Sometimes you watch a movie, and you get to the end and you’re like… “What kind of an idiot would even…?” So in honour of that feeling of WTF, here are my top three dimwitted aliens, from least to most reprehensible. Spoilers ahead (but they’re not exactly recent movies, so…).
3. Ra from Stargate (1994)
This film is a ton of fun. If you like James Spader (and I do, at least in Boston Legal and The Blacklist) it’s fun to watch him running around improbably translating languages derived from dead languages on Earth (without ever using the word “cognates,” which just makes me giggle), as well as laughing at his reaction when those silly primitives try to give him a woman as a gift (sigh).
And you can get to the end of the movie without really feeling like the alien antagonist, the supposed origination of the Egyptian god Ra, is a complete and utter moron. But you are left feeling a little like he’s a two-bit nobody in the galaxy, who’s just gotten by on luck for a few thousand years. An alien Snidely Whiplash sort of villain. Why? Well, here’s his modus operandi:
Step one: go to an alien planet, enslave its people and ship them to another planet using technology that can create temporary stable wormholes (or something like them) that allow you walk between planets like walking between rooms (or at least like taking a waterslide between rooms…. look just watch the movie, okay?).
Step two: use those slaves to mine naquadah, a super-powerful unobtanium-type material that does awesome CG things like make metal come out of your head. You can power FTL starships with this stuff, just for the record.
Step three: use that naquadah to… uh… build starships? Build bombs? Replace your low-tech workforce with, I don’t know, robots? The movie says the stuff makes an atomic bomb a lot more powerful, so maybe that’s it. Maybe there’s a galactic economy for the stuff. They never say what Ra gets up to when he’s not opening himself up to periodic attack by his disgruntled slaves.
That’s an okay business model, I guess, but the movie then explains that thousands of years ago the Egyptians rose up and banished him. How? All I can think is they took his tech and used it against him.
Wait, isn’t that what happens in the movie? Yep. Fool me once, shame on you, take my tech and revolt against me twice, well, you get the picture. This isn’t seriously criminal stupidity or anything, he seems to have kept his little slavery racket going for thousands of years so he can’t be that dumb. But it makes you wonder why he wouldn’t be just a tad bit more careful with his stuff. I mean the ring teleporters to his spaceship don’t even have a password. My cellphone has a damn password, and it can’t accidentally be used to teleport a nuke into my house.
Now I see why he didn’t use all that money from the naquadah mining to build a bunch of robots to do the mining instead of enslaved and dangerously clever humans — he just didn’t think of it. Thinking just isn’t his strong point.
It’s not the most obvious screwup, which leaves it down at number three in the list, but you can’t help but feel that if he were just a little smarter, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.
2. The unnamed aliens from War of the Worlds (1953, 2005)
Okay, it doesn’t really matter which film you’re watching (or even if you’re reading the book), these aliens aren’t too bright. They have the technology to cross the space between Mars and Earth in large numbers. They have the technology to resist literally all Earth technology. They go out of their way to make three-legged, totally unstable walking machines just because, uh, they like to do things the hard way or whatever. They must be astronomically smart to do these things. And what? They didn’t think to, I don’t know, test the Earth’s atmosphere for pathogens before showing up? What the hell were they thinking?
Well fine, you say, maybe Mars doesn’t have any viruses or bacteria. I find that hard to believe, but let’s explore that for a second. Even if they don’t, come on, they have to have studied our tv shows, listened to the radio at least a couple of times. They have spaceships for crying out loud. They must know about polio and smallpox and chlamydia (look, they never really say what they want to do with humans, okay? I’m just saying). Surely they must have heard the phrase “don’t touch that, you don’t know where it’s been.” How could they possibly not have known about viruses and bacteria and thought to themselves “what say we test to see if this completely pervasive stuff in the atmosphere of the planet we’re going to might be as harmful to us as to them?”
I literally can’t imagine being that dumb. So for that, sorry guys, you’re in the number two slot.
1. The aliens from M. Night Whatshisface’s Signs (2002)
These must be the dumbest aliens in the universe. I don’t even know what they were trying to accomplish. They decide to, I don’t know, come harvest humans for food or something. Fine. But:
They’re literally killed by water.
Do you know what humans are made of? Do you know what is in every house in the nation? Do you know what covers seventy-one goddamn percent of the planet you’re invading? What falls from the ever-loving sky at regular intervals?? (except in California)
Sure, maybe they haven’t seen The Triffids (who at least had a better plan of attack by first making everyone blind — and they were plants), but Jesus Christ on a bicycle a little common sense would have gone a long way. These aliens are so dumb they must have been the butt of some grand intergalactic joke. Some vindictive alien race must have put them up to it and brought them here to watch them try to take on humanity, because there’s no way any alien race this monumentally stupid could come up with even the idea of spaceships. I’d be surprised if they could tie their own damn shoelaces. If they wore shoes. I think they’re naked. Which, again, indicates maybe someone else was taking advantage of them and giggling like madmen (or mad… aliens… whatever) sitting back and watching these idiots go down to a planet covered by a lethal substance to harvest creates made of a lethal substance apparently without any kind of plan.
I literally can’t even.
So those are my top three worst thought-out plans made by aliens in movies. What are yours? Drop me a line on Twitter or comment on the post on Facebook if you’ve got a better one, and thanks for reading.
Richard Ford Burley is a doctoral candidate in English at Boston College, where he’s writing about remix culture and the processes that generate texts in the Middle Ages and on the internet. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, and feminism (and really, really dumb fictional aliens) here at This Week In Tomorrow.