If only I could see what you’ve seen with your eyes…

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

In the 2000’s we start to see films that feature humans who are sympathetic toward aliens, and vice-versa. Movies begin to arise that put the humans in the antagonist spot—a theme not often seen before turn of the century.

Before the dawn of the 2000’s, there were scarcely any movies that featured aliens as antagonists. Close Encounters, Enemy Mine, and ET are the only ones that come to mind. While science fiction films are all narrative in nature, these new alien movies suggest ideological meaning that deconstructs the nature of humankind. In James Cameron’s Avatar and the film District 9, both sweeping blockbusters, the anti-human themes are explicit and prevalent to the plot.

The settings for Avatar and District 9 are quite opposite, but the general idea that humans are evil and aliens are good ties the two together. Avatar is designed with a gorgeous spectrum of colors, blinking natural lights and glorious, lush landscapes. In Avatar, the main character finds his way into a tribe of aliens who he manages to befriend. During his stay, he falls in love with the beautiful atmosphere and admires the close-knit interaction that the aliens have with the wildlife around them. He longs to stay with them and be part of their culture—a culture quite opposite of modern human society.

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(Above: Jake connects with Pandora’s wildlife in Avatar)

The audience grows to adore the alien Navii as well, wanting to live in a world like theirs. Here, the aliens are the protagonists. The antagonists are the humans who plan to mow down Pandora’s wildlife, destroying creatures, plants, and slaughtering native tribes in order to get to drilling sites so that they can dig for expensive minerals.

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(A Na’vi bonds with her mount in Avatar)

District 9’s composition is much different from the glowing rave-forests of Pandora. The film takes place on the barren wasteland of an alien reservation, where no plants grow and houses are scrap-sewn lean-tos that look like they’re about to collapse with a strong breeze. The color pallet features dusty browns and rusted metallics, sand and dirt the gritting the picture with a feeling of isolation and the tint of poverty. In the plot, an alien ship crash-lands on Earth and is discovered by humans. The aliens inside are malnourished and frightened, and even though they can’t understand the humans they are afraid of the machine guns muzzled into their guts and are taken into human custody. Sickly and weakened, the alien race is subjected to the will of the humans, who experiment on them and discover their intelligence. After political debates, it is decided that the aliens should be treated like thinking beings and are given plots of land where they can live. Their technology, including their ship, is stolen by the humans and their reservations are wrapped in barbed wire and patrolled by scores of gunned men. The alien’s homes and children are often taken away for unfair or made up reasons, and their food is distributed to them in pathetic amounts. The aliens are frowned upon by human society as unclean and uncivilized—savages.

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(Above: an alien is arrested in District 9)

Both of these films, while about aliens, seem to mirror what humankind has done to itself over history. In particular, the blight struck upon the Native American race is used for the basis of both Avatar and District 9’s plots. There is an explicit theme of the evils of a human power-trip, but there is also the implicit idea that situations like these have really happened in the past. The take-over of the Navii’s land and the prosecution of their people harkens to the English settlement in America, when the Native Americans were driven from their land. In the same respect, District 9 mirrors the reservation lands that the Native American peoples were forced onto. The unfair treatment and abuse of the aliens in this film reflect the cruelty that the Native Americans had to undergo in America’s history.Image

(Above: an alien is being evicted in District 9)

Other films that were released in the 2000’s that follow the trend of alien protagonists and human prosecution are Paul, Super 8, Transformers, I am Number Four, and Lilo and Stitch.

Eviction scene from District 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq4i8XlWilQ

All images found via Google’s image search engine

What in the Name of Science is THAT? And Why is it so Angry?

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

There is another style of alien filmmaking that is quite popular in the new millennium. In this style of plot, aliens are smarter and cooler than humans. They know this and want to destroy us for our planet’s resources or just because we are a useless, insignificant, or evil race that needs to be squashed. This is not a new idea—older films like War of the Worlds and many others use the same basic plot skeleton. The difference now is the style of aliens that are featured in these types of films.

