You’re at university now—no more Avengers, no more fun explosions. It’s time to become a real adult, with refined taste and an interesting indie sensibility. Resident film expert, Thomas Giblin, provides you with a pathway to a more nuanced understanding of film. You’re going to be so much fun at parties!
Are we alone in the universe? The alien invasion film answers this question… instead of us going to them, they come to us. How would society react? Are they friend or foe? What would our future look like if such a thing happened? Would we meet them with open arms, or would we fear them? This is the beauty of sci-fi and the alien invasion film; it interrogates the fabric of society through a few simple questions.
If you’re wanting to watch more cinema, the alien invasion film is the perfect place to start as it comes in so many shapes and sizes. From Hollywood blockbusters to low-budget horror, it’s a genre for everyone. So, here are some recommendations on films that feature aliens which evoke our present society and our future, one where we may occupy the same planet.
Yes, The Avengers is an alien invasion film. And no, it is not my favorite film in the genre but it is possibly the best Marvel film (if we ignore GOTG). It’s also many people’s first introduction to the genre as it’s disguised as a superhero film, with hundreds of moving parts, but it can be boiled down simply to a group of people defending earth from an alien invasion.
Having experienced this film in theatres when it came out there is something incredibly nostalgic about The Avengers now. The idea of a cinematic universe was new and exciting, we weren’t so exhausted with over saturation of Marvel and anything superhero related, and the discourse around Marvel v.s. DC wasn’t so toxic. That’s why I recommend using The Avengers as a point of departure. Why not watch something new and attempt to rekindle that feeling of awe you had when the Avengers assembled?
What if aliens landed and we couldn’t communicate with them? How would we go about understanding their language? In Arrival, twelve extraterrestrial spacecraft arrive and hover over twelve different locations. Amy Adams, unjustly ignored by the Academy for this role, plays linguist Louise Banks. She is tasked by the U.S. military to figure out how to communicate with two cephalopod-like, seven-limbed aliens (heptapods), who inhabit the spacecraft that hovers over Montana. Adams is helped by Hawkeye, aka Jeremy Renner, as physicist Ian Donnelly and as they attempt to understand these aliens before the world descends into chaos.
What makes this film a masterpiece is its direction from Denis Villeneuve who’s vision of such an event is breathtakingly epic yet wonderfully restrained and introspective. Accompanied by a score from the late, great Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson which breaks your heart and shatters your soul, Arrival will change your perspective on life itself. Quite simply this film is one off, if not the best sci-fi film in recent memory.
If aliens came to earth, where would they go? Would they live next door to us or would we segregate them as the ‘other’? In District 9, which is directors Neill Blomkamp’s first feature film and lead actor Shartlo Copley’s first professional acting role, aliens known informally as ‘prawns’ arrive as refugees from their dying planet. For a film that is about extraterrestrials, District 9 feels distinctly human which is due in part to its mockumentary style and plethora of unknowns who star (giving the film authenticity). This style, partnered with its grunge-fuelled aesthetic, makes it a wholly original film, one that we can consider an instant classic, if we ignore some of its flaws.
Although the premise is perfectly situated to explore so many issues, such as xenophobia, racism and segregation, that are present in today’s society it feels at times a tad shallow, as it doesn’t do enough with its thematic richness. It teeters around these issues but there is just enough depth for the film to carry real bite. It’s this quality, along with astounding visual effects, that earned the film an Academy Award nomination. District 9 will fully engross you in a world that is both fascinating and repugnant.
Before he was a global superstar after starring as Finn in Star Wars, John Boyega was Moses in the brilliant Attack The Block. Centered around a teen gang who defend their block from an alien invasion this film is a blast from start to finish. Writer-director Joe Cornish rejects the ‘hoodie horror’ film which demonises urban youths and instead, we fall in love with these ‘hoodlums’ through smart, sharp writing. Each character is wonderfully unique as their personalities are allowed to shine through, making for more than a few hilarious moments.
Although the film runs just under 90-minutes, we are given enough to hang-out with Moses, Adams, Pest, and Dennis which makes the film feel more akin to Linklater‘s Slacker and Dazed and Confused at times. This emphasis on character makes Attack The Block a must-watch for anyone wanting to enjoy a fun, rewatchable sci-fi film that isn’t afraid to say a few damning things about society today.
John Carpenter has a filmography that consists of Halloween, The Fog, Escape From New York and Assault on Precinct 13. But now, one film stands above them all: They Live, which was critically panned upon its release. Now, it’s garnered a cult following as an underrated masterpiece. Nada (Roddy Piper, the wrestling star) plays a drifter who discovers a pair of glasses which shows the world as it truly is: aliens rule the world and enslave the population.
This stunning allegory and critique of capitalism has not aged a day since its release in 1988. It is more relevant now in its indictment of capitalism, which is remarkably hilarious. The humour the film generates from its one liners, and so-bad-it’s-good acting makes They Live a wonderfully subversive film. The humour allows the film and its radical nature to get under your skin. Saying this is an alien invasion film may be a bit of a stretch, but regardless it’s a fun watch and features a 5-minute fight scene that is rightly considered as one of the best of all time.