If you were to ask any student of internet memes what the History channel regards as history any more, they would tell you, “Aliens” (while also squinting and holding their hands out). Of course, we don’t mean aliens in the literal, “non-local personnel” definition, but rather in the science fiction “people from Mars” explanation. While many people would love for nothing more than having aliens come to Earth, it’s not quite as simple as that. If we’ve learned anything from sci-fi movies, it’s that most of the time aliens want to kill us (take Alien as an apt example). And even if they are peaceful, think of all the bureaucracy that would have to go with the immigration forms (for which Men in Black certainly covers well). Needless to say, there are many movies that deal with humans interacting with aliens in many different ways. This week’s two films highlight the definition of alien interaction.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours
It is interesting to note that while we have not once encountered alien life in any form, even despite many decades of searching, we already have a classification system of the levels of interactions that could occur if we were to encounter one. Close Encounters of the Third Kind gives a simple breakdown of this hierarchy of alien interaction. A close encounter of the first kind is that of observing an Unidentified Flying Object, or UFO (generally: the alien spacecraft). A close encounter of the second kind is that of physical evidence to show alien interaction with the earth system. Finally, a close encounter of the third kind is actually making contact with the aliens in a face-to-face interaction. Much like Isaac Asimov’s rules of robotics, despite the fictional nature of these encounters, many hold to their classification scheme.
When military aircraft go missing, it is considered a mystery. However, when they re-appear in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, the mystery deepens. While the U.S. Government is trying to figure out what happened, they learn of an Indiana man by the name of Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) who has had a close encounter of the first kind. He has since become obsessed with the image of a mountain that he knows nothing about. After decoding an alien message, the Government clears an area around Devil’s Tower, claiming that a toxic spill has made the area uninhabitable. However, Roy sees images of the natural monument and immediately realizes that the mountain in his head is actually a mountain in Wyoming. Ignoring the toxic warnings, Roy heads to Wyoming to attempt to participate in a close encounter of the third kind.
*batteries not included
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours
*batteries not included is an interesting film, not only for its special effects, but for the people who worked on it. While most people don’t even recall this 80’s sci-fi family classic, it was produced by Steven Spielberg (who also directed the first film of this post), since he felt that a story like this (which originally was meant for a TV show) would make a good movie. Also of note is that Brad Bird (director of The Incredibles and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) helped write the screenplay for this gem. And while the story might be a bit cliche, the small robot alien spaceships (known as “The Fix-its”) are certainly unique in many respects. If you haven’t seen this film before, I would urge you to find it and watch it. You won’t regret it.
So now the question remains, “You’ve made contact with aliens . . . now what?” Most people are fine with just meeting an alien, but having to live with one? That’s a whole other story entirely. Most of us have our own problems to deal with, and the tenants at an old apartment building are no different. At the very least, the arrival of The Fix-its provide a bit of a distraction to these people, who are facing eviction based on an eminent domain claim from a property developer who wants to make a skyscraper on the land that the apartment is occupying part of. And while these little alien spaceship beings are great at fixing physical things, their presence brings a joy to the apartment dwellers that helps to fix up many of their tattered and broken lives. But is that enough for them to keep their homes?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 interactive aliens