With modern CGI, filmmakers are able to create super-fantastic creatures and alien technology. Helpless humans look on as extravagant enemy battleships evaporate buildings and giant alien juggernauts bulldoze through cities. Because of modern technology, directors and producers are able to breathe ultimate life their creations through their art, concept, and graphics teams. The scale of the invaders in modern alien take-over films is lavishly immense.

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(Above: the rise of an alien spacecraft in Battleship)

Battle Los Angeles features battleships that are as big as small cities and explosions that rival nuclear meltdowns. In Pacific Rim, soon to be released in theaters, the alien life forms are ridiculously gigantic and crazy looking. In beautiful detail, Del Toro invents a frightening breed of monstrosities that tear down bridges without breaking a sweat (if they can, indeed, sweat) and look freaking sweet doing it.

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(Above: the attack of an alien in Pacific Rim)

Older series like Alien and Predator are given a fresh CGI face in the 2000’s with Prometheus and the AVP films.

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(Above: an alien control room in Prometheus)

Also seen with the rise in CGI capability are new takes on alien appearance and biology. In films like Battleship, The Darkest Hour, Pacific Rim, John Carter, Feast, and Slither, aliens are revamped into beasts that have never been seen in film before.

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(Above: an alien from The Darkest Hour)

Gone is the bulbous-headed, bug-eyed green man and forgotten is the bug-like hive creature. Even the reflective hides of the aliens in Signs prove to be an interesting development in the lore of possible alien biology. Due to creative minds who want to break molds and the technology at their fingertips, aliens have been given fresh faces that widen the concepts and capabilities of our views on extraterrestrial life.

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(Above: an unarmored alien from Battleship)

Things to watch:

Battle Los Angeles trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHKYA07KBuQ

Beautiful CGI from Prometheus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=235OW2_CCwY

NOTE: All pictures found via Google’s image search engine

Aliens as the Antagonist

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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(Image of an alien from War of the Worlds from 1968)

Up until recently aliens were the antagonist in almost every film they were in. They wanted to take over the Earth to take it for their own, gathering materials on the Earth and silencing anyone who gets in their way, or both even. As a primary antagonist you don’t see them much at all or you see them a lot. In “War of the Worlds” you only see the ships they ride in and you don’t know what they look like until the halfway point and you only see them once. I have the clip where you see them and this is even one of the earlier designs. Also in war of the worlds they were taking over the Earth in order to take the water due to the fact that Mars had all of their water froze and was unusable. The Aliens seem to want something and that is all they want. They have no real development and only seem to be a threat to the immediate area and then expand out after gaining momentum. Always the aliens land in a country area and everyone wants to use it to use it as an attraction.  The aliens get out we have people confused by what happened and either go and kill who is nearby or infect them to produce offspring to handle the environment. This could kill the host and most of the time they would not know what happened until it is too late. If aliens wanted to take over Earth, then they either kill off all humans or take them as slaves of some sort. In war of the worlds they just wanted to outright kill all of them no matter whom it is just a sweep through and take over what is left for their own. However, if they want to concur they imprison any humans they find and then have then do whatever they want to do. “1953’s It Came From Outer Space introduced an initially sinister breed of alien, who kidnap the inhabitants of a small Arizona town and replace them with emotionless duplicates, a sci-fi trope that would appear repeatedly in 50s sci-fi cinema.” (Den of Geek)

Chance Legaspi

Works Cited:

“A Brief History of the Alien Invasion Movie.” Movie Reviews, Cult TV, Games & Comics Reviewed, Discussed & Appreciated. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.denofgeek.us/movies/alien/16578/a-brief-history-of-the-alien-invasion-movie&gt;.

