Depth Change: What Do the “Battleship” Aliens Want From Us, Anyway?

By Seth Shostak | May 18, 2012 9:00 am

Seth Shostak is Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute in California, and the host of the weekly radio show and podcast “Big Picture Science.” 

Join Seth and 50 eminent scientists and sci-fi experts at SETIcon, to be held June 22-24 in Silicon Valley:


Battleship is not a film that Francois Truffaut would have made. Nor would any of those other namby-pamby European directors. Nope, this picture eschews that Continental obsession with small stories, set in quaint towns filled with pockmarked folk doing their banal things. Who cares?

No one, not when the fate of the Earth is in question. I’m proud to note that only the American film industry has the guts (not to mention the computer graphics horsepower) to fill the screen with a tale of ill-mannered aliens bent on incinerating the planet.

Consequently, Peter Berg’s film is pleasingly free of pretensions. It doesn’t waste your neural cycles exploring the uncharted labyrinths of the protagonists’ psyches, or anything overly Greek like that. It’s bad guys versus good guys, and the good guys win by being smarter, braver, and, in most cases, better looking.

The plot is exposed even before the main title settles in: NASA has found a planet that’s in the “Goldilocks” zone of its star—which is to say, it’s not too hot and not too cold for liquid water. It’s what astrobiologists would call a habitable world. Having found a possible home for E.T., the space agency beams up a signal that presumably informs any residents that Earthlings are friendly, and our planet is open for business.

Alas, what follows is a bummer of a reaction—thanks to NASA’s chutzpah, the aliens now know where we live, and quickly send a squadron of interstellar battlewagons our way. This awkward consequence of broadcasting into space is something that even people extremely excited about space exploration, like physicist Stephen Hawking, have warned us against (and in case you think the film’s opening gambit is goofy, note that NASA did broadcast the Beatles song, “Across the Universe,” to Polaris, the North Star, in February, 2008).

Thanks to a fortuitous, international naval exercise being conducted close to where the aliens splash down, a fight to the finish ensues. It’s straight out of World War II, when naval battles were conducted by ships lobbing ordnance at each other across miles of ocean.

You will be stuck in your seat like a strapped-down toddler. The visuals are stunning (check out the corners of the frame, and you’ll see amazing attention to detail even there). The weaponry is intriguing (I particularly like the aliens’ rotary weapon that chews through our military hardware like an an angry, escaped flywheel). And then there are the enigmatic aliens themselves, who appear to be the result of breeding experiments between the iconic “grays” and the hapless occupants of a retirement home.

Now there’s a lot you could say about the science in this film, most of which isn’t exactly precise. As an example, how did the invaders get here so fast? After all, the NASA hailing signal was supposedly transmitted in 2006, and this film is set close to now, judging by the fact that some embedded news footage shows Obama as president. Planet G, which is the moniker given to the aliens’ home turf is, I figure, a reference to an exoplanet found last year, Gliese 581g, one of the first worlds discovered in the habitable zone of another star. But Gliese 581g is 20 light-years away. Even if the aliens have faster-than-light rocket ships (for which they’d be up for the Nobel Prize, if extraterrestrials are eligible), there still isn’t enough time for them to get NASA’s ping, fire up their engines, and arrive in the waters south of Hawaii before 2017, which is the latest that Obama could be in office.

Then there’s the nagging question—left unanswered in “Battleship”—of what’s motivating a visit by these water-borne beings. Hollywood usually guesses that extraterrestrials would only be interested in one of three things: (1) They want to breed with us, because their own reproductive machinery is on the blink; (2) They want Earth’s resources; or (3) They want the Earth. All of it.

Two years ago, at a meeting of the British Royal Society, I listened as Canadian astronomer Stephane Dumas went down a carefully prepared list enumerating all the things that might attract extraterrestrials to our planet. These ranged from our precious metals to our precious selves. None of it seemed worth the trip.

Really, there’s nothing we have that’s of much commercial or strategic value. About the only things that are unique to Earth are our biota and our culture. If aliens ever come here, they’d most likely be either biologists or music fans. Neither one has much reason to antagonize our armed forces.


