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Alien Nation

2 Ratings: 2.0
Science Fiction & Fantasy movie

They get drunk on sour milk. They have two hearts and bald, spotted heads. They're highly intelligent, but if you drop them in seawater they'll melt into a puddle of goop. They're "Newcomers," and they arrived as refugees in a massive alien slave-ship, … see full wiki

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
1 review about Alien Nation

Solid Picture- The Start of Something Great

  • Jul 1, 2010
Rating:
+3
Alien Nation is one of those films that really defies the system of classification that we have in play to cover most motion picture genres. In summaries and reviews it would be easy to pick out staple concepts such as alien invasion, advanced technology and genetically altered slave trading to peg it as definitive science fiction. However, actually watching the film reveals a cop drama that has more in common with pictures such as Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour and perhaps even a bit Coneheads.

Surprisingly Alien Nation is in fact a buddy-cop story with themes of racism, bigotry, and alienation (sorry for the pun but its true) working behind a fairly straightforward action/ comedy setup. Yes this idea would come back to contemporary culture in the form of Neill Blomkamp's District 9 (2009), but 21-years earlier when Alien Nation hit theaters; it was Farscape's Rockne S. O'Bannon credited with coming up with the original concept. James Cameron is rumored to have given early drafts of the script his signature treatment as well (though he remains uncredited in the final cut).

Set in 1991 (then 3-years in the future), Alien Nation tells of a massive alien slave-ship, quarantined for three years before (reluctantly) being allowed to deposit its cargo of some 300,000 beings to be accepted as citizens of Earth. To many humans (including lead character Los Angeles cop Matt Sykes played by James Caan), these "Newcomers" are little more than unwelcome burdens on society.

Sykes's own bigotry reaches fever pitch when Newcomer gang members take the life of his long-time partner. Ironically, in effort to gain footing in the Newcomer criminal underground, Sykes is forced to take on Sam "George" Francisco (Mandy Patinkin), a Newcomer detective in the LAPD as his new partner.

No ordinary extraterrestrials, these Newcomers though, as they get drunk on sour milk, have two hearts and bald, spotted heads. They're of superior intelligence and strength but contact with saltwater is lethal to them. Finally, and as the detectives discover while trying to solve the case of the Sykes' late partner, what we use as laundry detergent is in fact a powerful narcotic when ingested by a Newcomer. Just like one would expect with we foolish humans, it doesn't take long for a criminal empire based around trafficking the substance to solidify.

Pacing in the film is nice and brisk and with a 90-minute runtime, manages never to bog down with unnecessary subplots or techno babble to try and justify its inclusion in the science fiction ranks.

In all the film offers a pretty fresh take on a well-established formula and though not quite "classic" in its scope or sheer presence, it is rife with something few motion pictures achieve: potential. And in a very rare moment of studio exec astuteness, a superior weekly television series from mastermind Kenneth Johnson and five more made-for-tv movies followed this motion picture. Johnson's influence on the property is simply immeasurable in terms of turning this above average flick into a genuine slice of American science fiction entertainment.

Finally, I was able to pick up this DVD as part of 20th Century Fox Double Feature dual-pack (with the impeccable 1980's classic sci-fi film Enemy Mine) for under $10. Should you encounter a similar deal in your travels, don't hesitate in making the investment.

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