Alien Nation (1988) Poster

(1988)

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9/10
Ahead Of It's Time...
jcdugger27 June 2006
Many people have the wrong impression of this movie. Most group it in within the "cop/buddy" genre and cheesy sci-fi. But "Alien Nation" is much more than that. In fact, it was way ahead of it's time.

I saw this movie in a dimly-lit, run-down Detroit-area theater at the age 14, an afternoon in the fall of 1988. I recall how the "atmosphere" of the movie matched that of the run-down theater I was sitting in. At 14, and with the title of "Alien Nation", a young kid like myself wanted to see weird alien creatures and lots of action. At the time, I was disappointed. This movie is about story, not action or weird aliens. Although I didn't really understand nor enjoy the movie at the time, it always stuck with me for some reason. So, nearly 18 years after seeing it on the silver screen, I re-watched it at home and was amazed by the depth of the story and the grittiness of the background. It was little wonder why I didn't like it at 14, but loved it at 32.

This story is really about race and immigration, with the hated race being alien immigrants. It shows how hatred and ignorance over race can transform one's personality, like the lead character played by James Caan.

Alien Nation asks questions about ourselves as humans. How would we react if aliens landed on Earth and announced they were escaping a brutal planet full of slavery and have immigrated to Earth? Would we accept them as our own, or would we force them to become outcasts? Would we allow an "Affirmative Action" scenario in regards to Aliens and Alien rights? Would we offer them high-paying jobs and/or top-notch education, depriving humans of those same jobs and quality education in exchange? To me, Alien Nation is one of the more possible (and perhaps likely) scenarios. Aliens delegated to run-down areas of big cities. Token jobs occasionally handed out because it's forced by the Government to do so. And a general disgust towards Aliens amongst the human population. In that regard, this movie was way ahead of the curve.

Great movie. 9 out of 10 stars. Recommended for those over 25, perhaps those with a higher intellect than most. Not recommended for someone looking for a "Men In Black" type of Alien movie. Not your typical Hollywood blockbuster filled with Aliens, that's for sure.

IMDb ROCKS!

JD
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7/10
Decent science fiction
hatesdragons3 June 2001
This is the film that inspired the excellent television show and the many specials that followed its cancellation. This film has good performances by James Cann and mandy Patinkin, that elevate it above the norm. It is a combination buddy film, crime drama and science fiction story. Surprisingly it comes together very well. This film is not the best of the genre, some of the television shows surpass it, yet it worth a watch.
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7/10
Underrated film from the 80s'
Agent1010 August 2006
While the eighties was rife with weird sci-fi films and epic films, a simple and biting film about alien visitation made a nice little landing in 1988. Alien Nation was one of those films that expertly grasped the the sci-fi/mystery sub genre with a decent story and good visuals.

The casting in the film was rather perfect, with the subdued Mandy Patinkin playing Francisco while the normally hotheaded James Caan got his licks as a racist cop named Sykes. Either way, their polar opposites worked perfectly in the film, showing a growing bond between the two as they shook off their differences and made a rather capable team. What I especially liked was how each player sincerely became their character, which is something that is pretty rare in many sci-fi films. While I do wish the movie was a little longer and put some more scenes of George integrating into his new position at the beginning, the film was good as it was.

Alien Nation proved to be one of the last good non-CGI sci-fi films. While Gattica is one of the few films that followed this ideal, at least we can look back at the genre before it became nothing more than an excuse to show off pretty effects.
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7/10
Well made Sci-Fi
Lt_Coffey_18219 October 2005
Alien Nation is a cross over between Sci-Fi and the 'buddy cop' genre. What separates this from the usual buddy film is that instead of the difference being ethnic/class/gender, it is human (James Caan) and alien (Mandy Patinkin).

The clichéd beginning with the main character's partner being killed is done very well with stylish gunplay and set pieces. Caan really shines in the action scenes and it is great to see him in such a tough guy role. Caan is a great actor and can do more than macho as he shows in the scenes involving his daughter when Caan displays remorse, making the audience feel more sympathetic towards him. Caan aside, the cast is fairly mediocre, full of average actors except Terrence Stamp who puts on a good show as the bad guy.

Something I loved about this film is how similar everything is to The Terminator. This is due to the film being produced by Gale Ann Hurd and there being other members of the Terminator crew present. Like Terminator, Alien Nation greatly benefits from the dark, murky feel of the environment, giving it an edge over a lot of Sci-Fi films which suffer from being too 'shiny'.

