The James Clayton Column: Aliens vs. ‘Select Your Opponent’

As Attack The Block introduces the idea of aliens versus youths, James comes up with a few high-concept invasion movie ideas of his own...

Here we go again, Earthlings. The aliens keep landing and the alien invasion films keep on landing in cinemas.

Cinematic portrayals of extraterrestrial arrivals are nothing new, but it does seem that recently there’s been a hot streak of interest in making new pics that bring outer space organisms down to Terra Firma. This fresh impetus can probably be put down to the success of District 9. Neill Blomkamp’s movie showed that interesting things could be done with the alien invasion narrative without astronomical budgets or star names.

Since the fookin’ prawns of District 9 dropped in 2009, we’ve received a range of flicks that seek to pit aliens against people and chronicle close encounters in innovative ways, sometimes successfully and sometimes less so.

Moviemakers sought to spice up the genre by respectively attacking Los Angeles in Skyline (aliens vs. plastic Hollywood party people) and Battle: Los Angeles (aliens vs. US Marines). Extraterrestrial arrival in the Mexican wilderness formed the contextual backdrop to Gareth Edwards’ sublime journey film, Monsters, and Paul performed similar genre blending, riffing on tropes to create an alien encounter crossed with an American road trip taken by a pair of British sci-fi nerds. Conceptually, it’s a more interesting proposition than the standard ‘UFOs come down and blast major landmarks before Earth fights back’ plot.

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Later on this summer we’ll see the extraterrestrial invasion smashed into the Western genre with Jon Favreau’s barmy but brillliant-sounding Cowboy & Aliens (Yes! Aliens vs. cowboys!). Currently in cinemas, though, and even more inspired an idea is Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block, which sets the cosmic arrival on a London estate and pits space invaders against young hoodies (Yes! Aliens vs. chavs!)

Monsters and Attack The Block are excellent films that punch above their weight and stand up as imaginative, inspired works of invention that take the alien visitation movie to very interesting places. The genre may be well worn but if filmmakers keep on tackling the format creatively and look to innovate, then I’m happy to keep on encountering extraterrestrials at the cinema.

While wondering what new takes on the tradition could come in the future, I’m also scanning the marketplace and seeing a lot of franchises looking to find impetus in origins stories. Maybe, instead of trudging through the foundations of a mythos, throwing a few aliens on screen and channelling the tradition of old monster movies might be more lucrative for studios and more enjoyable for audiences.

I can see plenty of opportunities for awesome ‘clash of the titans’ showdown spectacles that keep the space invader streak hot, while revitalising legends that have run their course or need a fresh reboot.

Let’s look to the stars and excitedly consider the big screen possibilities that could come to be a reality…

Aliens vs. Terminator

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The perfect project to mark Arnold Schwarzenegger’s return to ‘acting’, Arnie is back as the iconic cyborg, simultaneously touching on his Predator work as he goes to grapple with ugly offworld mothers. The machines versus malevolent shapeshifting polyps from another galaxy: who will emerge as victor and earn the right to obliterate the human race and travel back in time to terrorise Linda Hamilton?

Aliens vs. Godzilla

Japan’s Gojira has fought extraterrestrial monsters many a time, but Hollywood Godzilla has never had that opportunity. With a reboot in the works and Gareth Edwards attached as director, there’s fresh promise for an innovative Americanised take that captures the true kaiju spirit. A remake of Godzilla Vs. Hedora (a.k.a. the Smog Monster from beyond the stratosphere), set in San Francisco, could be a series starter truly worthy of the King of Monsters.

Aliens vs. 007

James Bond went into outer space to save the world in Moonraker, but has never had to save the world from outer space. He’s bested the KGB, SPECTRE, several deranged drug barons and a long list of sociopath megalomaniacs over the past fifty years, but how will he fare when confronted by cosmic terror from beyond the stars? Having warmed up on Cowboys & Aliens, Daniel Craig will once more come back to the 007 role, ready to accept his toughest mission yet. He will be shaken. He will be stirred. He will be forced to get down and dirty in the back of an Aston Martin with a celestial cephalopod that wants to suck his face off.

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Aliens vs. Spartans

The follow-up to 300 (titled ‘300 2’, ‘300 the 2nd’ or ‘300 Again’, whichever is voted least confusing) sees ancient Greece visited by erudite extraterrestrials with a keen interest in military history. This enthusiasm manifests itself in role-playing games and very thorough battle re-enactments, and the cultural cosmic tourists thus set about reanimating the deceased King Leonidas and his Spartan heroes. It’s the Battle of Thermopylae revisited, except this time the Persians are from another planet.

Aliens vs. the Wedding Party

Movies about weddings or, at least, the overblown build up to weddings are very popular. To draw in the demographic who dig chick flick confetti comedies (Mamma Mia!, Wedding Crashers, The Wedding Singer, Made Of Honour, the list goes on) the alien invasion needs to go on a hen weekend and slither down the aisle. By marrying sci-fi with the shenanigans of The Hangover 2 and Bridesmaids and pitting hostile extraterrestrials against a manor house full of drunk wedding reception guests, you have a guaranteed box office hit.

Aliens vs. Taxi Driver

Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro and Danish director, Lars von Trier, have ambitions to bring Travis Bickle back to the screen, and I’d suggest they send some intergalactic visitors in the direction of Manhattan’s most psychotic cabbie for the sequel. As a great cosmic rain comes to wash the scum off the streets, ‘God’s Lonely Man’ gets to enjoy going gung-ho on venal screwheads from a distant star system. Huh? You gurblin’ at me? Huh, tentacle face? You gurblin’ at me?

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Aliens vs. Werner Herzog

It’s a cruel, indifferent Universe and it’s flinging hostile creatures at planet Earth. Luckily, everyone’s favourite German auteur is on hand with a camera to chronicle the alien invasion and actively attack it with his dry wit and eye for bringing absurd conflicts with nature to screen. The result is Aguirre, The Wrath Of God with conquistador entities from Proxima Centauri trying to claim a chaotic planet while enduring the taunts of Herzog. Klaus Kinski couldn’t kill him. The aliens haven’t got a chance.

Overall, alien invasions are a good thing. I say “Attack the blockbuster!” and “klaatu barada nikto”!

James’ previous column can be found here.

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