Earlier this year, we did a Roundtable about favorite alien invasion movies and TV series. With the belated ‘Independence Day’ sequel arriving this week under heavily negative buzz, let’s turn that topic around and look at some of the worst movies about extraterrestrials trying to conquer the Earth.
I’m one of the unfortunate souls who sat through ‘Dreamcatcher‘ in the theater. Based on a Stephen King novel, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, with a screenplay by William Goldman and featuring a solid cast (including Morgan Freeman), this baby had box office hit written all over it when it was released back in 2003. The plot revolves around four childhood friends (shades of ‘Stand By Me’) who get together every year and take a hunting trip. The catch here is that all four of them happen to be telepathic, which is one of the reasons they have a strong bond in the first place. This particular year, their trip results in an encounter with some alien parasites that just happen to be telepathic as well, and exit their human hosts using a route no moviegoer should ever have to witness again in a mainstream movie.
Freeman pops up in the second half of the film, giving one of his worst performances ever (although I’m sure the paycheck was nice) as a military officer who decides the best way to solve this alien invasion is to just kill everyone. Honestly, that’s about all I remember, as I’ve had no desire to revisit this film after 13 years. I do remember it being one of the worst experiences I’ve had watching a sci-fi movie in the theater. It’s awful.
When the ads for ‘Skyline‘ started running, I thought to myself, “That looks like it could be interesting. The FX look decent and it stars Turk from Scrubs. How bad can it be?” At that time, I couldn’t even fathom the awful level the movie would actually manage to reach. ‘Skyline’ doesn’t start horribly, but it quickly goes awry. It held my attention through the start of the invasion, but after that I only kept watching to see how bad it got. It ultimately functions on the level of Syfy original movies, especially when the climax features a principal character turning into one of the ape-like alien monsters and having a ‘Mortal Kombat’-style battle. You can’t un-see movies like that.
While it may be ambitious, ‘Cowboys & Aliens‘ stands out as one sad and boring alien invasion. The aliens in particular lack for any interesting characters, while the rest of the cast seems to have made a pact to pretend like it’s a very serious film. Although it sounds as good as mixing pirates and ninjas, nothing about bringing aliens into this Western setting works. By the time the story moves into a derelict steamboat (a somewhat interesting setting), I was already begging for the movie to end.
One issue I have is that the alien invasion aspect is a big mystery to the characters, but not to the audience. What we get in terms of plot with Daniel Craig and Olivia Wilde (and Harrison Ford) doesn’t make this alien-on-cowboy slog any less of a big-budget throwaway.
Chris Boylan (Big Picture Big Sound)
As a book, ‘Battlefield Earth‘ was an enjoyable far-future sci-fi tale which imagined an Earth where the human race has been decimated by an aggressive alien species here to plunder our planet’s resources. Hundreds of years into the invasion, surviving humans have effectively devolved into grunting beasts, slaves to the alien Psychlos, mindlessly working the mines for their alien overlords. A plucky young human manages to learn the alien Psychlos’ language and ways and attempts to enlist his fellow humans to overthrow his captors.
As a movie, ‘Battlefield Earth’ features terrible dialogue, gaping plot holes and ham-fisted acting performances by its two stars. Forrest Whitaker and John Travolta actually play the bad guys in the film (the aliens). Imagine John Travolta as a 9-foot tall Klingon wearing KISS boots, spewing lines like, “Get these stupid man-animals out of my way,” and you’ll start to get an idea for just how bad it is.
As the book was written by L. Ron Hubbard (before he invented Scientology), Travolta, a devout Scientologist, took it upon himself to get the film made as a pet project. Eventually, he conned a production company into backing it (though he also put up quite a bit of his own fortune to make the film). Critically panned and universally reviled, ‘Battlefield Earth’ is so bad that it’s almost fun to watch. No, I take that back. It’s just plain bad.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
It probably goes without saying that 1959’s ‘Invisible Invaders‘ was shot for next to nothing, and what better way is there to stretch a dollar than with alien warriors that can’t actually be seen? Conceptually, that could be incredibly suspenseful. How can mankind hope to fend off an extraterrestrial threat if we can’t aim our tanks or guns toward anything in particular? Even their flying saucers are invisible!
Instead, these invisible invaders possess the corpses of our recently dead. As I’m sure you already know, dead humans can very clearly be seen, so the aliens abandon their chief advantage. The overwhelming majority of the havoc that’s wrought is seen in stock footage of natural disasters and excerpts from old serials. The aliens announce their presence not with a grand display of power but over the P.A. at a local hockey game. As ghoulish as the pre-Romero makeup effects are, the zombies tend to just slowly shamble around in nice suits. The movie’s pacing is excruciatingly glacial, and so much of it is set inside a secret military bunker that the threat to the world at large is rarely felt. Heck, the bunker is so secure that it doesn’t feel as if our heroes are in any imminent danger themselves!
If you’re feeling masochistic, Kino Lorber Studio Classics is bringing ‘Invisible Invaders’ to Blu-ray on July 12th.
‘Battleship‘ is a misconceived disaster of a movie on every level. Nominally based on the classic board game (which has nothing to do with aliens whatsoever), the film was commissioned by the Hasbro toy company following the major success of its ‘Transformers’ and (to a lesser extent) ‘G.I. Joe’ feature films. Riding that wave, the execs at the company believed they were on a roll and could turn any property into movie gold. Looking for something that could be shaped into another big-budget action epic, neither My Little Pony nor Play-Doh exactly seemed like a good fit. ‘Battleship’, though… The game’s about military forces shooting at each other. There’s got to be something workable in that, right?
So, a movie was greenlit and fast-tracked. For some reason, a simple naval adventure story was deemed insufficient to do the project justice. It needed something flashier. How about aliens? Sure, why the hell not?
What we wind up with after all this is a painfully stupid and clichéd alien invasion movie that bears no resemblance to the ‘Battleship’ game. Because Michael Bay was busy working on the next ‘Transformers’ assignment, Peter Berg got roped in to copy every facet of his overbearing style, on top of which he imposed his own fondness for utterly incoherent shaky-cam action sequences. The movie is idiotic and, at a needless length of 131 minutes, a total slog to sit through. It couldn’t be worse.
What are some of the worst alien invasion movies or TV shows you’ve suffered through? Tell us in the Comments.