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on April 2, 2001
Alien nation is so novel and clever that its already over before you realize that it is the same basic buddy cop theme that's been done to death in Hollywood. The "murder to cover up a drug conspiracy in high places" plot is more than a bit familiar, but the writers came up with a fascinating science fiction premise that made the end product entirely worth while. Nothing in the performances apart from the special effects is earth shaking, but the screenwriter did a magnificent job in creating a film that holds the attention and engages the interest. This was a very worthy project and never seemed hackneyed, although there are a lot of similar films that do so almost effortlessly. I recommend it heartily.
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This is a very watchable movie that succeeds because of: a) bravo performances by James Caan (as always) and Mandy Patinkin; b) a solid storyline; and c) the fact that the movie does not try to take itself too seriously even as it makes some social and political points. In effect, this movie is racial politics wrapped in equal parts science fiction and a satirical cop thriller. The amazing thing is, it works--this movie is a brisk and enjoyable viewing experience. The storyline never drags and always entertains. The social commentary, while pervasive, never intrudes on the storyline.
The basic premise of the film is that a huge spaceship full of alien "Newcomers" lands in the California desert. They have high IQs, average over 6 1/2 feet in height, get drunk on sour milk, cannot eat cooked meat, and have a variety of other odd characteristics as well. Their goal, and the government's goal, is to assimilate the Newcomers into American society as quickly as possible. James Caan plays a police detective who is assigned the first Newcomer detective partner: Detective Sam Francisco (Patinkin)and they are investigating a murder involving the Newcomer community. The chemistry between Caan and Patinkin is excellent, and both turn in fine performances. Lots of interesting and downright hilarious things happen along the way, which makes this film downright entertaining even as it gives a certain amount of lighthearted social commentary about the challenges that the most recent people "off the boat" can expect to face when entering American society.
The movie succeeds in its most important goal: it entertains. This is good lighthearted entertainment with a frosting of social commentary that avoids being PC.
The movie works.
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VINE VOICEon December 17, 2004
this is a great pilot for the tv series that followed. the tv series allowed each character to grow and change, and their alien-ness to one another to blur as they continued to fight crime.

there were a lot of layers to this series besides the basic sci-fi "stranger in a strange land"-"my how different we are" type of story. The episodes dealt with family, romance, detective work, friendship, and a horrific past endured on the way to planet earth.

It has that blade-runner sort of feel, on the edge of the apocalypse type of city, and a pinch of buckaroo bonzai, cagney and lacey (the team had to prove themselves and break "glass ceilings") mixed up with a dash of starman for good measure.

i really enjoyed the tongue in cheek, the partnership formed, and the overcoming of racism.

...'bring me your huddled masses..." i really really implore the powers that be to bring the tv series to DVD.

Thank you in advance.
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on December 15, 2015
Amazing show, this is the prequel that started it all. It has less of a production budget than the series or the other 5 movies, so it's not the war representation of Alien Nation, but worth watching if you're a fan of the show. See my review of the series for more.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon June 17, 2005
Do you like cop movies? If you do then you're in luck. Alien Nation is essentially a cop movie... with aliens. The fact that it is just a cop movie with aliens is what makes this movie a little groundbreaking. However like any other genre of movies, this cop movie isn't perfect. It falls into some of the same trappings of most cop movies. In spite of that Alien Nation is innovative in the science fiction genre, even if the innovation itself has been played out to nausea elsewhere.

This isn't high cop drama like Black Rain or Heat. It isn't necessarily low cop drama either like V.I. Warshowski or The Rookie. The cop drama part is pretty much in the middle. So what makes it innovative? Well... it's the aliens. One of the things that make really good science fiction is when aspects of real life get represented in another fashion. Films like Aliens with their Viet Nam War contrast, Contact with its spiritual belief contrast, and V with their Holocaust similarities all stand out above the crowd because they compare their situations with real issues. Alien Nation does the same. Not with the buddy cop themes but with the themes of racial hatred and discrimination. Instead of some other ethnic minority you get alien refugees from another planet. You get all the parallels of bigotry in modern society in this film, and they address it in a concise manner.

