Top 10 – Alien Invasions
They came from another world with an irrational hatred of the bawling apes crawling on the blue planet in orbit around a yellow sun. It’s almost as if we’ve been bombarding the local area with a wide variety of radio signals that could be decoded to discover angry, hate-filled or generally annoying content. Frankly we don’t feel there’s any need for the death beams and intimate probing, the whole thing has been a whole over-reaction, we’re not the bad guys here, and we have the films to prove that out of everyone else in the galaxy, we’re the heroes.
Hunker down, and arm yourselves, as we play host to the intrusive outsiders from beyond the stars and life from places that defy understanding. Welcome to the Top 10 alien invasions.
10) Kang and Kodos – The Simpsons
Perpetually drooling cephalopods from Rigel VII are regulars of the reoccurring Treehouse of Horrors hallowe’en specials, often guests but occasionally the stars of the show. One of the most notable instances was the abduction of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in Treehouse VII, to replace them in the presidential race, and despite their plans being foiled at the last moment, it doesn’t change the fact that there are two political parties in America, and trying to vote in a third party is just laughable.
Our maniacally laughing orbital observers are often just as horrified to be a part of the Treehouse of Horrors as we are to have them. A gremlin once tore their ship apart. And worse, the Simpsons once thought they were going to cook and eat them when they were brought onboard as honoured guests and made Serak the Preparer cry (voiced by James Earl Jones, who once also voiced Maggie). And though the Rigellian invasion may never happen in truth, at least we know that we’d have been better off voting for Kodos.
9) Chitauri – Avengers
The events of New York in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble may have been climactic in the film, but we still see their influence today, even in Civil War, as Stark’s terror at the impossible forces he saw on the brink of entering the world have driven him to greater heights of paranoia and going to extreme lengths to protect the world (hence Ultron). Thanos’s forces are still out there conspiring against the planet that now shelters a disproportionate number of Infinity Stones, and the people are terrified of the only people who can protect them.
But let’s not forget that Hulk sucker-punched Thor for no reason other than he was the nearest thing to punch.
Having a neural link up to your mothership that kills your every soldier if the ship is destroyed by – oh lets say a carefully redirected nuke – seems like rather poor strategy that I’m sure must have been well explained in a deleted scene, but it doesn’t change the fact that opening holes in the sky is one hell of a way to make our planet sit up and take notice. If only everyone could get behind S.H.I.E.L.D to help defend against the coming Infinity Wars.
8) Independence Day
The modern day classic alien invasion films has finally gotten the sequel that everyone kind of knew it didn’t need, and yet the original was something pretty damn cool. Before Will Smith was working as a G. Man for the secretive alien-monitoring wing of the government, he was pulling invaders out of their cockpits and punching them to death, Jeff Goldblum was pulling viruses compatible with alien technology out his… deleted scenes, and Bill Pullman played the president for the first time.
If I was going to invade a planet I don’t know that I’d necessarily destroy military bases and population centres unless I was entirely confident of victory, I’ve seen Enders Game, humans are a very all-or-nothing species, but kudos to these guys. When your ships can touch both sides of the horizon you might as well make a big show of your arrival, and follow that up with catastrophic power-weapons and a total devastation of military capabilities.
7) Destroy All Humans!
This is all just a huge misunderstanding. Because we happened to vivisect one little alien, suddenly we’re the subject of a revenge story! When Crypto-137 comes to rescue his predecessor his buddy Pox mistakes cows for the prevalent lifeform on Earth. Ok, so there’s actually quite a bit more storyline here than that, but the short version is we’re made of alien DNA that Crypto has come to extract in large quantities. This is a game about destroying things in large quantities, and stealing as many brains as you can.
Destroy All Humans is perhaps best known for comedy value, ridiculous weapons, brain-tossing victims into the sky, and the over the top level of destruction you can wreak upon humanity. The sequels only increase in ridiculousness and destructive power. This may only be an invasion of one, but it’s fairly decisive, and filled with probing, lots and lots of probing.
