Monday, April 26, 2010

The Aliens are Coming! The Aliens are Coming!

Anybody remember "The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!" (1966)? Now you know where I got the title for this post.

Remember the Klaatu aliens? ("The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951)) Or Star Trek's Organians? Non-corporeal beings - so you just know they're so much nicer than us. More evolved, you know.

Or the aliens in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977). The people who had been committing wholesale kidnappings and property crimes up to and including grand theft-ocean liner? For generations? Reprogrammed some average Joe so that he abandoned his family and trekked across country to the landing site?

Then, when these aliens show up - and bodies that look like the kidnap victims shamble out of the ship - well, the aliens are such cute little guys with big eyes that NOBODY SEEMS TO SEE A PROBLEM. In it's own way, "Close Encounters" is scarier than anything in the Alien cycle.

Think Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956): except that small town doctor Dr. Miles Bennell and romantic interest Becky Driscoll, instead of being disturbed when they notice that people are being replaced by pod people - are very excited about this wonderful discovery, and set up a clinic for the pod people. I don't think the 1978 remake picked up on that idea. Maybe we'll see it in another remake: one that's more sensitive to the feelings of pod people. Or would be, if they had any.

I had Something In Mind for This Post: What was It?

I started out with aliens, then mentioned Russians, and then rambled on about space aliens for a while. Right. I think I've got it.


It's nothing new: space aliens that are highly evolved - and still act a whole lot like people we don't like. "Independence Day" (1996, for example. Or "Mars Attacks!" (1996 - again).

Those movies were getting back to the well-established (well-worn?) sort of film we saw in the fifties: "The Angry Red Planet" (1959) and "War of the Worlds" (1953).

Moving on.

Looks like today's serious thinkers are moving away from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and drawing toward "Angry Red Planet" and "Mars Attacks!" I know: "Mars Attacks!" is a comedy. Or one of the most unintentionally-funny 'serious' movies I've ever seen.

For example:
"Do Aliens Exist? If So, Will They Kill Us?"
Space News, Discovery News (April 26, 2010)

"We're an inquisitive lot, we humans. But could our inquisitiveness ultimately kill us?

In a new Discovery Channel documentary "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," the world's most recognized physicist speculates about different forms of alien life and explores efforts under way to search and communicate with intelligent extraterrestrial civilizations. However, he cautions that perhaps we shouldn't be advertising our location; perhaps we should just sit back and listen instead....

"...Mankind is all about resources; imagine if a more advanced civilization sees Earth as a bountiful supply of sustenance and sees our civilization as nothing more than ants crawling over a big juicy apple. Wouldn't they just wash us off?..."
Maybe. At least Hawking and company show evidence of having read H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds."

The article's assumption - that our SETI attempts at communication are what aliens would notice - has a point. On the other hand, Earth has been very noisy on radio frequencies for decades. That only started slacking off - maybe - when we started working more with cable and optic fiber networks.

That invasion fleet? They might not be after our resources. The commander might have orders to try reasoning with that party planet first: but do whatever it takes to stop their noise.

That's an idea that probably has been used: but I can't remember running into it.

Space Aliens and the Cold War

Every hear about fears of the Cold War inspiring movies like "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and the interminable 'serious' ancestors of "Mars Attacks?"

So have I

What If the Aliens are Friendly?

I suppose frail(?) humanity could be overrun by pillaging hordes of technologically advanced strip-miners.

On the other hand, what if the frontier of a civilization that's been around for a million years washed over the Solar system? And they weren't out to plunder our planet? They might even work out a deal where we got something in trade for not fussing when they swept up the asteroid belt.

Nice people. Really.

With nth-generation analogs of video games and soft drinks and designer jeans and things we haven't invented yet. All for sale at the local trade center.

That's a tired scenario, too, in a way. Technologically and economically powerful cultures - I'm over-simplifying horribly here - merged during the 19th and 20th century. And are overwhelming the last pockets of cultures that left the mainstream millennia ago.

We've been through this before, in a way. One reason so many European composers were busily writing pieces that incorporated folk tunes of their part of the world was that robust national cultures were overwhelming the smaller, more isolated little 'mini-cultures' within their borders.

Well, it's 'good enough for a story.'

I see I've written about this sort of thing before, sort of: Check out the first of the "Related posts."

Related posts:
I use IMDB as a resource for films - but with War of the Worlds (1953) they goofed. Big time.

Some of the photos associated with that Oscar-winning movie seem to be poster art for the movie. Or maybe CD covers.

The black-and-white photos of girls in silver makeup, with springs on their heads? I've no clue what they're from: but it wasn't the Byron Haskin movie.

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