Reason Writers Around Town: Peter Suderman on Alien Invasion Movies in The Washington Times


In The Washington Times, Reason Associate Editor Peter Suderman takes a look at alien invasion films past and present: 

What does one do with the body of a half-dead alien invader?

If you're one of the Marines battling a race of insectoid conquerors through the dusty streets of L.A. in "Battle: Los Angeles," you hack it apart with a combat knife — and look for any way to kill it.

By the time the body is found, the Marines have discovered that the creatures are remarkably tough to kill; like horror movie villains, they get shot again and again, but keep rising from the dead. So, with the aid of a conveniently available civilian veterinarian, the troops begin a hasty dissection, searching for the hidden weakness in an indestructible enemy.

As its squishy insides are spilled, the alien groans, but never says a word. The wide-eyed vet wonders at the lack of defined organs or internal structure. "Does it have some sort of cognitive mechanism? Anything?" she asks.

The answer is no — not just for the disemboweled alien, but, sadly, for the movie itself. Unlike the best alien invasion films, "Battle: Los Angeles" doesn't have any real ideas or anything to say. Like its organless invaders, it's basically an empty shell.

For decades, Hollywood has pitted pitiful humans against powerful aliens. From "War of the Worlds" to "E.T." to "Independence Day" to recent entries like "Skyline," "Invasion," and "V," Tinseltown has introduced viewers to a galaxy's worth of otherworldly visitors: Some are friendly, most are not; some are slimy, others are scaly, and some look a lot like us — or at least seem to. But when it comes to the movies themselves, the best of the bunch have always had one thing in common: a decidedly terrestrial message or metaphor through which to understand the little green men.

Read the whole thing here