6) The Mist
Sometimes it’s not some great intelligence bent on our destruction that makes its way onto our planet to wreak havoc and carnage, once in a while it’s the bumblings of military-led science that lets in a menagerie of extra-deadly extraterrestrials through a portal they saw fit to open. In the John Carpenter’s 2007 interpretation of Stephen King’s sci-fi thriller the creatures that haunt the dreaded mists killing people by the dozen aren’t malevolent, just different. Their evolutionary course seems to have been something of an arms race, with barbed tentacles, viciously poisonous stings, projectile acid webs, or simple size on their side.
In fact The Mist has less to do with the terrors outside than it does with the terrors that lurk within (Oh King you cunning devil you) as the fearful survivors are driven to ever increasing heights of fear, acts of desperation, and the voice of lunacy suddenly becomes sounds all too beguiling, even as she cries for blood sacrifice to appease… what is basically a dangerous zoo. The climax of the film is a little heartbreaking, but I shan’t spoil it for you because The Mist is well worth the watch, and made my flight to Australia in 2008 go so much faster.
5) Pacific Rim
When I was a kid, whenever I’d feel small or lonely, I’d look up at the stars. Wondered if there was life up there. Turns out I was looking in the wrong direction. When alien life entered our world, it was from deep beneath the Pacific Ocean. A fissure between two tectonic plates. A portal between dimensions. The Breach.
Oh how I love this film. We built giant robots to fight the giant extradimensional monsters that emerged from a crack in the ground under the ocean, and set it to intentionally badly translated dialogue because it’s an anime fanfic. The kaiju were designed by combining elements of real animals and inflating them to Godzilla proportions, like Leatherback the gorilla with an EMP built in, or Raiju the three-jawed crocodile-eel-shark.
In Pacific Rim the world unites on a project to save our own lives, and we very nearly get on with each other for a while until the Jaeger project fails ONCE and suddenly the world government has a major falling out and builds a wall. Building a wall won’t stop the dangerous aliens! Some of them have wings (which is where the subtle political commentary falls apart) or acid spit, or are so big that walls just don’t matter. It’s a war of physically impossible scale, shamelessly cool, unapologetically cheesy, and all around brilliant.
4) Mysterons – Captain Scarlet
1967, a time of cold war paranoia and sleeper agents in every neighbourhood. The greatest fear was the unseen threat, and there was no greater enemy than a familiar face. In 2068 came The Mysterons: aptly named disembodied voices capable of influencing events on Earth to a minor extent, but with the incredible ability to create near-immortal replicas of human beings that fall entirely under their control. The only sign of their influence would be the drifting circles of green light that would pass over the scene of any disaster they would orchestrate.
The replicated Captains Scarlet and Black nearly brought the world’s united government to its knees under the guise of their former Spectrum agent counterparts, but thanks to Spectrum’s efforts the replica defected to Earth, Scarlet took the place of his original, and became their main weapon in the war of mistrust and paranoia, an immortal warrior, and the only man alive able to detect other Mysteron clones. Black still skulks in the shadows as the only known face of the distant intelligence that plagues mankind.
3) Space Invaders
Good god! They’ve changed direction, the devils! These tactical geniuses (genii?) may very well have us beat, they’ve just taken down the best tank driver we have. You’d better get out there before they decimate our three defences. Be sure to destroy them all, we don’t want to have to send out the rookie, because those fiends are getting faster.
This arcade legend has become an iconic symbol of gaming as a whole, the ever descending alien crafts have become the go-to symbol to identify video games. It’s also a great example of how limitations can improve design, because Space Invaders’ strength is in its simplicity, so while the invasion may have all the tactical cunning of Zapp Brannigan, the game is absolute brilliance. Although I don’t think we ever really found out what the giant horned silhouette was on the side of the machine.
2) War of the Worlds – Orson Welles
No, not the Tom Cruise film, aliens aren’t actually invading Tom, and if they are, they aren’t occupying our bodies making us sad. They’re working for our government and film industry. And besides, no film ever made people panic and retreat into bomb shelters.