The film does a great job at exploring racism, giving the impression of time repeating itself regarding the Western civilisations treatment of blacks when they were forced in to the country. Caan's conversion from despising the "Newcomers" to accepting them is admirable and convincing. It is not an overnight change and it is done discretely, very convincing.

As with a lot of escapism films, you can not take Alien Nation too seriously so it is best to approach this film with an open mind and desire to be entertained rather than wishing to be introspective. A very well made, enjoyable film.
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8/10
Alien Politics
dee.reid8 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
In 1991, three years have passed since a huge spaceship crash landed on Earth, dumping over a thousand humanoid beings into our already rapidly expanding population. These "Newcomers", which is what we have come to know them as, were genetically-engineered for the specific purpose of slave labor. Soon afterwards, they are put into quarantine. The newcomers have almost all the physical features of human beings except for a few. They have no hair on their heads, the males can become pregnant and they have two hearts instead of one. When released, they are then integrated into our society. They are given names of famous places or important historical figures like San(m) Francisco or Ronald Reagan. This integration into our society however, opens the door for a new kind of racism. Racial slurs like "slags" are uttered behind their backs. Perhaps for the first time minorities are going to be looked upon from a different perspective. Human beings begin to fear for their jobs as the newcomers start to take over people's employment opportunities. It isn't long before they are being featured advertisements too. Much as Chinatowns have formed in major cities around the world, the newcomers are given their own "Slag Town". Even as the newcomers start to become a big part of our society, this also opens the door for extraterrestrial crime. This in turn, introduces us to human cop, Detective Matthew Sykes(James Caan). Sykes, who has a slight distrust towards newcomers, becomes even more hateful of them one night after getting into a shoot-out with two newcomers, which leaves his partner dead and him thirsty for revenge. Matthew then sees his chance for revenge the next day, when he is assigned to be partnered up with Detective Sam Francisco(Mandy Patinkin, who is only recognizable by his voice and a few facial features). Francisco has recently been promoted and in turn has set a milestone for newcomers and the history books as becoming the first humanoid detective. Sykes who refuses to introduce Francisco as Francisco, gives him the nickname "George". Sykes is naturally hateful towards Francisco, but as time goes on he soon begins to accept him for who/what he is. As their investigation goes on, it leads them to the center of an extraterrestrial drug ring, headed by a shady newcomer named William Harcourt(Terence Stamp). The drug, known to the newcomers as "Jabluka" but better off known to us as liquid detergent, is a very potent narcotic. As George says "it's more potent than any human drug." He is right about that.

The drug, when taken in large quantities, can trigger a change in the newcomers, a change that is best kept secret. This is why George becomes so eager to see the drug destroyed before its presence is known to the human population.

"Alien Nation" is such a unique piece of science-fiction that had the potential to be something really spectacular. It really bugs me that this movie had the chance to be something so amazing, so new, that it instead became a standard buddy flick with some sci-fi stuff thrown in it. James Caan and Mandy Patinkin make a good team and Terence Stamp is good to as the evil Harcourt.

I believe that even though this movie is basically failed potential, I have gotten the bizarre social message hidden within it. It contains a message about how amazingly fast the newcomers have become a major part of our society. It amazes me that William Harcourt, although he is the bad guy in this movie, he is also extremely well educated. It's pure genius that he is able to use his high social status amongst the humans as a means of becoming a well known drug dealer. Human drug dealers probably would not need to envy or want to kill Harcourt, since they could find equal business opportunities in both their own communities as well as the newcomer community. The story also tells about the competition of aliens over humans. For millions of years, humans have been the dominant species on Earth. Now with the arrival of the newcomers, humans for the first time ever, are facing competition with a species that becomes more and more advanced every day. This explains largely in part as to why we are becoming more afraid of them, for fear of not only our jobs, but our place as the dominant species of our own planet. It won't be long before the newcomers become involved in human politics and then there may soon enough be a humanoid president. With this in mind, it is possible that not far down the road, that the newcomers could enslave us, as they were back on their own planet.

In some ways, the origin of the newcomers and their position in our society, reminds me of the history of African-Americans. Being African-American myself, the story reminds me largely of the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. African-Americans, as well as any other minority group, have faced about as much discrimination as one could take. The racism that has been associated with the newcomers is almost exactly like what happened when minorities began taking up jobs that whites had been vying for.

