Alien Nation (1988)
Directed by Graham Baker

Artistic Value: * *
Entertainment Value: * * *

DVD In Association with
Rent DVDs online!
In the USA:
Try Netflix For Free.In the UK:

In 1991, a few years after a spaceship landed on Earth carrying several hundred thousand aliens who were genetically engineered to be slaves, these beings, now called Newcomers, are living in Los Angeles and trying to integrate into American society. After one of the Newcomers kills his partner during a convenience store robbery, Matthew Sykes (James Caan), an irascible policeman, is paired with the department's first alien detective, Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). These two then set out to investigate the murder of a Newcomer that could be related to the killing of Sykes' partner.

Graham Baker's Alien Nation is a reasonably entertaining film that includes a few interesting ideas. Unfortunately, as the director never realizes the potential of his material, the movie is somewhat disappointing.

Photobucket Photobucket

The idea of a large number of alien beings arriving on Earth and being amalgamated into human society is an interesting one, but other than revealing a few of the prejudices these beings face not much is done with this theme. Some of the notions individuals inhabiting the movie's fictional world are shown as having about the aliens are, nonetheless, intriguing. For example, since the Newcomers learn quicker than humans, many people are afraid of competition with them, perceive them as a threat to their own economic well-being, and consequently dislike them.

Photobucket Photobucket

The aliens themselves, sadly, are not as well delineated. They are given the odd physiological quirk, such as hairless scalps covered with patches of mottled skin, an immunity to kicks in the groin, a preference for raw food, and an ability to get drunk from consuming spoiled milk, but all of these details seem contrived and the Newcomers poorly thought out. As undeveloped as they are physically, their culture is revealed in even less detail. Actually, the director never tells the viewer much of anything about the aliens' culture, or even if they have traditions, beliefs, and the like.


Fortunately, the story of the protagonists' investigation is reasonably entertaining. Even this, however, is nothing more than a conventional police mystery filled with many of the clichés of that genre. At different time, the viewer is thus shown how Sykes is angered by the loss of his partner, how he despises his new partner, Francisco, how he eventually bonds with that man, how the two unravel the secrets of the crime they are investigating, and how, in the end, Francisco even manages to save his new buddy's life. It really is pretty goofy, but it is still fun.

There is not much in Alien Nation for which the movie can be recommended, but watching it is, at the least, never dull.

Review by Keith Allen

Home Page / Alphabetical List of Films
List of Films by Star Ratings
Aesthetic Principles / Guide to Ratings
Criteria for Inclusion / DVD Stores / Blog

© 2006 Keith Allen. All rights reserved.

Click Here

banner 2