For me the worst part was sitting through these crappy films!
THE DARKEST HOURS (2011) s a routine thriller in which a quartet of young Americans in Moscow has to band together to survive when invisible aliens launch a war of the worlds. Tedious and uninteresting. “Is it just me or does Cyrillic look a lot like Klingon?”
SAVE YOURSELVES (2020) is an unsatisfying SF comedy in which a couple take a weekend in the woods to work on their relationship without much success (“You’re just substituting that notebook for your computer.”). Then they discover that while their phones were off, aliens resembling large tribbles conquered the world (“Look at all these text messages.”). The relationship stuff is incredibly tedious and the ending makes no sense at all. “She said the rats were taking over the city — and something about ethanol.”
SKYLINES (2020) follows up the ending of Beyond Skyline by revealing the human/ET hybrid leading our counter-attack made a bad call that got hundreds of humans killed. Now, though, she’s once again heading into space to find the source of a deadly threat — but is the cause what she thinks? Too stock to work. “It was hard to stay in touch when you’re working for the people who are hunting me.”
THE RIM OF THE WORLD (2019) is considerably more watchable: four kids at a summer camp discover an alien attack has wiped out the adults or sent them running, they have a McGuffin that can turn the tide on their hands and a malevolent alien hunter is on their trail (having it come down to Earth on a crashed shuttle felt like a throwback to the Quatermass days). Unlike Aliens in the Attic this takes the realistic assumption that the best the kids can hope to do is run and stay alive; not A-list, but I’ve sat through worse. “I prefer the dog theory.”
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (2011) opens with various members of a Marine platoon dealing with their personal issues — one guy’s impending marriage, staff sergeant Aaron Eckhart’s impending retirement — when aliens attack cities around the world with an army of cyborg ET warriors (the mechanized look is one I keep seeing in films but I can’t quite describe it) backed up by flying drones. When the Marines call Eckhart back to duty, can he lead them to victory?
This is very much a war movie with multiple tropes from that genre — inspiring speeches; dropping your guard in a peaceful moment only to pay a price; disparate individuals forming into a single battle unit (the big obstacle to unity is Eckhart’s rep for getting his people killed); and fighting against the odds as heroically as the Battered Bastards of Bascoigne. It’s unusual to have the military this effective against an invader; I find myself debating whether this is genuinely grimmer than ET invasions used to be or if it’s just that we get close enough to the platoons to feel it when Maries bite the dust. “In my experience, lieutenant, ‘heavy shit’ is highly overrated.”
INDEPENDENCE DAY(1996) makes my point about the military in Battle Los Angeles — here they fight valiantly but in the end it’s up to IT Whiz Jeff Goldblum and drunken crop-duster Randy Quaid to take down the enemy fleet (Goldblum also realizes the alien attack is imminent before anyone in government does). This is very heavy on manliness, emphasizing president Bill Pullman as a former fighter pilot (“The people elected a warrior and they got a wimp.”) and on sexism — First Lady Mary McDonnell literally dies because she didn’t listen to her husband. This shows a strong Star Wars influence, particularly in the climax as the good guys rush to destroy the ship before it can pull a Death Star and blow up are last forces (both this and Battle Los Angeles show massive ships in contrast to the smaller ones used by Klaatu or the War of the Worlds Martians). With Brent Spiner as a U.S. scientist, Will Smith as a cigar-chomping pilot, Vivica Fox as his stripper girlfriend, Margaret Colin as Goldblum’s ex and Robert Loggia and Judd Hirsch in supporting roles. “I really don’t think they flew 90 billion light years just to start a fight.”
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