My problem with alien invasion movies.
Most alien invasion stories have the same basic plot. Aliens appear, there is little to no attempt at communication, they start attacking, and it becomes a genocidal war for the very survival of all mankind.
For basically, like, no reason.
War is conflict, but in a good story, conflict cannot exist without purpose. In real life, war happens because of competition for scarce resources, breakdowns in the diplomatic process, perceived incompatible goals, political differences, and so on. There is usually a buildup of tension over many years before war breaks out. It doesn’t “just happen.” Except in alien invasion movies, where it does.
Some movies will handwave an explanation. Independence Day had one short scene explaining that the aliens were traveling the galaxy and stripping all planets they found of their natural resources. The Day the Earth Stood Still had a brief message about protecting the ecosystem. Yet others, like War of the Worlds or the horrible flop Skyline, have no attempt to even explain WHY the invasion comes.
Audiences don’t seem to question it. Likely that’s because it’s a long-standing trope that aliens aren’t going to be peaceful when they come here, because why else would they travel millions of light years to find us if not to start a tussle.
I’d like to see an alien invasion movie with more background and sense of purpose. A good example is Avatar (the one with the blue aliens, not the Airbender). Technically, it’s a “reverse alien invasion,” since humans are the one invading another planet. However, it has several aspects that other alien invasion movies lack, and I’m not talking about special effects or the moral message of loving the environment and respecting living things.
In Avatar, we start by seeing that humans and the Navi have had contact for some time. There was a school built, and attempts were made to communicate, negotiate, and find a common ground. Those efforts failed, and led to conflict (over “scarce resources,” one of the real life reasons I mentioned above). The war doesn’t start until like halfway through the movie, giving the audience a chance to see WHY it happened.
A movie like Independence Day, excellent as it was in terms of action and special effects, would have benefited a great deal by building to the conflict with more meaning and purpose. I’d rather see the aliens arrive and negotiate, with the full and honest intent (at first) of finding peaceful coexistence. I’m not talking about things like the TV show “V,” where the aliens faked being friendly but wanted to do evil things from the beginning. I’m talking about genuine negotiations that break down for a believable reason, whatever that reason may be.
The conflict, like all real conflicts, should have moral grey areas and reasons to see the good in both sides. Sure, it’s much easier to just say “the aliens are evil nazi conquerors and they all need to be stopped.” But in many real life wars, people on both sides want to avoid conflict (even if their governments don’t). I’d like to see civilian aliens protesting the war, wishing for peace with humans, and so on. Likewise, I want to see some humans as instigators, so that some of the aliens have reasons to see the humans as the bad guys. Give me an alien invasion movie where I can’t decide whether I want the humans or aliens to win, because both sides have merits and flaws. I don’t need to watch another “humans are the good guys and aliens are the bad guys” cliché flick.
Maybe there’s a movie (or better yet, a book) already out there with these themes, and I just haven’t seen it yet. I’d like to get my hands on one, though.
Maybe I’ll write it myself.
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