Movies

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

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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

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  1. Radley Balko linked a story on his web page that says “Minnesota legislators are apparently considering a law that would make it criminal for people on public assistance to carry cash.” That is false and there is nothing in the bill that says that. If you guys are going to be taken seriosly you need to be more careful. Balko plays to the anarchy crowd that account for about 60% of his comments. Not going to make it too far with reasonable folks.

    1. I agree, you should join me at the adults’ table. Do you like golden showers from Dear Leader?

    2. I think you must have accidentally missed the first part of that sentence there, Patty:

      Not sure about the source here, but Minnesota legislators are apparently considering a law that would make it criminal for people on public assistance to carry cash.

      1. Not sure about the source here

        Why not be sure before you post?

        1. Yes, why post if you’re not sure of the source? I’m from Minneapolis and I could have told you the source was shit before reading it. But! even if you read the article from the shit source in question it becomes clear that nobody is saying anything about regulating the cash in your pocket. Why post a shit story with a shit headline? Because he has an agenda, and when you have an agenda facts and the truth take a back seat.

          1. Let me also say that Balko has a post on his page about James O’Keefe not allowing cameras into an event. Well since I saw this on theagitator.com, and I was “not sure about the source”, I checked it out on a more honest site and found out that O’Keefe is being sued by a bunch of state workers and ACORN types because he taped them without them knowing. O’Keefe is also challenging the constitutionality of a law in Calif. that makes it a crime to tape people. Radley Balko goes on and on about how it should be OK to do just the sort of thing that O’Keefe is being sued for. But since O’Keefe is coming from the right, and since he is blowing all the supposedly real journalists away because he is doing the job they won’t or can’t Radley Balko writes hit pieces on O’Keefe. Mr. Balko loves liberal bloggers, he links to them all the time.

    3. If he was going to “play to the anarchy crowd”, he would have linked a false story about Minnesota ending public assistance.

  2. I’ve always found the way in which alien behavior is portrayed to be very interesting from a psychological point of view. The common portrayal of aliens as invaders strikes me as more a reflection of the human psyche – fear of the other and projection of human aggression – than a serious speculation on what aliens might be like.

    1. Yep, most aliens in these type of movies act pretty much like the European powers colonizing the New World. I like a scifi story where the aliens are truly alien, like a being that is a hyperintelligent shade of the color blue.

      1. Colloidal silver…DRINK!

  3. In the years after World War II, Cold War paranoia drove Hollywood’s first wave of alien invasions. Films like the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “It Came From Outer Space” depicted aliens taking over not by military might, but by converting fellow humans into zombified others.

    Clich? much?

  4. In 1996, “Independence Day” kicked off the modern era of invasion blockbusters. It’s a memorable but essentially shallow film with a hastily grafted on environmental message.

    ID4 had an environmental message? I thought its purpose was to ready the world for lackluster United States presidents to come by showing what a Pullman Administration would look like.

    1. As much as I hate Roland Emmerich, I saw ID4 at the Ziegfeld Theater on 54th St at midnight on July 4th with 1000 other drunk people. We were screaming at the screen and being otherwise totally retarded, and it was actually a really fun time.

      I still hate Roland Emmerich, though.

      1. We were screaming at the screen and being otherwise totally retarded

        Sounds like a typical day at H&R.

  5. Not sure about the source here, but Radley Balko is apparently fucking a sheep.

    1. “First they demanded the positive right of state-sanctioned gay marriage”

  6. Hey Loder, take a lesson.

  7. Any thoughts on Bill’s speech during the decertification hearings for Juniper Creek? It’s almost like Bill reads Reason.

  8. What is really silly is that if an alien species has interstellar capabilities, they basically have solved the problem of scarcity and so will not be coming here for resources.

    The vast amounts of energy needed to fly through space pretty much assure that they have better things to worry about than natural resources.

    1. Exactly. The best sci-fi aliens are the ones who’s motives are actually clever or less mundane, like the perfectionist Borg from Star Trek or even the aliens that blew up the Earth to make way for an intersteller highway in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

      Even Kubrick, who never showed them, made aliens with more personality in 2001 then the cretins who wrote that piece of shit called Battle LA.

      1. “even the aliens that blew up the Earth to make way for an intersteller highway in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”

        That would be the Vogons, the makers of the 3rd worst poetry in the Universe.

    2. Plus, if they have interstellar capabilities, first contact would likely be some lone explorer or trader, who would then proceed to do the alien equivalent of buying Manhattan Island for some shiny beads and whatnot.

      Or just stealing stuff and taking off before anyone figured out how they did it.

    3. Well, they were mostly looking at the Earth as a possible tax haven. But…

    4. One word:
      anus

      OK, a few adjectives – our tight, pink, crinkley orifices. Never underestimate the time, energy, and money a horny alien looking to dip his probe into a midwestern cornhole will will go through.

  9. I’m surprised you didn’t mention District 9.

    1. Yeah… uh, I was going to say exactly the same thing. I thought that movie was a really funny explosion of the genre on one level…also possibly a commentary on state-behavior with minorities (being south african, it sorta has an obvious parallel with apartheid)… I just loved how they didn’t try to pretend to any real sympathy with the ‘prawns’, like ET or other ‘immigrant’ aliens – they made them sorta despicable and degraded. It changed the dynamic of aliens being superior and inscrutable, to very animalistic, mundane, pretty much human. I think that movie was more about people than it was about aliens vis a vis people. How we treat other people, basically.

      I think the sci fi & action ending bits were acceptable at least for entertainment value, although i think people could argue the clumsy plot endings were a little too stereotyped for something that seemed to be pretending to social commentary. I thought the idea of the film was fairly clever and original. Win all around. I think in any article like this the film certainly deserves mention as an exception from the rule as described.

      1. @#*$@# squirrels?

        Or maybe i’ve just got a twitchy ‘post’ finger.

    2. Yeah… uh, I was going to say exactly the same thing. I thought that movie was a really funny explosion of the genre on one level…also possibly a commentary on state-behavior with minorities (being south african, it sorta has an obvious parallel with apartheid)… I just loved how they didn’t try to pretend to any real sympathy with the ‘prawns’, like ET or other ‘immigrant’ aliens – they made them sorta despicable and degraded. It changed the dynamic of aliens being superior and inscrutable, to very animalistic, mundane, pretty much human. I think that movie was more about people than it was about aliens vis a vis people. How we treat other people, basically.

      I think the sci fi & action ending bits were acceptable at least for entertainment value, although i think people could argue the clumsy plot endings were a little too stereotyped for something that seemed to be pretending to social commentary. I thought the idea of the film was fairly clever and original. Win all around. I think in any article like this the film certainly deserves mention as an exception from the rule as described.

    3. I think the sci fi & action ending bits were acceptable at least for entertainment value, although i think people could argue the clumsy plot endings were a little too stereotyped for something that seemed to be pretending to social commentary. I thought the idea of the film was fairly clever and original. Win all around. I think in any article like this the film certainly deserves mention as an exception from the rule as described.

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  11. Any movie showing aliens battling humans in a “conventional” type war is just retarded. If they wanted this planet all they have to do is lob a few asteroids down on us.

    1. all they have to do is lob a few asteroids

      “They” would have to have very large hands.

    2. Hey! Copycat!

  12. The Moties are rather alien aliens.

    1. Excellent. There’s more to life than Hollywood alien depictions.

  13. The Forge of God is still worth a read. The book is a good example of the utter futility of trying to decipher and stop aliens capable of star travel.

  14. Klatu was a statist

  15. “What does one do with the body of a half-dead alien invader?”

    Duh! You eat it!

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