Being lost in a foreign environment is a terrifying experience. Not only are the trappings of your day-to-day existence no longer present to help you gain your bearings, but the cultural differences may likely get you into more trouble if you don’t know how to properly ask for help. Just the language barrier alone, both spoken and visual, can be challenging to overcome. Now, take this to the extreme and imagine you are lost on an alien planet. While we may not know certain aspects of foreign cultures, we are still interacting with people. Aliens, on the other hand, are so unknown that it can be challenging to know if they are predatory toward humans or not. Our best bet is to find one of them that is sympathetic to us and let it help us return to our own world. This week’s two films highlight the challenges of being lost on an alien planet.
E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial
Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours
One of the ways you can find yourself lost on an alien planet is if you are stranded there. It takes many individuals working together to travel to an alien world, but all it takes is one mistake to leave someone behind. Much like The Martian (2015), the key to being rescued is communicating to those who left you behind to let them know you’re still alive and well. If you’re lucky, the environment of this alien planet is such that you can easily survive until help arrives. However, this entire scenario assumes that a human is stranded on a planet other than Earth. The opposite can also be true as well. There have been many science fiction stories about aliens coming to visit Earth, so what would happen if one of these creatures ends up being lost on a planet that is alien to them? How would they react?
On an expedition to Earth, a group of alien botanists are chased off when some government agents start investigating in the California forest. Because the arrival of the agents was a surprise, the aliens accidentally left one of their members behind. Wandering into town, this castaway eventually finds the hospitality of Elliott (Henry Thomas) and the two immediately bond. Of course, this bond is much deeper than friendship, since “E.T.,” the name given to the alien by Elliott, causes the child to misbehave at school due to the psychic link they now share. When E.T.’s health begins to fail, Elliott also suffers. The only solution is for E.T. to return to his home planet; but first, he must communicate with his comrades. In an exciting escape, both Elliott and E.T. escape from the government agents and arrive at the pickup spot where E.T. is finally taken home.
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours
Often, we think about being lost on an alien world as a bad thing. Take Mars, for example. It is a cold and inhospitable place, which is what made the challenge of staying alive on it in the aforementioned The Martian (2015) so impressive and exciting. But what if Mars was somewhere that was an ideal environment for humans? Much like Earth was a world where the natives of Krypton were given superior strength and powers (a la Superman (1978)), the gravity and environment of Earth could give humans super strength on lighter planets like Mars. In these cases, being lost on an alien planet almost lends itself to becoming the planet’s savior. In fact, with enhanced abilities, one finds the solution for being lost on said alien planet would be to claim this new world as their own and integrate into its society.
Civil War veteran John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) was living a peaceful life in Arizona until he was forcefully re-enlisted into the service to help fight the Apaches. After a run-in with the Indians, Carter finds himself in a cave where he kills a strange creature and is transported to Mars, which the natives call Barsoom. These natives, the Tharks, are in conflict with the Therns, a human-like race that wants to take over all of Barsoom. Because of the differing gravity, among other factors, John finds he now possesses super-human abilities which the leader of the Tharks wants to use in their war against the Therns. In this conflict, John runs across Deja Thoris (Lynn Collins), the Princess of Mars. His drive to return to Earth is diminished as he falls in love and fights for the freedom of the Martians. Will he stay on Barsoom or return to Earth?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 lost lands