Image: Universal Pictures

  • Woody Tanaka

    Oh, come on. Use some imagination and don’t fall for the assumption that because they’d aliens that they’d be angels.

    Why would these aliens want to come here?? How about: They’re paranoid that, since their world is in the habitable zone for creatures from our world, that they want to destroy us (or at least our technology) so as to protect their descendants.

  • Kieron

    I prefer it when the aliens have religious reasons for invasion!

  • feh

    OK, so they’re paranoid. Another question that pops up in case of movies like this is: How is it even possible for us to put up any kind of fight against a civilization capable of FTL space travel? Right, it’s not. I’m hoping for a s-f movie where the aliens finally put us in our place.

  • Ratshag

    If they were paranoid, then they could simply stay home and lob asteroids in our direction.

  • Chris

    If the aliens are advanced enough to build interstellar space ships, they would have been advanced enough to find us on their own by observing our star even without us calling them up. Also we’ve been transmitting for nearly 100 years, they would have heard us by now. If they need water or minerals, it’s a lot easier to mine some asteroids and comets than travel light years.

  • Scott

    A minor note but most WWII naval battles were primarily fought by aircraft; often the opposing fleets never got close enough to fire their guns at one another.

  • Doug Alder

    I always thought that Damon Knight had it right in “To Serve Man” :)

  • Henry Baum

    “I’m proud to note that only the American film industry has the guts to…[not] waste your neural cycles exploring the uncharted labyrinths of the protagonists’ psyches, or anything overly Greek like that. It’s bad guys versus good guys, and the good guys win by being smarter, braver, and, in most cases, better looking.”

    Yes, a real profile in courage.

  • amphiox

    Any aliens contemplating an invasion of earth for self-defense reasons must face the third-party dilemma. No matter how dangerous they might think the bastard humans might be, they must take into account the possibility of a THIRD alien power observing both them and us. In attacking us, they would demonstrate that they are not just a potential threat, but an ACTUAL threat. And if they beat us, they demonstrate to the third party that they are MORE DANGEROUS than we are, and thus invite preemptive attack by this third party. Indeed they have to worry about the possibility of third party attack not just after their attack on earth is completed, but from the moment of LAUNCH of their invasion force, as such a launch is likely to be easily observable to anyone sufficiently advanced, and it would take only a slight but more advancement to deduce from the launch the target destination.

    Which means the aggressive aliens have to worry about the possibility of third party attack while their battle fleet is still en route to earth and their home defenses might be depleted from the effort of assembling and launching such an attack.

    Bottom line is, unless they already know that we and them are the ONLY civilizations out there, the more paranoid an alien species might be, the LESS likely they would be to attack us.

  •!/NASkies Larry Sessions

    Not to mention that there are no operating battleships in any of the Earth’s navies today. They are all mothballed, dismantled or destroyed, or have become floating museum pieces. The thought of building new battleships, or of refitting and recommissioning some of those mothballed, in a short time is certainly another of the inanities of this film (which I haven’t seen yet). Do they address this?

  • Jotaf

    If they arrive to eliminate us as as a potential threat, they don’t need to fight us. They just have to nuke us to oblivion (as in BSG), in which case there’s nothing we can do but hop on our fleet and run away (hurry up Space X!).

    Since most of our resources are also abundant elsewhere, close-up fights are very unlikely, unless you think of another excuse for invasion without any weapons of mass destruction (sorry guys).

    About the movie, it’s great for the effects, but outside of the battle scenes I felt like it could do a lot more to entertain. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by movies with great moments between action scenes like District 9 and Pandorum (off the top of my head) :)

  • jpopplewell

    I had read it stank so bad that they released it overseas first and no previews in the U.S. But, I am fired up about Prometheus, brought to you by Ridley Scott who creeped us out with Alien and showed us a different Earth in Bladerunner.

  • Chris

    If I was an alien who wanted to knock out the native population, I wouldn’t send giant armadas to make a big mess. I’d make some virus or self replicating robots like a plague of locusts or nanites which just attacks the humans. These movies where the aliens and humans are basically in hand to hand combat never make any sense. Why would they want to get their hands dirty, just send in some exterminators for the humans.

