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ALIEN NATION - 1988
20th Century Fox
Rated: Finland: K-16 / France: U / Germany: 16 / Norway: 18 / Sweden:
15 / U.K.: 18 / USA: R
Even when this movie was released in 1988, it was clear that either the tale would
come true or the movie would age pretty damn quick. It was supposed to
happen in 1991, a scant two years away from the release date. What's more,
Ronald Reagan is still president for some reason even though he was already
on his final term (his Veep, George Bush Sr., won the election to serve a term from 1988 to 1992). In other words,
while the actual movie may take place in the early 90's, the visitors were among us "Right Now" circa 1988.
That's right, The Visitors. A curious band of genetically created alien slaves whose
ship got sidetracked and wound up here on earth. They have all, largely,
settled into Los Angeles - we seem to be the only country that would take
them. They are smarter than us, stronger than us, and pretty much better
than us in almost every other way. That said, the thousands of aliens
quickly fall into the myriad of human traits that we know and love so
well. Some are mental wrecks, too disturbed by life to be much more than
milk-aholics (they get drunk on sour milk).
Others are mental and moral wrecks, furiously savaging their neck of Los
Angeles (the derogatory term for these visitors
is Slags, hence, their ghetto is Slag Town) with street crime.
Still others are prostitutes (nice to know that they can fit!), pimps, thieves; the whole shmeer of street denizen
life. On the other hand, you have your wealthy and well to do Visitors:
professionals, doctors, business people, and tycoons. In essence, they
are yet another minority to deal with and to have assimilated into American
culture. Those who are the most resistant to the ways of the U.S. are
those who will take the longest to be accepted. As with any group of strangers
in strange lands, there are those who try to belong and those who don't.
For Detective Sargent Mathew Sykes, (James Caan: SLITHER, ROLLERBALL, MISERY), the Visitors are
a target for all of his anger and bile at the world. He is divorced, his
wife is remarried, and his daughter is grown and getting married, with
the new husband footing the bill.
His partner and best friend, Detective Bill Tuggle (Roger Aaron Brown: NEAR DARK), can't help but laugh at his
pal's xenophobia. He no doubt is remembering that similar words had been
said about his own people (African Americans).
While the bones of this story are Science Fiction, this tale is a moral one about
racism. Writer Rockne S. O'Bannon (FEAR [TV 1990], CREATURE [TV], FATAL ERROR [TV]) wrote a story that touches on
all manner of racism without isolating any one U.S. minority's problems.
The Visitors and their trials and troubles are a conglomeration of the
hassles that various races and religions have been persecuted under in
this or any country. Its odd though, that a movie that is trying to be
a sensitive study of social issues like this would earn an . . .
!!!UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ ALERT!!!:
Because while this movie is trying to address the problem of racism, it
falls into one of the oldest and oddest of Hollywood Rules For Horror/Thriller
movies. That is to kill off the black man. Roger Aaron Brown's character,
Tuggle, is murdered in the very first scene and it is up to his white
partner, Sykes, to avenge his death. This is a real role reversal for
James Caan who, in Brian's Song, died while his African American partner,
Billy Dee Williams, held his hand. Then again, Brian's Song was based
on REAL LIFE, and it doesn't fit into categories so well. There
are no other black people with any substantial roles in the whole flick.
Certainly not any detectives in Sykes precinct. I don't want to give the
movie away, but watch it yourself and tell me if any other black actors
make it out alive.
Find out more about the UNFAIR RACIAL CLICHÉ
Sykes new partner is Sam Francisco (a name the INS gave him while he was being processed. There are many of these jokes in the movie and the humor works well) played by Mandy Patinkin (LAST EMBRACE, NIGHT OF THE JUGGLER). Sykes purposefully chose Sam to
be his partner, for no other reason than to force Sam to help him "Nail
that Slag bastard who killed my partner!" The inevitable buddy movie
ensues as Sykes and Francisco unravel a case involving blackmail along
with minor twists and turns.
Much is made of the fact that the Aliens are physically superior to us in terms of
strength and endurance (they have two hearts to our one, etc.) and the whole movie builds itself up toward what
should have been an extraordinary climax. The ending turns out to be quite
an anti-climatic let down, played more for a "feel good" resolution
than the kind of shock that such a thriller had promised its audience.
This is a mediocre movie that was made into a far better TV Show and only gets Two Shriek Girls.
copyright 2000 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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