Do you see what I mean? "Alien Nation" could have tackled so many social issues dead-on and would be a classic by now. Even with these faults, I enjoyed myself while watching this and I will try not to hold them against the movie.

I give "Alien Nation" an 8/10.
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9/10
Cool
lordzedd-318 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I must admit the whole racist thing again an alien species does get on the annoying side at times, but this is more then a science fiction, it's a rare Sci-Fi buddy picture. A missed match pair who hate each other but find a common ground to fight for. I must admit I didn't recognize Terrence Stamp in this movie, I thought the voice sounded familiar but didn't see it under all that make up. The make up effects were excellent and if that alien ship wasn't real I pat the back of whoever created it. ALIEN NATION is a modern classic and everyone should see it. It's a buried treasure for younger kids and I think they should watch it. I mean teens that were too young in 1988 to watch it. But now are old enough to enough it. That's ALIEN NATION and I'm giving it...9 STARS.
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7/10
Not half bad
zetes27 April 2001
Considering that it is little more than your standard cop buddy movie, the slight variation being that the buddies are a tough seen-it-all cop and a by-the-books rookie who is an alien, Alien Nation ends up being a pretty good film. You can give a lot of credit to James Caan and Mandy Patankin for that. They have great chemistry as the partners. Both are very accomplished actors, and they make a very cliched script into something well worth watching. 7/10
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7/10
Premise more interesting than plot
smatysia29 January 2000
This is like a lot of movies where the premise is more interesting than the plot. The arrival of the "Newcomers" seems to be a metaphor for the immigrant experience in America, but this is not followed up. It goes from a sci-fi movie into a cop-buddy movie, and it's really not bad on that level. It seems, however that the filmmakers passed on an opportunity to make a really significant commentary. One wishes for the film that got away.
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8/10
High concept success
neil-4767 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Alien Nation is based on a simple premise - 300,000 humanoid aliens land on Earth and are offered sanctuary and their assimilation into society is inevitably coloured by racial prejudice. A prejudiced policeman is teamed up with an alien partner to investigate criminal activity within the alien subgroup.

The joy of this movie is that it makes no big deal out of the aliens - they are treated, for the purposes of the film, like any other racial subgroup might be, and the racial prejudice allegory (and the dramatic thrust of the movie overall) is that much stronger as a result.

This is effectively a relatively straightforward police crime thriller with scifi trappings and an intelligent subtext, and it succeeds well on all levels.

The alien makeup is simple but effective.

James Caan's weary detective is among his best work and Mandy Patinkin, unrecognisable beneath the latex prosthetics, is excellent as Sam Francisco (yes, really).
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7/10
An interesting film.
poolandrews28 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Alien Nation is set in Los Angeles several years after we make contact with a genetically engineered race of slave aliens whose spaceship has landed in the Mojave desert during 1989 & cannot take off again, these humanoid shaped aliens known as Newcomers are given the same rights as any human being & start to live & form a community in Los Angeles alongside us humans. Detective Sergeant Matthew Sykes (James Caan) & his partner Detective Bill Tuggle (Roger Aaron Brwon) stumble upon an armed robbery involving several Newcomers, during a shoot-out Tuggle is shot dead by a Newcomer. Determined to find his partner's killer Sykes volunteers to partner the first Newcomer (Mandy Patinkin) to make detective & use him for his own vendetta. However the situation becomes critical when the mismatched duo discover a prominent Newcomer named William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) making & selling a dangerous drug that is as addictive to Newcomers as Heroin is to us...

Directed by Graham Baker this is an odd film that on the one hand is so clichéd it's untrue but on the other feels like no other film I have ever seen. The script by Rockne S. O'Bannon at first glance would pass for a generic Lethal Weapon (1987) or any other buddy buddy cop film rip-off, the two films are incredibly similar including the mismatched partner's (one of whom gives the 'we ain't pal's or friends' line to begin with), the plot revolving around drugs is almost identical to Lethal Weapon, there's a car chase at the end, the final bad guy confrontation, the two partner's using their unique styles to question suspects, the fact that one hates the other at first but then grow's a mutual respect for them by the end & if you take away the sci-fi alien aspect of Alien Nation then the two films are virtually identical. However what saves Alien nation is that sci-fi element, in Lethal Weaopn there were racial tensions because of differing ethnicity but here in Alien Nation the idea is taken to the absolute limit as having two cops teamed up who aren't even members of the same species! This is where most of the interest in Alien Nation comes from, there are some really good character driven scenes including Sykes trying to tell a joke to his partner or explain what a condom is for instance while his Newcomer partner tries to present his people's side of the situation. This angle of the film isn't as deep or throughly explored as it might have been but that's another reason I like Alien Nation, all the obvious allergies to racial hatred & tension aren't too heavy handed, too forced, preachy or totally drown out the thriller aspects of the film.

