The Aliens Are Coming

Poor old Earth is constantly under attack from one extra-terrestrial bad guy or another, but we feisty little bipeds always seem to muddle through.

Battle Earth (2012)

I picked this up from a fly by night retailer down Regent St in Yarmouth, part of a three in one box set, and I sincerely hope the other two movies are better. Paramedic Dylan has dreams in which he’s a soldier killing the enemy in a jungle, and there are also hints that not all is going so well in his marriage, though this strand is interrupted by a TV broadcast telling of alien craft arriving. Six months later and Dylan is serving with a unit whose helicopter gets shot down behind enemy lines, and they have to take on the aliens in ‘jungle warfare’ until an evac unit arrives. In their possession is some sort of alien brain that is vital to the war effort, or something. Really, not a lot of this made much sense and as I watched I cared even less with every minute that passed. The aliens have squid mouths and wear cowls. They fire big old guns that blow up everything, except when it’s convenient for them not to. The human soldiers have less personality than plankton; mostly they shoot and shout at each other. The plot doesn’t go anywhere despite various half-hearted attempts at profundity. Most of the budget probably went on hiring a helicopter and sticking cardboard rocket launchers to the chassis in the hope it might pass for a military vehicle (I’m being facetious – the helicopter was the highlight of the film, though they missed the Apocalypse Now effect they seemed to be after). Well, at least the soldiers were Canadian instead of the usual US heroes, but I don’t think the casting did anyone favours.

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Big name stars – Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford – and a big budget help smooth over some of the wholly nonsensical elements in this one. Outlaw Jake (Craig) turns up with a weird contraption strapped to his wrist and no idea of who he is or where he’s been. He escapes from gaol when alien drones attack the town and finds that his wrist device is a weapon capable of blowing the bad guys out of the sky, though not before a lot of the town’s citizens have been snatched up for some, no doubt, nefarious purpose. Jake joins forces with rancher Dolarhyde (Ford) and Olivia Wilde, playing the last survivor of an alien race wiped out by the bad guys, who helps by supplying weaponry (the wrist device) and technical advice (press this button and run). But before they can take on the ugly ETs they must first deal with Jake’s former gang, who he double crossed in an attempt to go straight with the woman he loved (I suspect this is just a ploy so that we don’t feel too bad about his homicidal impulses). Well, okay, it looks pretty, with lots of explosions and dazzling light shows, and the stars have plenty of charisma, while the early scenes with Jake before the aliens show up are intriguing in a ‘man with no name’ sort of way. But overall it is very, very silly. I mean cowboys in Arizona in 1873 beating the crap out of creatures who can cross the galaxy is just a tad much to take seriously. And, if they’re here for gold, as we’re told, why do the aliens snatch up people other than that they bought a job lot of the people snatching gizmos from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds? And why do they go in for hand to hand combat when they have weaponry capable of blasting everyone from a distance? There’s a lot here that doesn’t make sense, but I guess if you can ignore that and don’t take it seriously this is entertaining enough. Certainly I’ve had my intelligence insulted in the past with a lot less charm.

Battle Los Angeles (2011)

This is pretty much Battle Earth done with a mega-budget, a couple of name stars (Aaron Eckhart and Michelle Rodriguez), and American Marines instead of Canadian troops. Aliens set down off the Californian coast and the troops are sent in to evacuate assorted civilians trapped in the line of offence. Lots and lots of things get blown up, there are some gob smacking effects, with the stunt guys also earning their money, and the aliens look convincingly alien and nasty, while of course the good old Marine Corps pulls everyone’s irons out of the fire in the final reel, with echoes of every previous alien invasion playing in the background. It felt rather like watching a firework display with added plot enhancements, and I seem to recall that I enjoyed it while it lasted, but now a couple of months later I’m having a hard time remembering anything much about it. I guess the moral is if you’ve seen one alien invasion then you have seen them all. Or something like that.

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