  • amphiox

    If they arrive to eliminate us as as a potential threat, they don’t need to fight us. They just have to nuke us to oblivion (as in BSG), in which case there’s nothing we can do but hop on our fleet and run away (hurry up Space X!).

    Relativistic missiles, like in “The Killing Stars”. You can’t even see them before they impact, unless you have FTL astronomy.

    Who needs something as weak as a nuke?

  • Bob

    “namby-pamby European directors”. Like Ridley Scott, director of Prometheus and the Alien films?. Tongue and cheek or not, it’s still insulting.

  • Mark

    Not for resources, compared to even 1 galaxy Earth has little. And if Aliens have developed FTL drives & related tech, doubt they’d have much interest in humans given our recent evolution.

    But…they could be explorers and scientists who value knowledge, including all the science of our solar system & the life forms which have evolved in it over 4.5 billion years.

    Or…if we’re actually sentient beings, capable of transcendence at death…Aliens may either value that or view it as a resource to harvest.


  • Daninthai

    “namby-pamby European directors”. Roland Emmerich – Anyone heard of Independence Day? Godzilla? The Day After Tomorrow? The Patriot?
    It seems the Europeans make this kind of movie better than the Americans.

  • Richmand

    They came here on a mission of peace, lost their communications, were confronted by an aggressive fleet who opened fire on them, they panicked and fired back. Then, hatched a plan to take our communications to hail home for a rescue mission.

    They made it so obvious it’s ridiculous nobody picked up on the subtle subtext in this film. I guess it’s hard to follow films with bunch of idiots jumping around in their seats shout MURICAW F*** YEEEAW!!!

  • Blair

    Ultimately the answer to the question would have to be 3) they want earth.

    Regarding 1 and 2 if it was resources then any species with interstellar technology could mine their asteroid belt and as for mating, well that is interesting but biologically implausible.

    What the earth would provide for any aggressive power is a planet in the Goldilocks zone where you could plant a population and grow your civilization. M-class planets (thank you, Star Trek) are not extremely rare but ones within reasonable interstellar distances are.

  • Jake

    The only plausible reason I can think of for an invasion would be that the aliens don’t really care about killing us in order to provide their own military with an apparently much needed training exercise.

    “Here’s a nice easy planet.”
    “Yeah, no way they could screw that up.”

  • amphiox

    Any interstellar civilization capable of actually mounting and successfully carrying out an invasion of a planet like earth would have no need for habitable planets for purposes as mundane as growing one’s civilization. They would easily have the tech required to mine an asteroid belt to construct space habitats, with custom tailored environments. They would in fact HAVE to have this tech, since this is the same technology they would need to actually transport an army across interstellar distances.

    The converging problem that all aliens invade earth scenarios have is that by the time any alien civilization achieves the capability to mount an invasion of earth, that exact same technology that gives it this capability also means that they won’t need planets like earth anymore.

  • gpph

    I think amphiox has made two of the best points so far, regarding 1) the third party dilemma, which reminds us that even ET never knows when a third party is watching and maybe concluding they’re a threat; and 2) the idea that an interstellar civilization would have no need for invading planets as they could simply construct them themselves (or some substitute), and in fact would have to if they were transporting soldiers or whoever such long distances.

    Each of these points has a flaw, though. The third party dilemma suggests the existence of a third power that is only slightly more advanced than our ET aggressors. Maybe amphiox is right and an invasion in a tiny, 20-light-year portion of the galaxy would be noticeable to the kind of marginally more powerful empire that would feel threatened by it, but I think unless they had eyes all around the galaxy, they would never notice it. So this third party would by definition have to be extremely powerful and probably old, way tougher and more advanced than any civilization that regards us Earthlings as a threat. After all, if we see ants from one colony invading another colony, we might think it was cool, not threatening to our well-being (even if we’re jerks and choose to crush them all). So the third party dilemma isn’t really much of a dilemma; a smaller civilization probably wouldn’t notice, a larger civilization probably wouldn’t care. I will say the third party dilemma gains seriousness the more you attack other civilizations, so the kind of frothing aliens portrayed in Hollywood movies as desperate or bored enough to attack Earth might not be long for the universe anyway.