Director Baker does an OK job here, he keeps things moving along at a decent pace although I'd have liked a bit more sci-fi in it. I mean the film isn't even set in the future & as such it has dated a little bit. There's a pretty cool car chase at the end & a couple of good shoot-outs but the appearance of an alien monster at the end felt a little out of odds with the rest of it. The alien make-up is OK if a little unimaginative, they just look like bald people with a mottled pattern on their scalps. I am not sure about this but apparently there are two versions of Alien Nation floating around, one with subtitles for when the Newcomers speak in their own language & one without the subtitles. I saw the version without subtitles & it did get quite annoying not understanding what they were saying to each other. The original musical score for Alien Nation composed by Oscar winner Jerry Goldsmith was rejected in post production for being 'too weird' even though it was complete to be replaced by the Curt Sobel soundtrack now heard on the final edit.

With a supposed budget of about $16,000,000 Alien Nation didn't have a huge budget but it does look good with good production values, special effects & Los Angeles location filming. The acting is good especially from James Caan who is great in this (did he have his gas cut off in the end?) while Terence Stamp is unrecognisable under all the make-up.

Alien Nation is an odd film since it is so clichéd & by the numbers except the alien angle which really does transform it from an average buddy buddy cop film to a throughly decent sci-fi thriller. Followed by the Alien Nation (1989) TV series which ran for twenty three episodes & the made-for-TV film Alien Nation (1989) before another five made-for-TV films including Alien Nation: Dark Horizon (1994), Alien Nation: Body and Soul (1995), Alien Nation: Millennium (1996), Alien Nation: The Enemy Within (1996) & finally Alien Nation: The Udara Legacy (1997) seem to have rounded things off.
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10/10
Great Movie
wombatman-126 January 2006
This is a great movie, and has and great series to go with it. Also the Social backdrop is cleverly handled and not to blatant, Concentrating mainly on the stupidity of bigotry and showing it to be a product of fear, its fun with plenty of action some of which is quite realistic, without being gruesome. The movie also contains a little humour, some quiet subtle, and is well paced. The only downside is you will want to know what happened next.

it also works as a drama due to the nicely scripted family scenes, which are not to sugary. Obligatory bad guys, with wonderfully bad guy plans, and cop to cop jibes, which are not lame.

So if you like Sci-fi, drama and cop movies you will love this, the makeup is decent, and the 80's fashion is not overdone, so does not date the movie.

Also it has some real stars in it, see the IMDb site for the cast list.
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8/10
Good movie...hated the tv show and movies though.
Aaron137526 February 2003
The reason I liked the movie and hated all the subsequent tv stuff is the movie had James Caan. He is what I enjoyed most about the movie and he was not in any of the tv stuff as far as I know. The interplay between him and Patinkin was great. The movie revolves around aliens who are living on earth...Caan can't stand these aliens, and really takes to disliking them when his partner is killed by one. He volunteers to be the partner of one of the aliens so that he can use the alien to find out what and who was behind his partner's death. During this time being partnered with the alien Caan's character learns to actually like being around him and they end up becoming friends. This movie has good action and comedy as Caan's character tries to figure things out and learns about his alien friend's different weaknesses and strengths. Basically it is a buddy cop movie that has an alien teamed with a human.
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5/10
"Don't take it personally. I'm a bigot."
utgard1430 August 2014
Tough cop (James Caan) hates aliens, even more so after his partner is killed by one. His new partner, wouldn't you know it, is also an alien (Mandy Patinkin). In trying to track down the killer of Caan's former partner, the two uncover a larger conspiracy.

Had this movie been made in the '50s or '60s, it would have been pretty strong. But by 1988 was it really necessary to do a movie dealing with race relations by using aliens as a metaphor? Rockne S. O'Bannon's unchallenging script hits on all the familiar racial conflict themes that had been played out long before this was released in many, many movies. If you take the racial component out of it, you're left with a by-the-numbers odd couple/buddy cop drama. Enjoyable enough, thanks to the likable performances of Caan and Patinkin, but it's still routine stuff.
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Entertaining allegory
grendelkhan14 September 2003
I've always liked this film despite its flaws. It is an interesting allegory of racial conflict, using a sci-fi premise and a "buddy-cop" formula. You have the minority rookie cop assigned to the bigoted partner, who are then assigned a case involving the minority group. The rookie proves to the bigot that people are the same, despite their physical differences and they slowly become friends.