Aliens throughout History (Up to the 60s)

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A trip to the moon of the moonOn June 24, 1947, the civilian pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing nine objects, glowing bright blue-white, flying in a “V” formation over Washington State’s Mount Rainier. He estimated their flight speed at 1700 mph and compared their motion to “a saucer if you skip it across water,” which became the origin of the soon-to-be popular term “flying saucer.”( UFO Hunters) Ailens in history have always been a topic that has been our minds for a long time. This could be from thinking there is other life out there somewhere or even nearby on other planets in our solar system. Early designs of aliens differ from what we think of today. Aliens were not blue back in the day they tend to be a brown, black, or green color to them. They have almost always had some kind of humanoid like features to them like standing on two legs or having a head similar to what we have. Even with similarities to humans they tend to have more complex genetics then humans and possibly are stronger than us. Another planet that could support life is not even that far off either. There are many planets in the universe so another planet with a similar makeup would not be that improbable. There are also other kinds like insects, felines, blobs, even close to primal forms. These do influence what goes into films it comes to the writers and directors to figure what they want to put for the film. This can help what we may see out there we don’t know so all we have is what we guess. They could even be hostile or friendly as well that depends on what they think of us and how they could react to see us as the aliens.
Chance Legaspi
Works Cited:
“UFO Hunters.” History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. .

1990’s-Aliens as Enemies

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Throughout the history of film, we can see how aliens evolve with the pass of each decade. During the 1990’s, aliens are mostly portrayed as enemies to our species and a threat to planet Earth. The alien invaders, “others” are seen “as a threatening force, endowed with superior destructive technology, bent on displacing or enslaving us” (Barsam and Monahan 97). We are portrayed as being afraid of the aliens, while the aliens are presented as being technologically superior to us and only wanting to destroy us. Many of the alien movies from the 90’s such as Species (1995), Independence Day (1996), Men in Black (1997), and Starship Troopers (1997); illustrate the aliens as insects or advanced bug creatures. I will be focusing on Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997) for my examples of how the aliens are our enemies, how the aliens feel about us, and the alien’s appearances in these films.

Independence Day (1996)Independence-Day-Poster-3

Independence Day directed by Roland Emmerich is a Science Fiction, Action film, about aliens coming to destroy Earth and our efforts to stop them. In the beginning of the film, we are unsure of the alien’s intentions but it is quickly made clear that they wish to harm us, when they obliterate three major cities; New York, Los Angeles, and Washington. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3qu-sCei3U

The fact that the aliens attacked some of our cities instead of trying to communicate with us enforces the 1990’s trend of aliens as our enemies. It also becomes evident that the aliens want to destroy us during a scene at the lab of Area 51. The captured alien is asked if there can be peace and the alien replies, “Peace. No Peace” and he then tells us he wants us to “Die.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ywX3suZIjw

About halfway through the film, it is the main characters, Captain Steven Hiller and David Levinson, goal to fight our new enemies and put an end to their destruction of Earth. During the film we are shown what the aliens look like multiple times and we even get an up close view when four scientists are starting to perform alien surgery. The aliens are made to look like bug/insect creatures with a slimy layer, insect appendages, various tentacles, and big glossy eyes.1CMPPID4ALIEN

Independence Day ends like most 1990 alien movies, with us humans defeating the aliens or us forcing them to return to their planet, by using their own technology against them.

Men in Black (1997)men_in_black_ver2

Men in Black directed by Barry Sonnenfeld is a Science Fiction, Comedy film, about a secret organization that controls alien life and activity on Earth. In the beginning of the film the main character, J, and us are introduced to the secret organization of Men in Black and the reality of aliens on Earth. While it becomes quickly apparent that not all the aliens living on Earth wish us harm, this film focuses on J and K’s mission to destroy the “Bug” race, who do wish us harm. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsQ41frO-kI