    Also the long-distance need for homemade planets could be not so much of a need as a whim or something. A FTL engine (thank you Mass Effect) doesn’t really guarantee you interstellar importance. It would still take around 20 years to reach Gliese 581 from here, a pretty long journey. I guess you could put everyone onboard to sleep during the trip and use robots to maintain the ship, if you could somehow suspend everybody’s biological functions. But an easier solution would be to invent something like Mass Effect’s mass relays, which allow for instantaneous transport from one star to another. Maybe that’s impossible in real life, but if you think about it, it’s really the only feasible way to travel efficiently between stars. All the fuel you’d burn traveling a negligible distance of 20 light years would probably render any resource gathering (or anything else) you’d be doing wasteful. Of course, (MASS EFFECT SPOILER!!) in Mass Effect not even the super-advanced Milky Way civilizations could construct the mass relays.

    I like the original post’s author’s idea about aliens coming here being either biologists or music fans. Whatever they’ve got on Gliese 581g, they don’t got Springsteen. Someone should make a Hollywood movie about cool aliens, although without explosions it might not do so well at the box office. (Sorry for the long post!)

  • Mr. Ima Realist

    This movie was designed to get the masses to spend money without it even making scientific sense. Naturally we have examples of that in the past e.g. “The Core” with a tunnel boring ship made out of a material called unobtanium on a course to the Earth’s interior to give the planet a jump start with a couple of nukes – true it is ridiculous and stupid idea but it made money for hollywood. I believe cinema goers have been truly spoiled over recent years with sensible sci fi movies like the Star Wars or even Star Trek series where science, truth and purpose converge. Along come epic disasters like “Skyline” and “Battleship” which can only appeal to the mentally unstable – damn it might serve them as therapy.

    Battleship had so much potential of being more than just another “we-are-bad-aliens-so-we’ll-be-taking-this-plant-so-boo” storyline. It is riddled with so many bloopers which previous commentors have stated – earth signal reaching Plant G in 6 years whereas it is just over 20 light years away, advanced aliens crash their only communication ship with a washing machine sized satellite (yeah because the other four are filled with bombs and did not have room for a dish but somehow the chinese figured out that the one crashed in their country was a communications ship!), alien ships hopping on water like frogs in a pond but capable of flying out in space, our pale aliens sporting wicked goaties wearing Ray Ban helmits, last but not least Earthlings are smart because we detected them first and sent a signal but our friends from planet G are like “damn why didn’t we look in that direction before”…..and the list goes on people.

    On a final note, Rihanna did not act bad at all, did anyone else notice that? She is not Jodie Foster but she was actually good

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  • Mr Fugums

    I think the reason the aliens even showed up at all is different then most think. It wasn’t because they were just being murderous douchebags. I think they were not quite in the wrong, and the military’s “oh let’s shoot em they must be bad” reaction is what killed the movie the most for me.

    I’m mainly getting this from one scene in particular. Anyone remember that one scene where they (apparently) find an alien unconscious on the ship? When the alien wakes up it grabs Hopper’s face and we see a bunch of images flashed onscreen. I believe this was the alien showing Hopper images to his mind. From what I remember we see a bunch of warships (or something) and a planet that is covered in huge explosions. The planet clearly wasn’t Earth, so the only thing that points to is that their planet is basically boned and they came here seeking a new place to live.

    The scene adds nothing in particular to the plot and it really didn’t need to be int he movie. Except (I believe) to show that their planet is down the crapper.

    You can see it in the way they operate. They don’t attack Earth because they want to, they do it because they have to. Time and again they spare people that are no threat to them or are surrendering. Remember that one kid the alien sphere thing looked at then left alone? They do all of their attacking in self-defense, and everything else they do is to preserve themselves in an effort to contact home.

    Maybe they were stuck there and needed help? Either that or they wanted to let the other remaining aliens that Earth could support them.

    I think the worst thing about the whole movie is how the humans dealt with the aliens. They didn’t even ATTEMPT to make contact. The only time they do is when they are in the speedboat and they use a tiny megaphone to say “Hey we’re gonna check out your ship now if that’s cool.” And then they spend the whole movie trying to kill them all.

    Congrats guys, you probably just made an advanced civilization endangered.