Mandy Patinkin is great here, conveying the idea of an outsider who is not totally familiar with his new environment. James Caan is fine, but doesn't seem committed to the film, and his performance is a bit uneven. Terence Stamp is hurt by his makeup, as his face is one of his greatest strengths as an actor. Much of his characters come from his facial expressions and the makeup inhibits this.

The story is a bit cliched, but the sci-fi gloss keeps things from falling flat. The tv series was better able to explore the racial allegory, as the film just doesn't have enough screen time. The mystery component is pretty much standard fare. If you look beyond the surface of this film, there are some worthwhile ideas here. They just get a bit lost in the "cop" trappings.
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8/10
Alien Politics
dee.reid21 March 2002
Warning: Spoilers
In 1991, three years have passed since a huge spaceship crash landed on Earth, dumping over a thousand humanoid beings into our already rapidly expanding population. These "Newcomers", which is what we have come to know them as, were genetically-engineered for the specific purpose of slave labor. Soon afterwards, they are put it into quarantine. The newcomers have almost all the physical features of human beings except for a few. They have no hair on their heads, the males can become pregnant and they have two hearts instead of one. When released, they are then integrated into our society. They are given names of famous places or important historical figures like San(m) Francisco or Ronald Reagan. This integration into our society however, opens the door for a new kind of racism. Racial slurs like "slags" are uttered behind their backs. Perhaps for the first time minorities are going to be looked upon from a different perspective. Human beings begin to fear for their jobs as the newcomers start to take over people's employment opportunities. It isn't long before they are being featured advertisements too. Much as Chinatowns have formed in major cities around the world, the newcomers are given their own "Slag Town". Even as the newcomers start to become a big part of our society, this also opens the door for extraterrestrial crime. This in turn, introduces us to human cop, Detective Matthew Sykes(James Caan). Sykes, who has a slight distrust towards newcomers, becomes even more hateful of them one night after getting into a shoot-out with two newcomers, which leaves his partner dead and him thirsty for revenge. Matthew then sees his chance for revenge the next day, when he is assigned to be partnered up with Detective Sam Francisco(Mandy Patinkin, who is only recognizable by his voice and a few facial features). Francisco has recently been promoted and in turn has set a milestone for newcomers and the history books as becoming the first humanoid detective. Sykes who refuses to introduce Francisco as Francisco, gives him the nickname "George". Sykes is naturally hateful towards Francisco, but as time goes on he soon begins to accept him for who/what he is. As their investigation goes on, it leads them to the center of an extraterrestrial drug ring, headed by a shady newcomer named William Harcourt(Terence Stamp). The drug, known to the newcomers as "Jabluka" but better off known to us as liquid detergent, is a very potent narcotic. As George says "it's more potent than any human drug." He is right about that. The drug, when taken in large quantities, can trigger a change in the newcomers, a change that is best kept secret. This is why George becomes so eager to see the drug destroyed before its presence is known to the human population.

"Alien Nation" is such a unique piece of science-fiction that had the potential to be something really spectacular. It really bugs me that this movie had the chance to be something so amazing, so new, that it instead became a standard buddy flick with some sci-fi stuff thrown in it. James Caan and Mandy Patinkin make a good team and Terence Stamp is good to as the evil Harcourt.

I believe that even though this movie is basically failed potential, I have gotten the bizarre social message hidden within it. It contains a message about how amazingly fast the newcomers have become a major part of our society. It amazes me that William Harcourt, although he is the bad guy in this movie, he is also extremely well educated. It's pure genius that he is able to use his high social status amongst the humans as a means of becoming a well known drug dealer. Human drug dealers probably would not need to envy or want to kill Harcourt, since they could find equal business opportunities in both their own communities as well as the newcomer community. The story also tells about the competition of aliens over humans. For millions of years, humans have been the dominant species on Earth. Now with the arrival of the newcomers, humans for the first time ever, are facing competition with a species that becomes more and more advanced every day. This explains largely in part as to why we are becoming more afraid of them, for fear of not only our jobs, but our place as the dominant species of our own planet. It won't be long before the newcomers become involved in human politics and then there may soon enough be a humanoid president. With this in mind, it is possible that not far down the road, that the newcomers could enslave us, as they were back on their own planet.

