Quick! Aliens have landed and are threatening to blow up the Earth (you know, as they do) unless you can show them five science fiction films that prove humanity is worth saving! Which ones do you show them?
While you are all thinking about this deeply important question, here are the five films I would choose and why.
I would show this one for several
reasons. One, even 85 years later, it still looks fantastic, and the
aliens, if they are observant, will see the visual echoes of this film
resonating down into modern (usually dystopic) science fiction cinema.
Two, it’s also got intriguing social commentary about the idyllic lives
of the haves and the grubby, mindless lives of the have-nots, which
again is a thread that goes through all of science fiction. Watch a
double feature of Metropolis and The Hunger Games and
you might be surprised at the points of social conflict consanguinity.
Different plots but a lot of common ground. The film makes the point
that science fiction has always been a place where social themes have
played a role — and thus, that humanity, flawed though it is, is not
blind to those very flaws.
2001: A Space Odyssey
strongly suspect that Stanley Kubrick is the closest we’ve come to
having a genuine alien intelligence directing a major science fiction
film, which is an accomplishment when you consider that David Lynch directed
Dune. 2001, aside from being a landmark film in a general
sense, and the right film at the right cultural time, is also one of
the least human-accessible films ever made by a major film studio. That’s
not to say one can’t appreciate it or be enthralled by it — people
do and are — but it’s not interested in connecting to people the
way films do (and most entertainment does), through emotional channels.
It’s a film for the brain, not the heart, and perhaps that would appeal
to the aliens.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
The film track record of humans meeting aliens is not, shall we say, spectacular: The War of the Worlds, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Alien, The Thing, Independence Day, Starship Troopers …
not exactly a set of films that roll out the welcome wagon. At the same
time, there’s no point pretending that humans wouldn’t feel anxiety
about aliens, even if they ultimately meant us no harm, or even wanted
to be friends. E.T. is the film that captures both sides of that
equation: The government chases E.T. through the woods and into suburbia,
and then searches methodically and unemotionally for him — and at the
same time he’s befriended by a child who senses that E.T. is lost and
scared and needs someone to help him. It’s both sides of the human coin,
and I think that’s probably going to be a useful thing for the aliens
This is my wildcard in the
hand, since it’s not an especially well-known or particularly
well-regarded science fiction film, and indeed some people might not
call it science fiction at all (despite the fact that it’s about a scientist
trying to clone his dead wife in his garage). Here’s why I include it: Science fiction films often cover the hubris of science gone wrong, from
Frankenstein to 28 Days Later, but very few of them do so on purely human terms. It’s usually the end of the world or nothing. In Creator,
there’s definitely hubris — a Nobel Prize-winner almost casually going
about resurrecting his dead wife — but the stakes are personal, not
global. I think the aliens might appreciate having that perspective.
One, it’s pretty and action-packed and I don’t want the aliens thinking that every film has to be homework;
maybe sometimes they just want to have a special effects-laden roller
coaster ride, just like we do. That being said, the other advantage the
film brings to the table is that it makes the humans the bad guys —
i.e., we’re far enough along in our societal development that we’re OK with not having to be the heroes every single time (yes, yes, the
actual hero is a human wearing an alien body. You hush now). I think the willingness to say that maybe it’s the other species that’s got
things right might indicate to the aliens that we’re willing to consider
them as potential partners and not just a threat (uh, so long as
they’re looking at what James Cameron is doing as writer-director, and
not what he’s having his humans do). Maybe that will be the one thing
they need not to preemptively wipe us out. We’ll have to see.
Your turn: Any films besides the ones I’ve mentioned that you would offer up to stave off alien annihilation?Read More