  • That One Guy

    Actually, I have reason to believe that the aliens weren’t initially hostile.

    A: The humans fired the first shot. It was a warning shot, yes, but aliens didn’t necessarily know that.

    B: They didn’t attack anything that was a direct threat to them. One could argue that the attack on the freeway by the shredders was pointless, but it’s explained later on that that freeway led to the mountain where they were setting up camp.

    C: They allowed the humans to rescue the survivors from the other destroyers. I mean, they had a perfect chance to eliminate any threat right there, but instead sat by and watched the humans go on their merry way.

    D: This doesn’t really have anything to back it up, but I got the feeling the force field was more for their own protection than to isolate the heroes.

    E: When the humans captured one of their scouts, they went on a rescue mission to retrieve him/her/it. Leaving someone else behind to sabatoge the ship’s engines was only a secondary objective.

    F: The other scout (maybe it was the same one that had been captured earlier?) Let the guy with the suitcase go, and grabbed the handle to stop him shaking.

    G: No real evidence for this one either, but none against either: The humans are quick to assume that the aliens are calling for a full invasion, but more likely given the circumstances, they were just trying to get picked up from this crazy planet where the natives are shooting at them for no good reason.

    SO basically, I think this was a good example of a failed first contact. Looking at the movie in that light, it stops being a cliched alien invasion movie and more a subtle semi-parodic unique take on the trope.

  • Szymon Wojciechowski

    The alien issue in the movie although the most interesting is quite obvious to me. A peace mission that goes wrong because of trigger happy heroes on both sides.

    One thing that I would like to point out is how the navy is being portrayed. One can say that it is a two hours long military recruitment video… Of course if you have your legs blasted off you will never be fighting bare hands with alien. You will not be cheered be hot chick nor you will have superduper robo legs. But is it wrong to show it this way? It is great that they give some credit to old veterans. I am that guy that is always ruining the movie pointing out what is impossible, and the “signal sending” idea was hard to swallow, but I can turn a blind eye on carrying live ammo on museum battleship. Think about those soldiers watching it in ship mess hall and being excited about seeing their Tomahawks hitting alien ship and shout “fu… yeach”. Try to enjoy this movie like them, or go see “The Passion of the Christ”.

  • Rummy

    I think your whole assessment of the film almost feeds a subtle signal the writers were trying to convey: were they here to even invade us in the first place?? Let’s suppose we sent a ship to a planet after they signaled us. As soon as our men land, they’re stranded, can’t communicate back to earth, and without even firing an aggressive shot, BAM! A frick’n laser beam narrowly misses your spacecraft by meer feet. So out of self defense… we obliterate the source as to say “Don’t F with us.” Then a 2 hour battle ensues even though we constantly avoid using force on non-threatening inhabitants. Or they could just be a recon party testing our capabilities cuz they wanna colonize our “goldilocks planet”. But I think that part is iffy.

  • Silver Surfer

    The aliens are miners, a peaceful race. They are the good guys; the US are the bad guys. This movie takes satire beyond pitch black.

    The alien ‘weapons’ are mining equipment; none of it are military grade weapons. Space is a dangerous place, that’s why they have a shield. The explosive cans are for mining asteroids. They are unguided and dig in before the explosion, to blast pieces of ore off asteroids. The spinning shredders are for tunneling through rock. The big aliens are mine workers who have a strong suit with a big swiss knife at the end of their arms. The thin aliens are engineers. The alien suits have a heads-up display that can assess threats, because mining in space is extremely dangerous.

    A disastrous accident occurs at their mining colony. They flee to space, however are not able to return home. They intercept the human signal, inviting them and the alien miners go to the planet Earth for help.

    When they land they are surrounded by military ships. The miners raise their defensive shield. They respond to the human attempt to communicate clumsily; they are miners not xeno ambassadors. The humans appear to aggressively attack; the alien miners are not familiar with a warning shot. The aliens take out the threat with precision. From there on the humans attack aggressively and the peaceful miners defend themselves as best they can given the situation.

    I would love to see a movie about the same events from the perspective of the aliens. Like ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ and ‘Flags of Our Fathers’. It can be called: ‘Mining Ship”.

