Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Just Wondering about Aliens

This from Roger Ebert's review of Cowboys and Aliens, "One alien element has become almost traditional. Ever since "Alien," we've had the phenomenon of aliens who unfold to reveal wicked inner parts. The aliens here have chest cavities that open to extrude three-fingered hands, slimy with mucus. One shudders to envision the use of these limbs during sex. On their home world, there must be fortunes to be made in opening manicure shops."

Now, I will go Ebert one more.  Aliens from other planets follow two lines of design and thought.  They look like a variation on insects or reptiles or a variation on humans with bigger heads and longer limbs.   I don't watch a lot of "alien" movies, but this does seem to be the norm.  However, regardless of the crustacean, reptilian, or quasi-humanoid look, they almost always are just plain violent.  Mean and conquering and destructive.  A few exceptions, but I can only think of a couple:  E.T., The first version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and comedies where the alien is left alone and does not have the numbers to conquer the earthlings (Paul). 

The assumption is that the aliens are smart enough to get here in the first place.  If it's an issue of evolution, how did such grotesque bodies get the dexterity to do what they do to get here?  and if they are that smart, why do they just kill?  Wouldn't they at least do some negotiations and diplomacy first?

In other words, I can't think of very many alien movies that make much sense.  Alien movies are about fear, not logic.  They are supposed to tap into our collective fear of outsiders (District 9 does this well), and rarely our wonder that God would have allowed other creatures to exist (as does CS Lewis in his sci-fi writing),or if you want to be secular, a wonder that evolution would be such an amazing process that a different set of species could be produced.  I think the modern movie view of aliens is more medieval than anything else:  only earth-dwellers could be the chosen people, and these others are just plain "others," a type of pagan or Gentile. 

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