Alien Invasion (2003), Dir. Hank Perlman

Pathé Films

Starring: Jim Broadbent, Eddie Izzard, Joe McFadden

Reviewed by Djibril

This short film is a four-minute public awareness commercial for the environmental charity Greenpeace. The premise is a pan-galactic council of master-race aliens debating the take-over of Earth; they fear that we have damaged our planet beyond repair and that Earth is therefore not a worthwhile investment. One alien (McFadden) however argues that if humans can be persuaded to exercise ethical consumer pressure, they can still save the planet.

On the one hand it is clearly unfair to judge a short commercial by the standards of a science fiction movie, a genre which it is emulating rather than claiming to contribute to. On the other hand, though, the press release bills it as a movie that 'echoes sci-fi classics', and it was shown at the Berlin Film Festival, so it has some pretensions to quality. Nevertheless, the comments that follow should not be taken as tedious pedantic criticism.

As speculative fiction, there is not much to say about this picture: the aliens are loosely in the Trek tradition—humanoids with funny-shaped heads and cheap rubber masks. They have names like Zarg and Brik, speak like stereotyped bureaucrats, and make references to 2003 popular culture. There is no hint of menace behind their plans for the universe, no viewer estrangement or unsettling weirdness; this is uninspired 1960s sci-fi, not cutting edge cyberpunk.

The film works better on the level of humour. The cult comedian Eddie Izzard plays the central role of the alien listing the flaws of Earth with his usual irreverent charm. Many of the jokes are cheap however: 'e-mail' is defined as an 'early delivery system for pornography'; the film closes with a reference to 'looking into Uranus'. The case for saving the Earth, on the other hand, is delivered in an almost embarrassingly sincere tone. As comedy, this film probably needed a director like Kevin Smith.

Of course the point of the commercial is neither SF nor comedy, but the health of the planet. On this level the intended point is clear: the Earth is not beyond hope, and we can all help by being aware of the bigger picture, buying from companies whose practices do not destroy the environment. This is a worthwhile message, and one can only hope that the commercial has done some good in communicating it.

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