  • Tombstone

    The movie was pure entertainment, Rihanna was hot enough for my eyeballs and the g/f likes Taylor Kitsch. Mission accomplished.

  • Foxtale

    I agree with the above posters. The film is brilliant in that, on the surface, it seems like a military recruitment video. And don’t get me wrong, it is effective as that. I am Australian, and I still wanted to join the American military and get Liam Neeson’s approval after watching this!

    But going deeper, the aliens were entirely peaceful. The world assumed that they were violent because they destroyed part of Hong Kong. But that only happened because their communication ship crashed into one of our satellites and plummeted into the city. Bad luck!

    So without a communication ship, they get fired on and they have to survive long enough to set up a comm signal back to their planet. The rest of the movie plays out from there.

  • Jez Brook

    How about the inhabitats of Planet G simply misinterperated the signal as “we are gunna kill u all biatches” and they simply thought “bollox you not if we kill you first”

  • Genghis

    For me, it was just entertainment. I don’t know why people start to criticize and make analysis of trivial things, hey just have fun! and the worst and what I find really pathethic is that if these critics had the chance to write something, the ideas just won’t come out; but they are the first one to say crap about others.

    learn to have fun…

  • lee

    When the guy goes to get the case, the aliens don’t stop him. One of them touches him to calm him down, and I swear I heard the words “help us”. I figured the aliens were trying to get help, and the producer ran out of money to go further into that plot point.

  • Mike

    Do they need a reason? Maybe they just enjoy fighting; lots of human cultures have fought wars because they do.

  • wtfff

    i’m glad other people are catching these subtle hints.. it’s a nice twist in the kinds of movies. Im not sure why people are so quick to say this is an obvious “good guy vs bad guy” kind of movie. if anything, it felt like humans were the bad guys. mindlessly belligerent trying to kill, solely because we’re suspicious, paranoid and i suppose xenophobic..

    but in reality, aliens capable of not only travelling beyond the speed of light, but wweeelllll beyond it. perhaps light years within days, or even minutes as the movie suggests. would have probably a lot of curious interest regarding earth, but only because it can support the evolution of complex life beyond that of microbes. in the same ways we have interest in going to the zoo and seeing odd creatures up close but safely while they’re in their natural habitats.. our natural resources on this planet have no more value than any of the other objects flying through space… our resources are incredibly precious but only to us only because we can’t go from planet to planet, asteroid to asteroid or mine the dark matter in the depths of space like they easily could. when galaxies are suddenly open to you, natural resources aren’t scarce in the slightest.. not to mention mining dark matter would be far easier than trying to get around it to get another solar system.. would they even care to enslave us for cheap labour? with inifinite resources they would surely be able to create whatever they need with far superiority. the same way we no longer enslave horses to carry us around because our cars and trucks are vastly superior… if there are aliens out there. a lot of the most advanced ones already know about us, come here regularly. our sky is probably filled with observatory ships that we aren’t allowed to detect and we’re always being watched curiously.. but we, and our planet remain unuseful at all except as mild curious entertainment… the only thing giving it any value whatsoever to species capable of interstellar travel are the quirky life forms themselves which it has been able to sustain.

    • mark k

      Hmm interesting point, instead of the module that got destroyed being a communications system it could have been the transport system that got them hear so quickly , maybe they just wanted to let their people know to send another one to replace it , could also be their communtication system isnt as powerful and would take a lot longer to get there then it would be if they borrowed the powerful system already in place that they could boost scince the inhabitats already seemed to be hostile getting a message out would seem to be a priority

  • Annoyedwithmorons

    This is exactly what I was thinking.

    Wondering if you also came to this conclusion or if the writers/director have laid it out somewhere…

    The subtlety with which this story was presented is excellent. Too bad it goes over most people’s heads or Battleship might have gotten better reviews.

  • Annoyedwithmorons

    The little things can get annoying. I am SATCOM by trade, so the communications stuff was hilariously bad.

    The subtlety of the alien story and special effects made it worth it though.

