Saturday, July 9, 2016

Alien Motivations

I finally got around to seeing Independence Day: Resurgence, the sequel no one asked for to Roland Emmerich’s 1996 alien invasion/catastrophe flick Independence Day. Emmerich is back as director, with Jeff Goldblum and other actors reprising roles they played in the original. It was nice to see Brent Spiner getting work again, but it was evident that Will Smith was wise to steer clear of this particular project. The film’s five writers did not generate an original or intelligent idea between them. Independence Day: Resurgence may be one of the stupidest movies ever made, but then stupid has never been a crime in Hollywood.

You don’t need to look far to find the stupid early in this film, but if you wait long enough you find out that the reason the aliens have returned and parked a 3,000-mile spaceship over the Atlantic basin is to drill a tiny little hole down through the layers of our planet to extract our molten core. Why they need a 3,000-mile spaceship to drill a single hole into a single spot along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is never explained, but we are told that they likely want to use the energy of our planetary core to power their spaceships and industry. While it was just generally stupid for them to have traveled across the universe to strip mine our planet of natural resources, the motivation given for the original invasion in ’96, coming all that way to use the core of the Earth as an energy source is a very specifically stupid thing to do.

Of course the core of the Earth has a great deal of energy, and even tapping into near surface level energies of the planet makes a lot of sense for those of us already living here. But the universe, the universe that these aliens traveled through at a great cost of energy and resources, is full of bright and shiny nuclear reactors called stars, the weakest of which generate many times the energy that you can find inside the Earth. And even if you are too stupid to figure out how to utilize that energy (not something likely in a species that has mastered interstellar travel) there are plenty of other places in the universe to find it. Gas giant planets like Jupiter generate enormous levels of energy. There is no deficiency of energy in the universe that would make coming to Earth to drill a tiny hole to tap our core a reasonable alternative.

But what about the original premise of the Independence Day franchise, that the aliens came to Earth to strip our planet of its natural resources. Again, the universe is a big damned place, full of rocks, gas, dust, asteroids, comets and uninhabited planets that are composed of the various naturally occurring elements that we find on Earth. Even the most rapacious consumers of these raw materials would find enough available within their own solar system, or nearby uninhabited systems to satiate their appetites. But even if they did decide to drop into our neighborhood looking for such resources, they could probably more easily mine them out of the asteroid belt, the planets Mars, Venus and Mercury, or the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, than they could from the Earth, a planet that has already been mined of much of its natural resources by the natives. Why bother with an invasion when you can take what you want without a fight?

Of course other fictional aliens have invaded Earth for other things, such as water, breeding stock and tasty, tasty humans. Water is again a relatively common material in the universe, and if you were coming to our solar system to find some you might try catching snowballs in the Oort cloud or draining the seas of Europa. And while Mars may need women and To Serve Man may be a cookbook, it is not likely that any aliens would be biochemically compatible enough with us to make either mating or digesting possible. It just wouldn’t work. So there really isn’t anything on Earth that is unique enough or useful enough to any alien species to justify an invasion. But who knows, if they’ve been getting old episodes of the Jerry Springer show they might just do so on principle.

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