You have to wonder if we’ll all still be so interested in aliens after the aliens finally arrive — assuming we’re alive to care. Typically, Hollywood believes in the existence of two types of aliens: lovable little critters who love moonlit bike rides and carnivorous monsters intent on humanity’s destruction. Both “Alien Nation” and “District 9” propose a third option, both using aliens as metaphors for socially-conflicted minority groups. With “Alien Nation”, the Newcomers are a vague avatar for homosexuals, blacks, and women. In District 9, the prawns most definitely represent the oppressed Apartheid-era Africans as well as the growing number of refugees in third world countries (i.e. Darfur). So, today, we throw these socially-conscientious sci-fi flicks against one another to see which one U2’s Bono would most likely write a title song for…
Both films are perfectly dreadful/wonderful in entirely different (if entertaining) ways, and itâ€™s going to be difficult coming up with a clear winner; however, it will be delightful deciding which guy would make the dreamier husband. The women on hand provide no contest whatsoever; Rose Byrneâ€™s performance is whiney and borderline creepy while Rachel McAdamsâ€™ baby blues shine with love and mysteriously undying affection, unearned and bizarrely inexplicable as that devotion may be.
(A side note/rant: Weâ€™re up to our necks in foreigners playing Americans, something of a regular occurrence when it comes to romance on film. Either we Yanks donâ€™t like our fantasies homegrown or perhaps the insistent inclusion of the British Commonwealth incrementally expands the international audience. Whatever the reasons, Aussie Rose Byrne fumbles a bit as an utterly unconvincing New York Jewess named Beth opposite always adorable Brit Hugh Dancy who plays the Aspergerâ€™s afflicted Adam with a wide-eyed, slack-jawed and only slightly bogus earnestness. Aussie hunk Eric Bana scores as genetic anomaly Time Traveler midwesterner Henry while as his wife, Canadian Rachel McAdams manages a reasonably convincing (if geographically vague) Chicago WASP-y rich girl. Like Gerard Butler in â€œThe Ugly Truth â€ and Kate Winslet in â€œRevolutionary Road,â€ they all affect flat and frustratingly unspecific American accents, rendering them a tad generic, creepy and alien. Iâ€™m sure critical denizens of the UK experience similar difficulties with RenÃ©e Zellweger (Bridget Jones) and Michelle Pfeiffer among many others. This accent stuff isnâ€™t for sissies; one wonders why romantic leads canâ€™t hail from their countries of origin and skip this pseudo-Middle Atlantic guff altogether.)
If you’re old enough to remember the marketing campaign for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” then you’ll remember the goosebumps you got when you heard the phrase, We are not alone. What was great about that simple sentence was that it promised a movie about aliens that was about wonder and mystery and wasn’t about the same old Hollywood treatment of life in the universe, namely that if it bothered to interact with humans it was for a nefarious reason, like “Independence Day” and “War of the Worlds.” Twenty years after “CE3” came another film that promised to make first contact a matter of humanity’s growth out of the cradle and not some intergalactic cage match. Both “CE3” and “Contact” were aliens for smart people brought to you first by the immense talent of Steven Spielberg and later by the immense intellect of Carl Sagan. In my Hollywood career, I’ve had the good fortune to discuss UFOs and extraterrestrial life with both of these men and found them to have some very different visions of the subject. They each have used film to express their views about life as it might exist “out there.” The question is, which version comes closest to what might be the truth about first contact, and which one is the better film?
A few years ago, Klaatu and Gort made their way back to the ‘hood, thanks to the mega-budget re-make of The Day The Earth Stood Still. The duo arrived, over five decades after the original, with every intention of forcing some extra-terrestrial “tough love” on us.
Keanu Reeves stuck his chest out and stepped into the lead role made famous in 1951 by Michael Rennie, joined in this go-round by Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, and surprisingly, John Cleese. Certainly, the overall production and effects budget makes possible images never even imagined back in near post-war filmmaking.
But can all this money and contemporary talent add up to make this new The Day The Earth Stood Still as enduringly memorable as the old The Day The Earth Stood Still that graced the world’s screens during the height of Cold War paranoia? […]