Aliens! They be invadin’ all the time. Am I right? Ladies, back me up on this.
I’ve seen three alien invasion movies in the past month or so: Skyline, Battle: Los Angeles, and Monsters, but before we get to them I want to highlight a few things about alien invasion movies in general.
There are three main rules that make up most alien invasion films:
1) The aliens have a poorly conceived attack plan
2) The aliens go door-to-door looking for humans (there are billions of us and we have a bunch of doors: this is gonna take a while)
3) The aliens have a glaring weakness that humans can exploit
Take War of the Worlds (Tom Cruise edition): It’s got all three elements. 1) The alien’s attack plan is to bury their attack machines under the ground thousands of years before humans are even around, then wait for us to evolve tanks and fighter jets before trying to take over the planet. Extreme procrastination. 2) They get out of their invulnerable tripods and spend twenty minutes looking for Tom Cruise hiding in a basement. 3) They die because they’re allergic to Earth-cooties.
Signs has all three in spades; in fact, the aliens in this movie are the dumbest ever created. 1) They announce their plans to attack by creating crop circles and waiting for everyone on Earth to realize the attack is about to begin. 2) They then skulk around some strategic locations like Mel Gibson’s farmhouse and a Brazilian child’s birthday party so everyone can see them. Also, they’re naked, which comes into play in: 3) They’re allergic to water. So, everyone knows they’re attacking, they’re allergic to 75% of the planet, and they walk around naked attacking us individually. They are finally defeated by a little girl’s glass of water and a pantry door.
Now, to the more recent alien invasion movies. Spoilers, naturally, if you haven’t seen them.
Battle: Los Angeles
Summary: Aaron Eckhart is an aging military veteran who is about to retire and is haunted by a past failed mission, which is subtly indicated by a character in the movie basically blurting out “Hey, Aaron Eckhart, you’re an aging military veteran who is about the retire and you are haunted by a past failed mission!” It’s really about that blunt. Aliens start plunking down into the ocean off the coast of Los Angeles, then wade into shore and start killing everyone. Aaron Eckhart redeems himself for his past failed mission where he got a bunch of soldiers killed by leading his new platoon of soldiers on the alien attack mission and getting a bunch of them killed, then figures out everything about the aliens, like how to kill them (shoot them in their bodies). This movie is awful.
Stupid Attack Plan: Yes! Slowly walking around the streets shooting us one at a time with guns? I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but surely you aliens have some sort of giant bombs or poison gas or something. Luckily for them, our Army is dumber: they think it’s a ground invasion only, somehow forgetting that the aliens had to fly through a bunch of outer space to get to earth and may have a couple spaceships with them.
Door-to-Door Search: Yes! They try to break into a police station to get the people inside it, and can’t even manage that: they’re foiled by a couple soldiers and a veterinarian.
Exploitable Weakness: Yes! The spaceships are all controlled by a single main spaceship thing that if you explode it, none of the other spaceships will work. Remember, if you’re traveling thousands of light-years to attack a planet, bring some spare main spaceship things with you.
Summary: Giant alien lens flares land in LA and start sucking people up. Meanwhile, some rich young attractive people go to the roof of their apartment building where they are almost killed by aliens and then decide to go to the parking garage where they are almost killed by aliens so they go back to the roof about six more times and are almost killed by aliens each time so they mainly sit in the apartment arguing about whether or not they should go to the roof again, which they do fourteen more times. The Army shows up and nukes an alien spacecraft but the aliens fix it, and then the Army figures maybe they should put three soldiers on a roof with a bazooka, because if the nukes don’t work then that clearly will.
Eventually, two of the attractive people go to the roof yet again and the aliens get them, finally. Also, one of them is pregnant, and she tells her boyfriend, and at first he’s all “Gross!” but then he’s all “I love you so much that even if my brain is sucked out and put into an alien robot I will fight to defend our baby,” and that happens and he does. This movie is awful.
Stupid Attack Plan: Yes and no! Sucking humans up with light works great, but they give up on it almost immediately and start stomping around in the streets and moving on to:
Door-To-Door Search: Yes, for what feels like hours. Including one alien robot spending five solid minutes slowly creeping around one apartment just to abduct an old man and his yappy dog. I hope he got chewed out by the boss alien robot. “You were gone for a half-hour and all you have is this old guy and his Jack Russell?”
Exploitable Weakness: Sort of! The aliens did not count on that one guy’s love for his preggo girlfriend, which inspires him to punch alien robots to death with his fists. Luckily, he appears to be the only human in love with someone, because no one else puts up much of a fight.
A NASA space probe is bringing back alien germs from one of Jupiter’s moons and breaks up in the atmosphere, scattering alien goo all over Mexico. The alien microbes find Mexico perfectly to their liking, and grow to enormous proportions and stomp all over the place, and most of Mexico is quarantined. A scuzzy photojournalist is down in Mexico trying to take pictures of dead people to sell to the newspapers, and a media magnate’s privileged daughter is also in Mexico (for some reason), and her dad orders the dirt-bag photographer to see that she safely makes it back to America. The jerk photographer eventually grows less jerky, the pretty girl… well, she doesn’t change much, but she stays pretty and starts to like the less-jerky-growing guy, so that’s nice. We eventually see the giant weird aliens and learn what they’re all about.
This movie is actually not bad, more of an low-budget indie road movie set against the backdrop of a giant alien invasion. It’s on Netflix Instant, and you might want to check it out. It’s a little dull in parts but has some effective scenes and is a pretty refreshing, low-key sci-fi flick.
Stupid Attack Plan: Nope! The aliens were shanghaied by NASA, and they’re just wandering around doing their alien thing. It’s the earthlings that have all the hang-ups, man.
Door-To-Door Search: Not really! There is a scene where a giant alien sticks his tentacle into a gas station food mart, but he might just be looking for stale Ring-Dings and lottery scratch-off tickets.
Exploitable Weakness: No! It’s not clear how effective air strikes are on the aliens, but the giant wall built along the border doesn’t keep them out of the United States. If you’re as clever as I am you may detect some incredibly subtle social commentary here.