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Hollywood has fed us a steady stream of alien-invasion movies since the 1950s. At the moment we're trying to forget Skyline and waiting for Battle: Los Angeles, which is coming next month. But this is a good time to ask ourselves why exactly the alien invasions we see on the silver screen always seem to end in disaster for the invaders, despite their ridiculously advanced technology.

With that in mind, we have some words of advice for any alien civilizations thinking of vaporizing us and stealing our brains.

Wear Something

So you're a wormhole-surfing, intergalactic warrior civilization with invisibility shields and lasers that evaporate people under their clothing? That doesn't mean you can just skip over the basic stuff. It's absurd to imagine a technologically advanced civilization that goes extinct because they all forgot to breathe, so why are alien invasions so consistently foiled by the invaders' neglect to so much as slip on a jumpsuit before they expose themselves to our toxic environment?

Hell, we don't leave home unprotected if it's a bad smog day.
Or if Gonzalez is boiling cabbage in the break room again.

Everyone makes fun of Signs because it depicts an alien invasion that is thwarted because the aliens die if they touch water. But that's not the issue. It's not their fault that water is like acid to them, but it is their fault that they showed up naked. You have intergalactic starships, but you don't have goddamned pants? How does a civilization's evolution just skip over that part?

It's like humans landing on a planet where 70 percent of the surface is covered in molten lava, and the inhabitants are basically just moving sacks of lava. Even the atmosphere is so dense with lava vapor that often lava just rains from the sky with little to no warning. So what's your plan of attack? If you say anything other than "Jump out of the spaceship completely naked, your junk proudly flopping about, and engage the lava monsters in hand-to-hand combat," then congratulations -- you are smarter than the aliens in Signs.


The invasion in War of the Worlds seems better thought out, initially. Their shields are impervious to bombs and bullets, and the human defense strategy is apparently to ignore this and keep shooting until the aliens fall down out of pity. So with the human race on its knees, what do the aliens do to celebrate? Run around naked, drink dirty puddle-water and put everything they can find in their mouths like a bunch of unsupervised toddlers. Days later, every single one of them is dead from the common cold.

The same fate almost befell E.T., who fell gravely ill after days of running around in his birthday suit and putting shit in his mouth.

This is not goddamned rocket science here. Inferior as we are, humans know that drinking water is a bad idea even if it's just in another country, and that's if we've had all our shots. How did any alien species even survive long enough to evolve without learning that you need to make sure shit isn't poison before putting it inside your body?

"Hey guys! There's a rancid old futon in here -- wanna lick it?"

In fact, before you even reach the stage where you're landing your flying saucer and looking through your closet for appropriate Earthwear, you really need to back the hell up and ...

Do Your Research

In the War of the Worlds remake, the aliens bury their tripods at the sites of major cities before the cities exist, and humans learn that they have been planning their attack "for a million years." Let's ignore the fact that humans did not exist a million years ago and simply note that this is a really, really long time to plan an invasion. It's kind of a spectacular oversight not to notice that we have germs here.

It's like they never saw a picture of The Situation.

What were they doing for a million years? Why does it take so long to develop a strategy essentially no more complex than "shoot everyone, grind up their corpses for fertilizer"? Hell, after a million years of preparation, you should be more suited to walking around on Earth than humans are.

And it's not as if the aliens died from some obscure pathogen that just flew beneath their radar -- Morgan Freeman's disembodied voice very clearly specifies that the bugs that did them in can be found in every drop of water. We're not trying to suggest that the great H.G. Wells is guilty of some kind of lazy hack-work here; we realize that he was making a point. We're just saying that the point is idiotic.

Feel free to continue turning New Yorkers into dust, though.

Likewise, it's easy to suggest that the creatures from Signs just didn't realize that the planet they were attacking was predominantly composed of the one substance most toxic to them until they actually got here. But they have absolutely no excuse for that ignorance when you consider that humans, far less advanced than any race of intergalactic colonists, know that the planet GJ 1214 b might have water on it, and it's 40 light years away from us.

Maybe they developed a mind-crippling, species-wide addiction to crack before they invented the telescope but immediately after they invented interstellar travel.

