Alien Nation

I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, but I’ve been really busy. For some reason the university I attend thinks it’s a great idea to offer linguistics online, which is moronic. I also heard that they offer speech online, which seems like it teaches people how not to speak in public. I know that schools are broke right now, but it’s very counterproductive to offer these kinds of classes in an isolated setting, since it’s imperative for people to interact and speak for these classes to make any sense.

Moving on from my rant, this post is about the film Alien Nation starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. In this film a spaceship filled with intergalactic slave labor comes to Earth looking for asylum. Within only a few years they’re integrating into American society (in Los Angeles of all the places). At the beginning of the film Caan and his human partner (who is black incidentally) end up in a shootout with a group of these aliens (the politically correct term for them is newcomers and the profane term is slags) at a liquor store, where Caan’s partner is killed. Fast forward a few minutes and Caan is now partnered with the first ever newcomer detective and Caan makes it his mission to find the slags who killed his partner.

As the plot unfolds we find out that the newcomers were addicted to a drug called Jabluka, which was used to keep the newcomers complacent while they were slaves. The search for the manufacturers of this drug, and the criminal slags that shot Caan’s partner, climaxes in an intense car chase/fight where both Caan and Patinkin have to put aside their prejudices and help each other out. I first saw this movie when I was a little kid and enjoyed it, but then again I was always a fan of science fiction and liked most anything that was put in front of me. My tastes have evolved over the years, even though I imbibe a good deal of garbage cinema.

The subtext of this film was what I found interesting on this viewing. The commentary regarding immigration and the exploration of xenophobic was interesting, even if the film wasn’t amazing. Driving through a part of town that is called “Slagsville,” both Caan and his human partner were bombarded by a variety of advertisements geared towards the newcomers; Pepsi ad’s with newcomers jumping up for joy, mixed species fast food outlets, and so forth. The newcomers had even assimilated into contemporary American life, with some being prostitutes, business owners, and bums, complete with their poison in hand (instead of drinking alcohol to get drunk, they drink sour milk). The reaction of the humans towards the newcomers integrating into American society was clever and had undertones of the debate regarding the Mexican-American border that is going on currently. I’m not saying that the filmmakers were prophetic, but there have been problems regarding our shared borders for well over a century and just like any good science fiction, the world that is created is more interesting than the characters that inhabit it.

I am going to give this film three and a half stars out of five. I didn’t think it was amazing, nor was it brilliantly shot, but for the commentary that it gives on our society I think that Alien Nation was successful in holding a mirror up to our society and asking a few pertinent questions. Why is there animosity towards other races, especially regarding border disputes, when borders are nothing more than human constructs? If we are going to give equal rights to those of another race why don’t we treat those people as equals? If we set our social standards at a certain level, why is it that we can’t even follow the standards that we create? The film also features a decent performance from Terence Stamp (Superman II), who plays newcomer villain. On a final note, I thought that the make-up for this film wasn’t that bad, although there were a few scenes where I thought they took the easy way out and certain things, such as the ears, looked a little fake at times. I am understanding that it was 1988 and that the make-up effects that have become commonplace were not what they are now, but even still, with a $16 million dollars budget and only three known stars, they could’ve done a better job with the newcomers make-up. Sorry to nitpick.

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