Pathetic Earthlings! Who can save you now?
“By the toll of a billion deaths, man had earned his immunity, his right to survive among this planet’s infinite organisms. And that right is ours against all challenges. For neither do men live nor die in vain” – Morgan Freeman.
Ever since H.G. Wells wrote in 1898 that our planet was “being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s yet as mortal as his own,” it is painfully obvious that as long as “intellects vast and cool” persist across the gulf of space, they’ll be looking for a fight!
As the only species on this side of the Oort Cloud which actually instigates warfare on its own kind, we are, quite simply, a laughing stock – and considered fair primitive game for invasion fleets which need to test the latest upgrade of their interstellar weapons technology. Of course, it’s almost always an American metropolis that gets picked on, with Manhattan invariably getting selected again and again… and (ho hum) again…
This should come as no surprise. Supposedly, the standard answer provided is that NY City offers more recognizable landmarks – so, wait, you mean to tell me that the aliens plan their elaborate invasion campaigns using their own Lonely Planet Guide to New York? Aha…
Why should this be? Why do they make the effort? Whenever anyone as adroit (and a little bit crazy) like Dr. Hans Zarkov has the nerve to ask Ming: the Ruler of the Universe: “Why attack us?” abrupt and unexpected comes the stern answer: “Why not?!”
“This is the oddest thing I’ve ever heard of. Let’s hope we don’t catch it. I’d hate to wake up some morning and find out that you weren’t you” – Dr. Miles J. Bennell.
During the 1950s, constant threat of invasion inspired a crop of alien invasion movies. Of course, the outstanding masterpiece of this era is The Day The Earth Stood Still in which intergalactic ambassador Klaatu arrives in Washington DC to warn of imminent alien invasion if mankind fails to halt the increase in its weapons technology.
Possibly the most effective invasion movie is Invasion of The Body Snatchers (1956) which, quite unnervingly, played heavily on the rampant paranoia prevalent at that time (and is it a coincidence that the lead actor just happens to be McCarthy…?)
As a tribute to those invasion films of the 50s, Strange Invaders (1983) showed that stealth and subtlety could be just as decisive as strategically placing giant frisbees over the tallest buildings anyone can name correctly. The “invasion” was so subtle that any traces of this cult movie cannot be found anywhere.
John Carpenter’s 1988 cult fave: They Live! is generally regarded as a satire of Reagan’s America, in which aliens have infiltrated the upper echelons of society.
Robbie Ferrier: “What is it? Is it terrorists?”
Ray Ferrier: “These came from some place else.”
Robbie Ferrier: “What do you mean, like, Europe?”
Ray Ferrier: “No, Robbie, not like Europe!”
A very entertaining invasion romp has to be Mars Attacks! (1996): a splendidly wacky ode to the B-movie pulp screen action of the 50s. The alien invasion is thwarted when the young hero discovers that grandma’s record of Indian Love Call by Slim Whitman makes the aliens’ heads explode. Apparently, the Martians’ distinctive speech was created by reversing the quack of a duck, ha! Genius!
Signs (2002) is most notable for being one of M Night. Shyamalamalamalan’s less painful endurance tests, offering the rare opportunity of seeing Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix sporting tin foil hats. On a Pennsylvanian farm, giant geometric symbols appear in the fields while the family follow an alien invasion unfolding on the telly… Close Encounters of the Corny Kind.
In Battle: Los Angeles (2011) what appears to be a meteor storm is actually the arrival of an alien invasion fleet. A squad of US Marines have to defend the LA beach from standard fare gangly gun-toting ETs… and, well, that’s it. Must be based on a computer game as it felt like such a vapid viewing experience.
Even comicbook movies are prone to a bit of third-stone-from-the-sun-storming. The Avengers (2012) had to contend with a Chitauri invasion force which zipped out of a vortex above… yes! Yet another American cityscape… Once its learned that they are neurologically bound to the mothership, Iron Man guides a nuclear missile into it, at which all the remaining ground forces instantaneously collapse.
“Hey, take a look at the Earthlings. Goodbye!” – David Levinson.
But, before you go, there’s something you should know…
As someone who is stirred by the essence of clever ideas, catchy dialogue, some captivating cinematography and stirring characters in quality SF, then let me tell you, my friends, there is one alien invasion movie which really makes my blood boil, and that just has to be Independence Day (1996). None of the above criteria were ever considered, let alone tackled.
One of the worst cinema trips of my life; it was the mind-numbing day that cut off any hope of accepting the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air as a bonafide movie star. Never has there been so much destruction on such a grand scale yet was left totally deprived of any sense of shock (or awe for that matter) and without any emotional intensity whatsoever. It is said that Brad gasped while everyone else in that theatre gawped. Usually, Jeff Goldblum is cool, but on this occasion he barely got through it.
The aliens were as useless as a wet towel and looked like nothing more than shoddy (H.R.) Giger-knockoffs, not half as menacing as our cat. As the end credits started running, some excited infant nearer to the screen yelled out: “That’s the best movie I’ve ever seen!”
No prizes for guessing that my seething despondency forced me to cry out the very opposite…
Keep watching the skies!