We can see that the “Bug” race of aliens wish us harm when their flying saucer crashes into Earth and one of them takes over a farmer named Edgar. Edgar (“Bug”) sets out to gather followers to help him rid the Earth of humans and this is evident when he says, “Y’know, I’ve noticed an infestation here. Everywhere I look, in fact. Nothing but undeveloped, unevolved, barely conscious pond scum, totally convinced of their own superiority as they scurry about their short, pointless lives.” During the film, we are shown the reactions of humans who see the aliens and how they are terrified of them and must have their memory erased to forget what they saw. Even the tagline of the film, “Protecting the Earth from the Scum of the Universe,” tells us what humans think of the aliens. The aliens in this film do not all look the same and in fact, there are many different species of aliens shown, but the “Bug” species is our enemy and they look just like their name. They have a slimy layer, stingers, multiple legs, big eyes, and antennas like bugs/insects.Men in Black also ends similar to Independence Day, with J and K defeating the “Bug” race by using alien, space-age technology against the “Bug” aliens. men_in_black__edgar_bug_by_alex_j_crow-d46rh7p

Aliens are characterized differently over the decades and by watching many of the films of the 1990’s, you can see how they are portrayed as our enemies. Independence Day and Men in Black are both great films that show us exactly how aliens were viewed during the 90s. They show us how the aliens view us as a weaker species that needs to be destroyed, how we view them as enemies wanting to steal our planet, and how the alien’s appearances are made to resemble bugs and insects, which suggest that they are beneath us and scum.

~Brittany Weiser

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard and Monahan, Dave. Looking At Movies. 4th ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.

Independence Day. Dir. Roland Emmerich. 20th Century Fox Film. 1996. DVD.

Men in Black. Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld. Columbia Pictures, 1997. DVD.

1970’s – Live Long and Prosper

•April 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

While most people think of aliens as the bad guys that are out to annihilate us Earthlings, there is a whole aspect about human/alien relations not only on planet Earth but in the far reaches of outer space.st-tos  In 1966, Gene Roddenberry’s idea of space exploration and relations between humans on Earth and aliens from other planets came to life on the television in the form of the show Star Trek. emblem01 As hokey and cheesy the production, the concept was excellent:  humans and aliens working together to “explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations,” as William Shatner (Captain Kirk) narrates in the beginning of the show, in the name of peace.  Although the TV series ended in 1969, Star Trek came to us in its first major motion picture in 1979 with the original cast reprising their original roles and subsequently, gave us 3 more movies with the original cast.  The fourth movie was in 1986.

The United Federation of Planets consists of representatives from not only Earth but all known allies of Earth.  Captain Kirk and the crewenterprise-tos on the Enterprise, all humans from Earth with the exception of Mr. Spock who was half human and half Vulcan, tripped around space, encountering mostly bad aliens that wanted to destroy them.  However there were several that seemed bad at first but had good intentions…like they were studying how humans handle situations.  The movies were longer than the hour episode so they concentrated more on a specific issue, which led into the story for the next movie.

So we have humans on Earth, working and living side by side with aliens.  They fought the Klingons and Romulans, their biggest enemies.  There were times when two different non-human aliens could not get along.  An excellent example is from the TV series in the episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.”  tribblesThe tribbles are balls of fur that purr.  And they eat and multiple like nothing ever seen before.  These creatures are all over the Enterprise as well as the ship they were called to tend to.  Klingons were also on the ship for a recreational period.  Of course the humans and Klingons get into a bar fight, but we find out that tribbles screech wildly when they are in the presence of a Klingon.

The Star Trek empire spawned four spin-off television series and kept up with the movies as well, combining the original and new characters very well.  They are creating prequel movies now, as well, showing us the “young” crew of the Enterprise.  We see that there are many more species of aliens in the Federation and as the crew on the Enterprise.  Even Klingons have been accepted into Starfleet Academy. Star-Trek All of the TV episodes and movies showed us that humans are the dominant characters but interact with aliens every waking moment to promote peace.  The Prime Directive of the Federation and its members is that “no starship shall interfere with the normal development of any alien life or society.”