These cosmic amateurs have a lot to learn from the alien race in Independence Day. In this film, we learn that the aliens have been studying Earth for quite some time, having sent ships here to examine our planet, abduct our people and turn our cows inside out for decades. And these savvy extraterrestrials didn't walk around in the nude, either. No, these guys fell victim to their very own series of strategic gaffes. For example ...

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Don't Attack America First

Every alien-invasion movie we've ever heard of takes place in the United States (and before you race to the comment section, District 9 is not an alien-invasion movie). With the upcoming Battle: Los Angeles, we expect this trend to continue, unless it has the most inaccurate movie title since Naked Lunch. But your invasion doesn't need to start with the USA, and you certainly don't need to blow up a series of famous buildings, allowing for the enraged and united people to then counterattack with full force.

Giant, skyscraper-size spaceships capable of vaporizing the White House are no defense to hubris. Or a MacBook.

Yes, we get why you might think it makes perfect sense to attack the powerful developed world first, just to get it out of the way, knowing that whoever's left won't put up much of a fight. That is, it makes sense if you are a Hollywood scriptwriter who has never had to plan a war. In reality, going straight for the United States is like trying to take down a mugger by punching him in the knife. No, the goal should be to disarm the enemy. Then your work is much easier.

In this case, that fierce military you're going up against is based on an extremely complex and fragile system that is extremely easy to disrupt. All of those jet fighters flying around in Independence Day? They require fuel. That fuel requires imported petroleum. Also imported are things like cobalt, manganese, chromium and platinum, without which we can't have jet engines, missiles or computers, or the means to repair them. That stuff comes from Africa.

Along with many other wonderful things.

So you just need to take out all of the largest oil refineries (and it takes only a few to completely choke off worldwide supply), some pipelines for good measure and a few fairly defenseless nations who dig up the raw materials that make the U.S. military go. Then you fly away and wait a few months (the U.S. has only a month's worth of emergency oil on hand at any given time).

Then you can come back at your leisure, at which point you'll find that the planes are grounded for lack of fuel and replacement parts and military personnel are either busy controlling riots in the streets because of the collapse of the economy or are off fighting one of countless raging wars over whatever remaining drops of oil are left in the supply lines. Hell, you may find that the Statue of Liberty has already been destroyed, taking one item right off your checklist.

Next target: The World's Largest Axe.

It's almost like the aliens want a gentlemanly toe-to-toe battle, as if they're fighting according to some regimented, civilized rules of warfare. Which might be why they fail to follow this next one.

Don't Wait for a Counterattack

Alien invasions in Hollywood follow a pretty simple format -- the initial strike is unexpected and catastrophic, leaving civilization crushed like an ant mound under a jackboot. This is done just to show the audience the stakes. And then comes two hours of character development, crying and confused masses running.

If you're lucky, Will Smith might shove his fist into a mass of tentacles.

Independence Day in particular relies heavily on a chess analogy, which Jeff Goldblum bluntly points out for those who can't be bothered to make the connection with all those seemingly unrelated scenes of chess games scattered throughout the film. The aliens make their move, then wait for ours. Although this is mighty polite and shows that aliens have a highly developed sense of warfare etiquette, there's no reason to allow your inferior human opponents to develop a defense strategy after it's clear that you have them by the balls.

The whole reason Goldblum has time to come up with his eventual war-winning strategy is that the huge, city-destroying saucers circumnavigate the globe at a pace so slow that it takes them days to destroy the world's cities -- they make their trip from Chicago to Houston slower than a sedan running on four flat tires. In Skyline, the aliens get out of their ships and run around naked (sigh), picking off humans individually, even though in the opening scene it is very obvious they have some kind of giant tractor beam that can just suck all the humans out of the city in 10 minutes.

Congratulations. You have now seen everything worthwhile about Skyline.

Here on Earth, outside of video games, turn-based combat has been out of vogue since the days of pistol duels. While it may occasionally be worthwhile to hang back and see what your opponent is capable of, if you've taken our advice so far and done your research, you'll note that our experience in space combat is limited to our conquest of Earth's moon about 40 years ago, and that wasn't much of a battle. When you have humanity by the short hairs already, there's no reason to wait for Jeff Goldblum to reverse-engineer your spacecraft and come after you unless you're in it for the thrill more than the victory.

