QUIET PLACE II (2021) isn’t as tense and scary as the first film but the story of Emily Blunt and her family traveling across country, moving in with a wary survivalist and possibly learning of a safe haven from the monsters is still compelling viewing. The opening flashback to the monsters’ appearance (following that old standby Oh, It Looks Like A Meteor Landed) confirms they are extraterrestrial; an interview I read on line (but can’t find right now) said the creators’ concept was that of an invasive species flourishing in an environment with no natural predators. I don’t think A Quiet Place needed a sequel, but I did enjoy this. Djimon Hounsou plays the leader of the refuge (once again, the black guy dies first). “They had 12 boats lined up on the docks that day, and only two got off.”
VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET (1960) started as a Broadway satire in which the alien Kreton causes chaos on Earth and turns out to be a meddling kid (one can only wonder if the writers of Star Trek: Squire of Gothos saw this, though it’s hardly the only example of that idea in SF). In the movie version, we get Jerry Lewis playing Kreton as the kind of annoying man-child Lewis was in many of his films, turning a baffled eye on everything from sex (“Our women are 36 inches all the way down.”) to Beatnik hangouts (though Lewis’ modern dance scene there is pretty funny). Despite making use of Gale Gordon, Fred Clark and Earl Holliman in the cast, this is forgettable stuff. The aliens could almost be angels, sitting around on clouds and demonstrating powers that look more like magic than super-science. “For several years now, certain lunatic elements have proclaimed the existence of flying saucers.”
I’d forgotten that MEN IN BLACK (1997) was actually a refugee story (“These are aliens without a planet.”), though unusually not one where it’s an obvious parallel for human outcasts — that is, it’s more What If We Had Refugees Coming to the U.S. From Space than using them as a metaphor for immigration generally. With Tommy Lee Jones as the MIB veteran, Will Smith learning astronomy “There’s no galaxy in Orion’s belt!”), Linda Fiorentino getting mindwiped repeatedly (like Wendy on Middleman, she also proves herself by not freaking out under stress), Vincent D’Onofrio fights for insect rights and the supermarket tabloids are the best news source on Earth. Still extremely funny. “You’ll either get used to it or you’ll have a psychotic episode.”
In writing about Evil Superman stories for my alien superheroes chapter, I’ve realized they can be subgrouped. There are those where Superman breaks bad such as Mark Waid’s Irredeemable, those where he’s a sleeper agent for his people (Invincible and Brightburn) and those that ask what if he’d been found by someone else. SUPERMAN: Red Son (2000) is in that third category: instead of the wheat fields of Kansas, he lands in the Ukraine. Eventually he puts his powers in the service of the state until he realizes how ruthless Stalin is, then kills him, assumes control and starts building a utopia. Alas, like every other comic book effort to do this by force, things do not work out well … While the assurances the American Way Of Freedom Is Better ring rather hollow these days, this is overall a good one, adapted by comics writer J.M. DeMatteis from the Mark Millar miniseries. While it’s not unusual to ship Luthor and Lois, this is one of the few times their relationship ends happily. “Conventional weapons aren’t enough when one man, one alien, has the power to bring an entire nation to its knees.”
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