Think about what it would be like if we, as humans, worked with real life aliens every day…coexisted with them.  The Prime Directive is really a great thought for us as we go about our lives with other people.  Would you want to be destroyed just because of who you were? I didn’t think so.  Star Trek teaches us lessons we can use in our everyday life, even without aliens.  As Spock would say, “Live long and prosper.”spock

By:  April Albrecht

Works Cited (other than my own memory):

“Memory Alpha – The Star Trek Wiki.” Memory Alpha – The Star Trek Wiki. Wikia.com, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Portal:Main&gt;.

 

“Star Trek Movies.” IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/find?q=star+trek+&s=all&gt;.

1970s – Humans As Aliens

•April 9, 2013 • Leave a Comment

When you think about aliens in science fiction movies, the most common images that our brains conjure up are hairy, scaly, maybe shiny, mean and very different from us. alien01 However, if you think about it, aliens that take on a human form are prominent in several movies.  They are not Earth humans but humans none-the-less.  Let’s look at two examples:

Battlestar Galactica (1978) was about a group of humans that escaped the Cylon attack on the Twelve Colonies.  The remaining survivors become part of a rag-tag fleet, led by the battlestar “Galactica” in which they seek out what is often referred to as the sister planet of Kobol, Earth. bsgposter Kobol is the planet where humanity supposedly began.  As the planet died, humans left Kobol to colonize the twelve, nearby planets.   These colonies were based on the zodiac signs; Caprica, Scorpia, Taura, Virgon, Sagitara, Piscera, Aquarus, Leon, Gemini were the only ones that were ever referred to.  Earth is considered to be the 13th colony.  In the movie and following television series, the Galactica decides to search for the lost 13th colony since their homes are now destroyed.  These are humans, no matter what their “nationality.”  Commander Adama, Lt. Starbuck, Captain Apollo, Cassiopeia, Athena and Col. Tigh were just a few of the humans that fought the Cylon Centurions, their biggest enemy, who threatened to destroy them and the entire human race.  These aliens were once reptilian creatures fitted with armor but as their technology grew they became a fighting machine.  The humans meet other aliens, some bad, some good, and do not look human at all; the Ovians and Imperious Leader are a couple of examples. bsg01badaliens

Battlestar Galactica Fan Trailer

Star Wars (1977) is another example.  Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Obi-Wan Kenobi are very much human, but hailing from places in the vast reaches of space other than Earth.  Luke Skywalker was raised on Tatooine but born of Polis Massa. swposter Han Solo, a smuggler and captain of the famed ship “Millennium Falcon,” is from the planet Corellia.  Princess Leia is from Alderaan (born on Polis Massa) – which is blown to bits by the Death Star, by the way.  Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Master, is from the planet Stewjon.  Even the Imperial Stormtroopers and Darth Vader are human.  Like most evil or bad humans, we dislike the bad guys because they want to inflict harm on the good humans.  Yet we have many aliens that are not human looking in the least: Jabba the Hutt, Chewbacca, the Jawas and Wicketts, to name a few.swchewie01

Star Wars Trailer

Now why do we use humans as aliens?  We can relate to humans better than a slimy, screeching, or even metallic creature.  They are humans like us so therefore we understand their feelings, their passions, and their desires.  The human race in these movies is the collective protagonists.  We root for them because they are human, and we can easily picture ourselves in their place.  It’s hard to relate to a creature that dislikes, uses, or kills members of our race.  We tend to hate them as the antagonists.  At the same time, it’s easy to like those aliens that are on “our” side such as Chewbacca.  Even robots have endeared themselves to us as a type of alien like Muffit, R2D2 and C3PO.swbsgrobots

Battlestar Galactica has humans looking for Earth…for us.  Star Wars just has humans with no mention of Earth.  Yet we relate to both sets of humans.  We are the heroes and heroines.  That’s how we believe our race to be:  better than anyone else in the endless depths of space.

by:  April Albrecht

 

Works Cited (other than from my own memory):

“Star Wars Characters.” StarWars.com Characters. StarWars.com, 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. <http://starwars.com/explore/encyclopedia/characters/1/episode4/&gt;.