The day the tripods descended we were made horrifyingly aware of how inadequate we were, as our armies attempted hopelessly to destroy the death machines. Our seemingly inevitable demise was broadcast over the radio in 1938, and at the time the effects were so incredibly real – even over the radio – that as the live show continued police began to enter the studio, trying to shut down the hoax until the executive producer went on air to inform everyone that the whole production was a work of fiction.
Ok, there’s some speculation today about how much panic there actually was, as the ratings weren’t all that high, and there’s a good chance the whole thing was a stunt to drive interest in the interpretation of the 1898 novel by H.G. Wells, but it’s a cool story that has seen two films, another radio adaption and a Hey Arnold! parody. You know you’ve made it in the industry.
1) Mars Attacks! (1996)
Mars attacks quite a lot actually. Mysterons and Tripods are martians, John Carter has had some trouble over there, and the Wong family have had some grief from the natives. But I think we can all agree that there were none more fearful than the massive-brained hyper-advanced little green men with no lips, their warriors devastating our military, their scientists experimenting on our people, their diplomats executing ours, and their terrifying warcry…
Tim Burton’s alien horror spoof was a star-studded masterpiece of a parody, featuring practically anyone major in the 90’s including President Jack Nicholson, famously killed by a disembodied hand taken in friendship, that impales him and flies a tiny martian flag. And their great weakness? Some minor disease of ours that is a plague to them? A vulnerability in their technology? Yodelling? It was yodelling, I skipped to the punchline, yodelling and folk music makes their distended heads explode.
Once again, through pluck, wit, enthusiasm, or just plain freakish luck we have overcome the invaders at our doorstep, but in such a vast universe we can never be entirely safe from the intrusive forces that are all entirely interested in what Earth has to offer. Don’t take the tinfoil hat off just yet, it’s not safe to get out of the shower, keep your shotgun clutched in twitching hands, and your eyes fixed firmly on the malevolent stars. Aliens are everywhere, and there’s more in the honourable mentions!
Damn Prawns have come to steal our food. They come to us and just expect us to give them a hand out without offering us anything in return when they have some of the best weapons on the planet? Why bring those weapons here in the first place? What are they hiding?
I loved Neill Blomkamp’s analysis on how we deal with immigration through the eyes of the eight-foot crustaceans and the man who slowly begins to understand the suffering they go through. Sharlto Kopley’s breakthrough role sees him go from oppressive bureaucrat to fearful refugee, and eventually becoming the exact people he spent a lifetime controlling. Trapped on a planet, isolated and by its people, exploited by its government, even their young are slaughtered if not authorised to exist, the Prawns of District 9 go through a struggle that is all too real for some.
Zerg Rush – Starcraft
You’ve just got the place how you like it, plenty of pylons dotted around, vespene gas is flowing, even the zealots are getting along, and suddenly the party gets raided by the chittering plague of lizard/insect monstrosities, and they brought friends with them. It’s a Zerg Rush, the classic strategy of amassing more low-level units than your opponent has bullets for, dragging with it a small but solid core of medium-level units to actually do the damage while the enemy panics.
In truth you hardly need more than a couple of ultralisks for the fear of the thing, because about a hundred zerglings backed up by a couple of dozen hydralisks with a dash of aerial backup is more than enough to cripple your opponent long enough to build a second, far more final wave. It’s a strategy that’s carried into many other RTS games, and the name Zerg is pretty synonymous with overwhelming numbers in any setting. Just don’t Google it unless you’re quick with the left mouse button.
For another week, our planet is safe and our list is done. We can let the guns cool and recharge our shields ready for a fresh wave of flying saucers or other UFOs and start the process of rebuilding. At last we can plan for the future! Well next week at least, pick our Top 10 for next week folks.
My fellow humans who enjoy cheese and emotions, your opinions are valid and respectable, and worth becoming unreasonably impassionate about. If you have found cause to disagree with this arbitrarily organised list of occupational forces, then spend some of your remaining life typing your opinions into Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. Return next week when I, Joel, and he, Tim, shall return for another Top 10 list.