  • John Joseph Sierra

    I agree that the movie wasn’t the best it could be but I believe it is because of a different reasons. The writers didn’t tell you what they were trying to convey in the movie and just expected the audience. Most people think the movie sucks because the aliens are boring bad guys. But what they don’t realize is that the aliens aren’t the bad guys. They’re the victims.
    The beginning of the movie shows us attempting to communicate with an earth-like planet that we have discovered. The aliens heard us and sent 5 ships to check us out. Unfortunately upon entry the alien’s communication ship hits a satellite and crashes into the ocean. Some stuff in the movie happens, we find the ship, etc. Now we come to the stand-off. The aliens don’t attack right away so we blow our horn to intimidate them. They blow their horn back trying to communicate with us but unfortunately they’re horn was a little too powerful. We attack them so they respond by locating where the attack was coming from and neutralized the threat. This them is repeated multiple times in the movie when the aliens are “scanning” organic things. The giant balls of death go out of their way to do as little damage as possible (Evidence to this is the freeway scene. The balls could have done a lot more damage if the aliens were here to take over but instead only destroyed only part of the freeway so they could set up their cables). The aliens put up the shield to prevent Earth’s collective military from coming in and blowing them up. It was self defense.
    Now we come to the aliens themselves. The first one we get to see is the one they capture. When it wakes up it freaks out. Why? Well as we later discover the alien’s have eyes sensitive to the sun. When it woke up the humans had removed its protective helmet so naturally it’s going to freak out at the pain. Next it places its hand on the human’s forehead and we get a weird vision full of explosions. The alien wasn’t trying to scare us. It was trying to tell us that it’s home world is being destroyed by war. Perhaps the aliens are trying to ask us for help? We’ll never know. Also, if you didn’t notice, none of the aliens had weapons. The only one that had something close to one was the chrome alien. However that didn’t seem to be a weapon but more of a tool that it was forced to use as a weapon to defend itself from the extremely hostile natives. The aliens’ suits have the same “scanning” technology that the balls have and if something has a heartbeat it turns green and tells the alien not to attack or kill it.
    Now we come to the communication part. Why were they trying so hard to get our satellite dishes? They wanted to go home and their communication ship was destroyed. They knew that the satellite dishes could contact their home planet because they had done it once before. Were the sending for an invasion fleet? Maybe. But with the evidence presented in the movie I’d put my money on that they were asking for a rescue party to come save them from the crazy natives trying to kill them.
    Finally, lets talk about the humans. The humans were shown to be completely insane from the beginning. The chick says that her grandfather told her that if aliens ever came to Earth “it wouldn’t be pretty.” The humans were so convinced that any alien that came would be hostile so they just attacked without even trying to communicate and make peace. The main character was shown to be impulsive and unsuited for being a leader. He let his emotions get the best of him in times where he was needed to lead.
    In short the movie actually had a very cleverly hidden message. One I wish they would have told the audience at some point in the movie. Sadly this potentially great film will be forever forgotten as utter crap.

  • Micah Bennett

    there should be a Battleship 2 the reason why is because the first alien crew never reported back. So they would have to send a second alien crew to investigate and find out what happened to the first crew.

    • Micah Bennett

      the whole reasoning for this is because, when the americans had captured the other alien and had him in the ship the other aliens mad it there priority to get him back. Which shows they stick by their people. So that is why the second Alien Crew could maybe a ideal for a possible movie.

  • iStar

    If these aliens indeed are miners,they would probably interested in some probably unique metals that they use greatly but can’t find around in abundance around them (maybe uranium or titanium?).
    Perhaps they weren’t miners but biologists? Anyone gave that any thought? Okay,let me break it down to the essentials…
    For starters the Darwin’s theory of evolution makes at least the basic sense,but…BUT! Where did the original material come from? How did we get to become what we are today?
    Okay bare with me on this one. What if these “wannabe-thug” aliens came here a loooooooong time ago and “planted the seeds” of their own DNA but modified to suit us as we are today (the scene I like to call “Mick hits back” shows it best-same “dental records” both in us and aliens lol) and been observing (ONLY observing,kinda like the Star Fleet Prime Directive that states “only observing,NO interfering at any time) us ever since.
    The fact they attempt to do as less harm and calm people considered non-threatening whatsoever speaks a lot more to their scientist nature (we too observe as much as we can with interferring as less as we have to).
    The five ship party…research ships. Mothership to build a “firewall” that creates a microclimate habitat to research and the use of Landsat7 was a use and an interferance due to extreme circumstances.
    Also,the shredders and drill-grenades I believe were there merely to test our capability to defend ourselves from other potential alien species with same or higher grade weapons.
    Basically,these alien scientists were ment to be,so to speak,a collateral damage in order to observe our defensive abilities.
    Also,another thing to support the theory of science-why wait so long to get our invite and come here? It’s sooooo simple it almost bites you on the nose-they were around all the time we were evolving and waited for us to get evolved far enough to send a deep space beekin (homing device of sorts) to consider us worthy of a “dry run” test to see how far out we are.
    That would pretty much sum it up…