Or you're a huge, huge fan of Randy Quaid.

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Call for Backup

So the human beings have figured out your ridiculous weakness at the eleventh hour, and you're watching in horror while your enormous, dark-gray warships go down in flames at the onslaught of these talking meat creatures. You're going to lose this battle, but why call off the war?

"We've got plenty more baseball bats and Phoenixes where that came from!"

It's the same scene we see at the end of Independence Day, War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still and even Mars Attacks! -- civilization in ruins, our cities in flames and crushed under the massive debris of fallen warships and dead, rotting aliens. Sure, the humans won, in the sense that they're not all dead, at least not right away. But what Will Smith is really celebrating as he sassily puffs on his cigar is a big fat case of Pyrrhic victory.

The term is named after Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, who "won" a couple of battles against the Romans around 280 B.C., but his army was so decimated that he quipped, "Another such victory and I come back to Epirus alone." In other words, tiny Epirus had lost so much of its military that there was nothing stopping the Roman Empire from walking in and taking power, which it of course did.

But hey, Pyrrhus got a whole phrase. And gorgeous bangs.

Likewise, human civilization is in a sorry state after an alien invasion, and not just because it's in deep mourning for the loss of its landmarks. Millions, maybe billions, are already dead, in many cases the U.S. government is gone, and with the cities and huge chunks of infrastructure destroyed, there's going to be a huge problem with the food supply. And that's before the disease sets in from all those dead people and aliens rotting in the sun. In short, after our victory against the alien hordes, we're looking at a worldwide Mad Max situation.

But what have the aliens lost? An investment? The attack took place on our world, not theirs. Their home is still perfectly intact. They get to retire to their comfortable, presumably nondystopian home world and muse about our bad luck. We don't know anything about the economic impact of financing an intergalactic attack campaign, but if you wanted it bad enough the first time, there's no reason not to go for Round 2, especially since you're now aware of the bullshit weakness that thwarted you the first time. Consider throwing on a hazmat suit the next time.

Maybe splurge on some antivirus software.

Exhaust Your Alternatives

Of course, before you even begin thinking about how to best organize a strike against Earth, you need to ask yourself whether it's worth going to that kind of trouble.

We don't always know why the aliens want to kill us. In some cases, the question remains open. Sometimes they just enjoy it, like in The Day the Earth Stood Still, where the aliens are left-wing extremists out to stop global warming. In Skyline, they needed our brains for some reason. But in most cases, they just seem to want our resources. In Independence Day and the upcoming Battle: Los Angeles, the stated goal of alien invasion is resource acquisition -- they want our shit.

Our shit?

Thing is, if you have the technology for space travel, space mining and space ExxonMobil, there's really no reason to attack Earth for the same resources that you'll find on Mars. In fact, this solar system alone has eigh- seven planets (sorry, Pluto) that won't shoot at you, and they're all made of the same stuff. In fact, you can even mine the moon, and there isn't a whole lot that the landlocked denizens of Earth can do to stop you.

Come on, ISS. Bring it.

But just say that nothing short of Earth's unique ecological profile will meet your needs. Maybe you want water (unless you're from Signs), and we admit that's pretty rare in the universe. But maybe you should take a look at one of the universe's many "Goldilocks planets" (so named because they're not too hot and not too cold). Statistically speaking, this galaxy alone should be littered with planets just the right size and distance from their suns to develop liquid water, an Earth-like atmosphere and all the raw minerals you need. And either all of them or most of them are devoid of the kind of life that can shoot missiles at you and hack into your mother ship.

These movies are usually trying to parallel the reasons we fight wars here on Earth, and while we do fight for resources, we have the good sense to secure uncontested minerals before we consider waging an expensive and violent war. You can bet mankind will be mining Mars before we consider sending warships to Zeta Reticuli.


Really, guys, this stuff is just common sense.

You aliens should really pick up our new book. It'll serve you right when you're attempting to demolish humanity.

For more messages to our would-be rulers, check out 9 Simple Requests For Our Robot Overlords. Or find out why Skynet will never win, in 4 Reasons Terminators Suck At Their Jobs.

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