In some ways, the origin of the newcomers and their position in our society, reminds me of the history of African-Americans. Being African-American myself, the story reminds me largely of the civil rights movement of the 1950's and 1960's. African-Americans, as well as any other minority group, have faced about as much discrimination as one could take. The racism that has been associated with the newcomers is almost exactly like what happened when minorities began taking up jobs that whites had been vying for.

Do you see what I mean? "Alien Nation" could have tackled so many social issues dead-on and would be a classic by now. Even with these faults, I enjoyed myself while watching this and I will try not to hold them against the movie.

I give "Alien Nation" an 8/10.
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8/10
Lighten Up
juvenalxx11 August 2005
Reading the comments on this film, it occurs to me that most of the posts reflect disappointment that it wasn't "Brother from Another Planet" or "Planet of the Apes".

Let's be clear. This is the modern equivalent of a B Picture, and as such it is a very good piece of work. The acting is professional and satisfying, and in many instances (Caan, Patinkin, the actor who plays Caan's partner) more than that. The plot is efficient, the action well done, and the elements of social commentary effectively worked into the fabric of the story -- no sledgehammer statements here. The humor is unforced and slyly subversive.

Of course the TV series was able to explore this material more completely: they had more time and scope!

Watch this film and enjoy and revel in the good stuff. To paraphrase what Goldwyn once famously (and apocryphally) said, "If you want a message, call Western Union"
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8/10
Patinkin & Caan shine
D.C.-221 May 2000
...in this sci-fi action film that spawned one of the best TV series ever. The chemistry between James Caan and Mandy Patinkin in this film is amazing. The plot is familiar buddy cop stuff but it's done in way that it's different and entertaining. I remember watching it for the first time not having any clue to what it was about, who was in it etc. and I just enjoyed it a lot. Shame Fox cancelled the series so soon in it's tenure, but that was in the early years of Fox before they stuck by shows that were quality shows despite early low ratings(like Party of Five). Rent it if you've never seen it, you'll enjoy it. 8/10
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4/10
Alien Notions better than ALIEN NATION..........
underfire3525 June 2005
The genre of science fiction, or more broadly speculative fiction, can be a very powerful medium. We can adventure through space in the distant future, or imagine alternative views of our own world. One is free to dwell in a universe free from time or place; to escape the modern world or discover a deeper meaning to that very same world. Review the literary works of Huxley, Orwell, Heinlein, Dick, Herbert, Sturgeon, Ellison, Bradbury, Vonnegut, Le Guin, and others, each adept at propelling the reader into strange, parallel, or wildly disparate realities. Keeping in the spirit of this topic, let us picture the arrival of an alien race to earth. After a lengthy quarantine, they are released to dwell amongst the inhabitants of America. There is, of course, an inherent level of racism that develops against these new members of society. The narrative ideas are vast: this ancient race struggling against a government where they are not represented; pointed social commentary on the civil rights struggle and of race relations since; these foreign beings coping with the garish culture of the United States; examining the class structures of immigrant populations; something, anything..........

What we end up with, however, is ALIEN NATION, a film that is essentially a cop/buddy flick starring James Caan and Mandy Patinkin. They are out to stop a drug lord and avenge the death of Caan's partner before they retire (or something to that effect). The point is is that ALIEN NATION, other than having Patinkin in outlandish makeup, offers nothing new to the tired clichés of this genre. Caan plays a veteran detective named Matthew Sykes, who after the death of his best friend/partner sets out to solve the crime himself. He is teamed with Sam Francisco played by Patinkin. Now Francisco is a "newcomer", a member of an alien race, bred for slavery, and whose native language closely resembles the peaks and valleys of a heart monitor. They learn at an incredible rate (hence they speak English) and get silly on sour milk. Salt water can disintegrate their flesh (a popular contrivance in late 80's cinema, WARLOCK being another example) and have bald spotted heads. At first Sykes is harsh and unwelcoming, but after a night of booze and rancid dairy products, he warms to the good natured Francisco. It would seem that the "slag" that killed Sykes' partner is involved with a scheme to distribute a drug that was rationed as a reward for hard labor on the slave ship. They begin to suspect the involvement of a wealthy "newcomer", William Harcourt, played by Terence Stamp (who, alas, had several more years of films like this before he made a comeback with THE LIMEY). This drug, in normal doses, produces enhanced strength, and in larger quantities causes a kind of gigantism. I'll stop there, but you can see where this is going.........