  • Matchstick

    It is intrinsic to the plot of the film that the aliens only destroy ships or people carrying weapons, in an attack stance. When Hopper turns to ram the alien ship, they light him up red in their sights as an enemy, even though he has no working guns. When he veers off to rescue sailors in the water, the aliens target his weapons,verifies that they are non-functional, and paints the target green, or “not an enemy.” This happens a few times in the film. They send the rotor ships in to destroy planes and helicopters on the ground, not necessarily humans, though it does target one human wielding a machine gun.
    Coupling that with the mental download the alien gives to Hopper, it may be that this ship is sent to pacify the planet before it destroys itself. It is possible that this alien force has seen it happen on their own world, or even multiple worlds, There is an ethical question of whether an outside force has the right to do this, to preserve life on our planet, but it may be like taking a gun out of the hands of a child to their perspective.
    On the other hand, the first step in tyranny is disarming the population, so this would be a rational first step in an invasion force by a technologically superior adversary.
    I think it was a wonderful choice to leave the answers up in the air instead of spelling it out. It gives them another question to address if there is a sequel, and it gives us something to think about if there isn’t. After all, we still don’t know why those birds were so mad in that other movie…

    • Zanza8

      It is NOT intrinsic to the plot of the film that the aliens only destroy ships or people in an attack stance. The cops on the mountain were just driving and the aliens shredded them and their vehicles because they wanted to protect the communication system. Kind of like someone breaking into your house to use your phone and killing members of your family who try to stop the home invasion.

  • Patrick Cloutier

    The alien also seemed to take an interest in his eyeglasses

  • Buskie Boy

    Excellent hypotheses! I never thought of it that way.
    I was confused at the movie because, for an invading force
    they seem to ONLY target hostile targets. They don’t seem to be particularly aggressive unless under attack.
    One problem I do have is for such an advanced species, able to travel the +speed of light etc. you would think they would have some kind of ability to communicate and avoid misunderstandings. Not just for us but other races I am sure they must come across, which might be more aggressive than us and perhaps wipe them out.

  • Buskie Boy

    It’s not “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, “Forbidden Planet” or even “Aliens”. It’s based (very loosely) on the board game of the same name and is an excuse for mega CGI, explosions and fireworks!
    It’s not meant to be deep or thoughtful. Strap in and enjoy the guilty pleasure ride.

  • King Kilo

    Seems like the writer didn’t even watch the movie. The Aliens didn’t send a battle fleet. It seemed obvious it was more of a scientific exploration ship. They only returned fire, they didn’t attack non violent humans. It was made painfully obvious the humans were in the wrong.

  • yougottaproblemwiddat

    The CCR song over the closing titles was a pretty big clue. Some folks are born, made to wave the flag…

  • Corsham Viton

    Aliens need food. Humans taste quite good and there are plenty to go around.

  • halojumper

    Maybe they’ll be thrill killers. No need for resources, just hunt humans : think Predator.

  • Harvey Specter

    You guys thinking the aliens were peaceful seem to forget that when the captured alien on the John paul Jones had telepathic contact with Alex Hopper, the latter got inside the head of the alien where he could see their true intentions. That’s where he said, I have a really bad feeling about this, like we’re gonna need a new planet kind of feeling. This indicates the aliens’ intentions were hostile.

    On top, when the earthlings sent a warning using the ship’s horn – pretty harmless – the aliens responded with a destructive soundwave which clearly was the first act of agression.


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