident went catatonic in the end.

He couldn’t be an alien force using Robert Porter’s body as a vessel, because 1) I don’t think that could account for his UV vision, 2) it shouldn’t mean he is unaffected in any way by drugs. 3) Another thing is that the body was found under the bed, when his last seen position was standing, looking out the window (maybe he put himself there before his force left, but that doesn’t sound like something he’d do).

-I don’t think there’s a conflict because the girl’s body was never found, because she needed that body on K-Pax, whereas Prot wouldn’t need Porter.

My theory…

<spoilers, spoilers, rah, rah rah>

Let me start off by saying that I’d be ready to accept the “Prot is a defense mechanism” school of thought if not for the line (paraphrased) “Now that you found Robert Porter, take good care of him” that Prot spoke after being shown the yearbook.

My theory is that the FTL travel of his includes being transformed into energy, or something of the sort, and that “possessing” a recently dead/comatose human body is the easiest to get around earth (you know, the whole soap bubble thing).

As for the hypnotism issue, I thought that Prot was acting hypnotized so the doctor would be able to find out about Porter’s past and possibly help him.

And I had other points, but I’m tired, and most of 'em were hit on already, so I’ll stop now.

Regardless of whether the Spacey character is a real alien or just a nut… am I the ONLY one who’s getting a little bored with the cliched Hollywood notion that psychopaths are cute, and more in touch with their feelings than the rest of us, and that we could all learn so much, just by listening to babbling lunatics, and trying to be more like them?

I suspect most of us HAVE encountered real-life psychotics now and then… and in my experience, they’re far more likely to mutter incoherently to themselves or to curse at you than they are to offer pithy, cheery, New Age slogans.

No Astorian, you’re not. I was having Patch Adams flashbacks the whole flippin’ time. I would’ve vastly preferred to have been having Girl, Interrupted flashbacks, but the nubile, young female factor was decidedly low for K-Pax. sigh

That whole ambiguous ending thing’s starting to get to me. (I have a feeling I’m alone in this.) I do like being able to think about my interpretation of a movie, but it’s a little unfulfilling to not be absolutely sure what a movie was about. I don’t always mind a prepackaged story.

Also, movies like this tend to spawn debates that can never be settled, and that’s a little frustrating as well.

Anyway. My theory:

Prot is from the planet K-PAX.

Porter finds his wife and daughter dead and the drifter who murdered them. After he kills the drifter, he wanders over to the river in despair. Near-drowning happens. Just about at that moment, Prot arrives on the scene, and takes over Porter’s body.

Had Prot not taken over, Porter would have washed up downriver somewhere and been in a vegetative state.

So Prot takes over Porter’s body. He retains a little of his alien physiology (enabling him to still see UV light and communicate with dogs and all that) but also has some of Porter’s memories (hence his reaction to the water sprinkler) and human physiology (hence his capacity to be hypnotized).

Prot’s done this possession thing every time he’s visited Earth, and every other planet he’s been to. Or maybe on other planets, he can exist in his K-PAXian form. Maybe on other planets, visitors from other planets are no big deal.

Inside Porter, Prot allows pieces of Porter’s past to come to light. He does this to feed Dr. Whatshisface clues to Porter’s past, so that the Doc will be able to help Porter (or at the very least, understand him and take care of him) in the end.

When he returns to K-PAX at the end, Prot no longer needs to inhabit Porter’s body, so he leaves it there under the bed. This explains Prot’s remark to Dr. Whatshisface (so sue me; Bridges is kinda forgettable) to take care of Porter “now that he’s found him”. So in the end, Porter becomes Porter again, except he’s in a vegetative state as a result of his near-drowning/trauma of discovering his family dead.

Bess (if that was her name) didn’t leave her body behind when she went to K-PAX because she was not K-PAXian. She’d need a body there.

The phonemes in the word “K-PAX” (which could be an acronym for something) aren’t inherently English-- they’re just phonemes that happen to be in the English language.

I think this was one of those “thrown in just for the hell of it” things, which, IMO, the movie could’ve done without. It was an amusing alien quirk, sure, but it was unnecessary.