That been said it's still a cop movie overall. Oddly matched police officers learning to accept each other, drug lord looking to take over, lots of gunplay and cop jokes... they all end up here. This aspect of the movie is merely average. Just like all the other cop movies you have seen over the decades. The cinematography, settings, script, and style all fall victims to the cop movie theme as they are all nothing to really write home about when compared to other police films. This doesn't mean the script, cinematography and other stuff I mentioned is bad. It just doesn't stand out above the crowd.

Appreciate Alien Nation for what it is: a parallel to society's discrimination against people different than us. Understand the fact that the vehicle they used to portray this, and it was an appropriate one at that, was a clichéd cop plot. If you like cop movies and Sci-Fi then you found a winner here. For the rest of you I won't say it's an overall great movie, but I will say it's a pretty good one.
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on October 13, 2004
I saw the TV series before I saw the movie. The movie is pretty good, and I'm glad it's out on DVD. The series and subsequent TV-movies were an excellent continuation of the movie, and I'm adding my vote that I hope they make it to DVD too.
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on January 8, 2016
The storytelling is solid, if unambitious. Many of the points the script could've made about human prejudices would be left for the first few episodes of the TV series that was spun off from the film. It holds up as a police procedural, in the vein of "In the Heat of the Night". Strong performances from the whole cast, especially from leads Mandy Patinkin (George Francisco) and Terrance Stamp (William Harcourt) both of whom do so despite the appliances they both wear as Newcomers, and James Caan (Matthew Sykes) as the angry and prejudiced LAPD detective who very reluctantly accepts a Newcomer as a replacement in the search for his murdered partner. Worth your time whether you know the TV series or not.
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on February 25, 2014
I really liked this movie when it came out originally long long ago. I remember having the VHS of this as well and though I didn't wear it out, I sure put a few miles on it. When the show of the same name came out I was hesitant at first because of the actor changes but they did a good job there, the idea is solid.
Aliens crash on earth and most of them remember being the slaves to some sort of other race that was on the ship but can’t be found now that they are “free” as it were. That idea, that there are unseen controllers running around is interesting and when I was 15 I really didn’t see it. Also, since they are aliens it is really easy to mirror race relations, like so many of these stories seem to do. The alien race like many other stories with aliens are stronger and smarter and over all a better “person” than we are and that distinction makes the strain on them trying to fit into a flawed human populace that more difficult.
Still a good movie and I have enjoyed repeat viewings of it, even if I haven't sat all the way through them as I like to have movies on in the background as noise.
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While some of the storyline can be corny at times, the concept for this film was excellent. Not just aliens, but aliens who were treated like garbage as slaves find refuge on earth... more specifically, California. They're highly intelligent and much stronger than humans, but most of them are grateful to be on earth, despite the harsh, racist treatment they receive from many who want to keep a "pure" human race.
Like any culture, there are always some bad apples and the Newcomers (as they are called) are no exception. Their unique strength gives them advantages over humans, but their larger-than-ours, spongy heads make it hard for them to hide in a crowd. The unique culture of the Newcomers is explored and seeing their culture integrate with ours is insightful concerning the way many immigrants are treated today.
The make-up is awesome and totally believable and the language developed for the aliens is also well done. The good acting helps to make up for what is sometimes a mediocre script, yet a great concept. If you're into sci-fi, this is an interesting flick you won't want to miss.
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on April 18, 2015
I remember seeing this back in the 1980's. It was up there wih our other sci-fi stories like ABYSS, ENEMY MINE, ET and so on. A race that had bad times on their planet, comes to our Earth and establishes themselves here on Earth. One of their food staples - SOUR MILK __UGGGHH NASTY but they survived. The Aliens interfaced with the earthling counterparts in order to survive and coexist together peacefully. Great movie among sci fi movies.
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