erik lundegaard

Aliens 'R' Us: How 9/11, the Holocaust and the Challenger disaster are evoked in “Cowboys & Aliens”

I didn't mention the following in my review of “Cowboys & Aliens” but it's been nagging at me enough to write about it now.

There are three scenes in the movie reminiscent of three real-life tragic events:

  1. Inside the aliens' spaceship, where humans are experimented upon to discover how to kill us (answer: easily), Jake (Daniel Craig) stumbles upon an old pile of eyeglasses and pocketwatches and things taken from victims. It's a horrific moment. Anyone who's seen any documentary about the Holocaust, particularly “Nuit et brouillard,” will be reminded of that great 20th century horror.
  2. The alien spaceship in the desert has the shape a skyscraper; and when Jake and company climb two-thirds of the way up and toss dynamite within, the ensuing explosion is like, you know, an explosion going off two-thirds of the way up a skyscraper. Which reminded me of the twin towers on 9/11.
  3. When the alien spaceship attempts to leave, it is blown up from within by Ella Swenson (Olivia Wilde), and the odd smoke configuration the blast leaves behind in the blue sky is reminiscent of the 1986 Challenger disaster.

I get why you might do 1). The aliens, after our gold—our gold, Dobbs!—are intent on perpetrating a Holocaust on the human race. They are the Nazis, we are the Jews. They are the bad guys, we are the good.

But why do 2) and 3)? In 2), the aliens are us, which makes us al-Qaeda. In 3), the aliens are us again, a sympathetic us, an us that attempts to slip the surly bonds of Earth and touch the face of God. It's completely at odds with both 1) and the entire thrust of the movie.

It could just be me, of course, seeing things that Jon Favreau doesn't. But a quick Internet search finds a few people with similar vision. Glenn Lovell over at cinemadope talks up the evocations of Challenger, while Ray Pride talks both Challenger and Holocaust at newcitynews.

I'd suggest that you decide for yourself but then you'd have to see the movie. And it's not worth the two hours of your life.

The Challenger disaster

Smoky pretty things.

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Posted at 08:58 AM on Sat. Aug 06, 2011 in category Movie Reviews - 2011  


Glenn Lovell wrote:

Erik, thanks for the high five — glovell @

Comment posted on Sat. Aug 06, 2011 at 06:17 PM

Mister B wrote:


I didn't make the Holocaust connection, but I certainly understand how anyone could based on those scenes.

Also, I didn't make the 9/11 connection, either. I guess because there was only one structure and not two and it was the desert and not an urban setting.

However, I definitely thought of the Challenger accident when I saw the curved trajectory of the exploding alien mothership. Of course, the way I felt when I made this connection was completely the opposite of what I should've felt seeing the mothership blown to pieces.

So if the aliens were able to harness the humans they were going to experiment on, why have them staring a light that would — presumably — wipe out their memories? Did their memories go into an alien database to help them with being able to defeat us?

Every thing I saw that explained something created at least two more questions. Just a plain, old-fashioned crappy movie.

Comment posted on Sat. Aug 06, 2011 at 06:59 PM
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