You’re not the only one. In movies, people that are mentally retarded also tend to have a sort of inate knowledge and amazing insights into the human condition. Now, I work with mentally retarded people (and have for over four years). I have learned many many things from working with my clients and most of them are a helluva lot more intelligent than the average person would give them credit for. But I have never attained any special knowledge or insight from any one of them. When they do that in movies, they just make a mockery of the people I work with. (IMHO, of course. I’ll step off the soapbox now).

BTW, to get back on topic, I believe that Prot was an alien who took over Porter’s body. Many of the reasons have been stated here already. We saw the film with some friends last night and afterwards we discussed the ending. My friend stated that Prot was NOT an alien because it’s “impossible” since aliens don’t exist. I said, “But it’s impossible for humans to see ultraviolet light.” He said, “Nothing’s impossible.” I said, “Ah, in that case, it’s POSSIBLE that he COULD be an alien.”

Wow…apparently many of the “Prot” questions are answered in the books (yes, books, apparently there’s a “K-PAX 2” also).

I learned this from the discussion forum to which there’s a link from the K-PAX website

Here is one such discussion that deals with these questions - saves you the time of reading the books :wink: (actually I fully intend to read them)

OK, for anyone who wants to know the truth about Prot…

Here is information about the second book in the trilogy…check out the editorial reviews and user comments. Pretty much settles it (MAJOR spoilers there of course).

I was not impressed with this movie at all. I saw it in a free screening last Tuesday and was rather disappointed. Everything seemed to be going okay, until the whole “Robert Porter” issue. The movie seemed to derail there, as the story took on a whole new tangent. Post-viewing, whenever I saw the trailers, I thought “You bastards, that’s not the tone of the movie!” Thank God I didn’t pay for it.

As for the ending, it seemed like a cop-out. They made it purposely ambiguous, so people could believe whatever they wanted. It’s almost like a “have your cake and eat it, too” scenario–the filmmakers didn’t have to bother to write a single coherent ending.

I read the above links and did NOT find any definitive help.
My question: how and why does he show up in Grand Central Station in the first place? and what has he been doing for FIVE years!!!
also- is it just me, or did that yearbook photo look nothing like Prot???

I have to add- i didn’t really like the movie. I agree w/ the whole “crazy people sure are funny and interesting!” thing.

From the Amazon editorial review linked to above:

On a Beam of Light reports on sessions 17 through 32, in which Brewer treats Robert, who hosts prot–and Harry and Paul, too.

[emphasis mine]

So…what do you think Prot is ?!

Just saw the movie, and I couldn’t help but think that this is the same damn movie as “Don Juan de Marco” (Marlon Brando, Johnny Depp).

“Thank God”, indeed. It’s exactly this obsession with money that made us K-Paxians get rid of currency.

Just saw it tonight.
To ask further about questions E Bailey brought up:
If prot (lower case) has been on Earth for 5 years, why make such a big deal about his arrival at the station at the begining of the film?
If prot hasn’t been on Earth that long (on this trip) and did just arrive at the begining of the film (as the writing suggests), was Porter just catatonically hanging around the station waiting for prot to show up?

At first I thought Prot must’ve just caught a direct light beam from K-PAX. But then again, that doesn’t have to be the case-- he could have been salmon fishing in Washington a few moments before. He could have been just down the block. Maybe light travel, no matter how far you actually go, is always a bright and flashy affair.

(If nothing else, the station scene adheres to Hollywood’s insistence that all aliens’ and time-travellers’ arrivals have to involve a) blinding light, b) electricity, or c) both. )

On a related note to what Enderw24 wrote, there’s the question of where Porter was before Prot arrived. Even if Prot was 5 years into his current visit and had been living in Porter’s body the entire time, there’s still the 5 prior years of Porter’s life that need to be accounted for. IIRC, Porter’s tragic backstory took place 10 years earlier, in 1991. So where was he (Porter) all that time?

The answer’s in the books, isn’t it? :slight_smile:

I agree with your opinion that he could have been anywhere. Personally, I think he was hanging out at MiB headquarters.

As for the 10 year thing, are you sure about this? I thought Doc decided that The Horrible Incident took place exactly five years before Prot’s departure date. 'Course Doc didn’t really seem all that bright, so that really might not mean anything.