The frustrating thing about ALIEN NATION is that so very little of the "newcomer" culture is explored by the writers. We get bits here and there, but they are mainly used for comic effect or as plot devices. They have two hearts, but why? In the obligatory morgue sequence (replete with a coroner eating a sandwich), the aliens are shown to have no genitals, but a "stripper" in a later scene is shown to have breasts. Do they nurse their young? Are they warm blooded? I may be over analyzing these points, but they are valid in creating a plausible alternate race. The actors do what they can: Patinkin, an odd choice for a role such as this, is pretty good at bringing a sort of wide eyed innocence to the character of Francisco. On the other hand, James Caan seems to have a hard time taking this material seriously; his performance is functional, but he seems on the verge of breaking out into laughter during certain scenes. The direction, by Graham Baker (THE FINAL CONFLICT), is somewhat uninspired and there are few memorable sequences to speak of. The musical score by Curt Sobel (who replaced Jerry Goldsmith, after his lively, though weird, music was rejected) adds very little to creating an aural signature for the "newcomers." Stan Winston contributes fine creature makeup, although the incarnation towards the end appears almost identical to the monster from PUMPKINHEAD which Winston directed the same year ALIEN NATION was released. The film is, admittedly, mildly entertaining, in a goofy sort of way, but I couldn't help wanting more development from the narrative. There were several made for television movies and a series spawned by the film, but from what I understand these continuations offer little in the way of expanding the scope of the original concepts. To make a long story short, ALIEN NATION generates many interesting questions, but instead of answers, there are car chases. Oh well.......4/10
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4/10
Good Premise Not Realised Well.
AaronCapenBanner27 August 2013
The idea of a fleet of spaceships bringing(literal) alien(renamed newcomers) refugees seeking asylum on Earth, and the inevitable culture clashes and problems this would bring is a good one, and the film does have good performances(stars James Caan & Mandy Patinkin as cop and alien partner) but it is such a pity that this is thrown away so that they could be shoehorned into a standard "buddy" comedy/thriller involving both human and newcomer drug lords exploiting a weakness of the Aliens by recreating an addictive drug to hook them on. Nothing new or compelling emerges as a result. Too bad it becomes so predictable and obvious.

Still, this did inspire a TV series with a loyal following(Haven't seen it though!)
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7/10
interesting allegory
lee_eisenberg22 November 2005
"Alien Nation" portrays the future, when aliens have come to the Earth and become the second class citizens, so to speak. Then, human Det. Sgt. Matthew Sykes (James Caan) and alien Samuel "George" Francisco (Mandy Patinkin) have to join up to stop alien William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) from taking over. Much of the movie seems kind of silly (namely Sykes' one-liners), but they know how to pull it off without letting the movie get ridiculous. I think that my favorite part was when Sykes and Francisco learn what each other's names mean. The movie is a little strange, but definitely worth seeing. You might say that the aliens replace African-Americans as second class citizens.
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7/10
simple buddy cop movie with a layer of sci-fi on top
SnoopyStyle26 January 2016
An enslaved alien race in a spaceship lands in the dessert. A few year later, the aliens called Newcomers are being incorporated into human society. L.A. police detective xenophobic Matthew Sykes (James Caan) and his partner Bill confront an alien holdup gang. Bill is killed by advance weapon. Sykes gets a new partner in Newcomer Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). Their investigation leads to Newcomer William Harcourt (Terence Stamp) and his scheme to distribute an alien drug.

This is actually a very simple buddy cop movie. They don't get along until they start getting along. The bad guy is literally a drug lord. The problem for so many people seems to be that they're expecting something else. I really like the idea of the alien being incorporated into society. It doesn't mean that all of a sudden the world has flying cars. It is in the everyday things that is interesting. It is what they eat, what they drink and what jobs they get. That's what this movie is doing.
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8/10
Fun 80's movie with great actors.
deanlach25 July 2014
A relaxed James Caan and the warm voice his co-star and cop-partner Mandy Patinkin help drive the story. I recognized one of the bad guys from the Death Wish 2 movie. Kevyn Major Howard was also in Full Metal Jacket.

The Aliens (Newcomers)were given funky names by their homeland hosts. This is kind of a wink to the old immigration standards of Ellis Island.

I'm sure the writers had fun assigning names to their Alien Characters, like the infamous writer "Kipling."

The choice of names in the film was a light-hearted effect throughout the film. For example, Sam Franciso was Patinkin's given name.

