Wednesday, April 4, 2012

MY Space Invaders Movie

This past Friday evening, for reasons we really need not go into here, I had a powerful urge to get just completely plowed. I also wanted to invest the least amount of effort doing so, and thus hit up the library for some movies, ending up checking out "Battle Los Angeles" for home viewing.

And so, pre-armed with a bottle of well frozen Stolichnaya vodka and a sixpack of Boulevard Pale Ale, and initiated with a few depth charges in the system, I sat down for some dumb-but-stupid manly blow-em-up action movie shit.

And I gotta tell ya, aside from perhaps a bit too much backstory, I enjoyed Battle Los Angeles. It was no blockbuster, but it was adequately entertaining, and I'll tell you why.

First, I enjoy the actor Aaron Eckhart, who did a good turn in Thank You for Smoking. Also the tough chick Michelle Rodriguez, going all the way back to Girlfight. I also enjoyed the movie because it remained consistent throughout. There were no majorly flagrant abuses of my suspension of disbelief (including the fact that we are invaded from Outer Space - more on that in a bit). The action was well-edited, fast paced, the stunts sufficiently baroque without being over the top, and a lot of shit exploded, which, for guys, is important. We do like the warporn. It also had the appropriate appeal to noble self-sacrifice and selfless actions, which, naturally, is part of warporn.

My only objection was the beginning back stories of all the protagonists, which, no doubt the director and screenwriters feel necessary so that you can care when they die, or don't. Personally, I could have been the voice of one the Marine privates, who, once it is determined that we are under extra-terrestrial attack, should have said (but didn't), in exasperation, "Finally!"

Yeah, about that suspension of disbelief. Well, it is a space invader movie, so from the start you have to cut some slack. I mean, the only way you can away with a truly ludicrous premise is if it is a comedy. But I've always wondered how (with the exclusion of, say, War of the Worlds, where humanity was unquestionably outclassed) aliens with star-spanning technologies seem to think that we humans are a big deal. That we are a problem and a challenge that needs to be addressed. I mean, if I move into a house and find it is full of vermin, I don't shoot up the floor boards to get rid of the pests. So, why don't the aliens just hose down the atmosphere with an appropriate vermicide to get rid of us pesky apes?

Or why is it that the alien weaponry is only a decade or so ahead of ours? Why the need to engage in toe-to-toe boots-on-the-ground combat behavior with us? Is it simply a need to generate drama (admittedly, people dropping like flies, and then aliens dropping out of the sky to sweep us into bins, isn't particularly engaging theatrically, but a lot more realistic).

But it occurs to me that this type of action is similar to the masturbatory TV trope theme of Frankenstein versus The Wolfman, or some such related stoned adolescent stupidity. My understanding is the latest incarnation of this is the Reddit phenomenon of Rome Sweet Rome, wherein a modern Marine unit ends up transported back in time to ancient Rome, and an exploration is undertaken about the all-important question of just how much ass would the marines kick? (Realistically? The Marines are doomed).

Well, this is the Trapped in the Past theme, and there are two behaviors, either try to live a normal and quiet life, or Change Things For The Better. Not many choose the former, and not that surprising entertainment wise.

I can think of one fairly mature treatment by Rod Serling, a Twilight Zone episode called "The 7th is Made up of Phantoms", where a modern tank crew ends up at the Battle of Little Bighorn, and naturally is doomed.

Or the granddaddy of them all, Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" with the hilariously comical slaughter at the climax of the book, involving machine guns and electrocution, if that is your idea of funny.

So, it sure seems like, if you are a technologically advanced group facing a primitive and backward savage culture, best to just lay low and not draw too much attention to yourself. And if you are an interstellar expedition that finds yourself in Earth's Solar System, maybe just harvest what you need from the asteroids or the Moon. Those don't fight back - too much.

Oh, and my Space Invaders movie? How to explain the close similarity of combat technology?

Well, taking a page from Battle Los Angeles, where the humans finally figure out how to "kick ET's Ass" on their own brutish terms. My movie ends with LA in ruins, the aliens calling for a ceasefire with  the humans, striding up to the Marine commander, taking off their bubble space helmets, extending a hand outwards and saying:

"Good game, man! Good game! See you next year!"

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