Effects wise, this movie was good for an 80's film. But I wasn't entirely happy with the Alien makeup, which reminded me of a hair-cap.

I do like this movie much more than the TV series.
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7/10
Caan
kairingler10 July 2013
I just love anything James Caan is in so I decided to give this one a try, and boy was I glad that I did. Mandy Pantikin also did a nice job on the film,, and i'm a big Terrence Stamp fan so I enjoyed the acting,, the premise was excellent to,,, I graduated the year this came out but never got around to seeing it till much later., so the story goes that Caan has to take on a partner,, well he's sorta an alien and Caan resents that and has arguments and bickers with him constantly but eventually the learn to work together get along and eventually become good friends, they go up against some bad guy aliens who wish to do harm to the human race as they are selling some kind of drug that has deadly outcomes for those that inject it,, I think that this movie was ahead of it's time.. a great movie for sci fi lover's and James Caan as well. I was not disappointed whatsoever.
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7/10
"They have landed, ..., and now they are among us".
classicsoncall8 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I remember how fascinated I was with the concepts explored in this picture back in the day - the idea of curdled milk as refreshing, and sea water corrosive to an alien race. The idea of extra-terrestrials living and working among us, assimilating into society while confronting a similar type of racism that all 'different' cultures experience when settling in a new environment. It's what gives focus to the relationship between detective Matt Sykes (James Caan) and his 'Newcomer' partner Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). That's a great speech by Sam/George where he laments how humans have failed to live up to the same potential they have offered the aliens. Makes you think about how we really haven't improved all that much as a society over the past twenty years.

Watching the film the other night, I was struck by how much blatant product placement went on in the picture - subtle ads for stuff like Tasters Choice Coffee, Smirnoff Vodka, and repeated images of those Bartles and James guys before they went down in a hail of gunfire during the convenience store robbery. There was even a marquee for Rambo III playing in theaters at the time; I wonder why they offered free time to a competitor.

I was probably more intrigued by the memory of this picture than the film itself; as I watched it the other night I thought that the second half moved rather slowly. I'm having a hard time understanding why the villain Harcourt (Terence Stamp) went to such great lengths to protect his investment in Jabluka, when for all intents and purposes, the aliens could get it anywhere. I mean really, today you can buy Tide in a dozen assorted flavors.

And speaking of tides, it was rather noble to see George risk his life to save a buddy by hanging out over an ocean full of battery acid. You don't have to be an alien to know that that was a wild and crazy thing to do. I thought about how all that salt spray should have been hitting George in the face, but then you wouldn't have had the dramatic save for this buddy movie to end on a high note.
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2/10
This "Alien" should be illegal...
Mister-624 January 2000
This is the kind of movie to scrupulously AVOID when looking for decent sci-fi. Or even semi-average.

What's wrong with "Alien Nation", you might ask? Well, first of, this IS NOT a sci-fi movie. I know - it's set in the future, aliens come from another planet and co-habitate amongst the humans, there's alien prejudice, alien blue collar workers, alien cops, alien hookers and the whole nine yards.

But with all this promise, what do the film-makers do? What, I ask you? They turn it into a COP/BUDDY MOVIE! The guys who wrote this should be forced to take remedial writing lessons from Joe Eszterhaus.

And everyone involved must have been caught at a bad time in their lives. Caan has been much better than here (though not much worse) as a cop who doesn't like aliens and is, naturally, stuck with one as a partner. His partner (Patinkin) gets a cute name at Ellis Island ("Sam Francisco..." yuk-yuk-yuk.), gets drunk on curdled milk and makes "Star Trek"'s Spock look like a party animal. Then there's Stamp as yet ANOTHER alien baddie (remember him in "Superman II"?). Not much stretch work here.

Not much to the plot, either, as Stamp plans to enslave the aliens with a newfound version of a drug from the old home planet (and when you find out what the drug is, think: would this mean that all the sober aliens walk around in dirty clothes?).

In fact, the best thing about this movie, aside from the alien make-up job, is the song "Invincible" from the Temptations, a "golden oldie", according to the movie, from 1988. Ah, the ironies of a movie set in the future.

Tell you what - remember movies like "Freebie and the Bean" and "Lethal Weapon"? Pretend one of the guys is a bald-headed alien with large liver spots on his head and no nose. There, you've seen "Alien Nation".

Two stars. And if you make it through "Alien Nation, may the (police) force be with you.
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