What would happen if we made contact with an alien civilisation? This is a question that Edward Drake’s new film Cosmic Sin attempts to explore. Set in the early 26th century, in which humanity has established many colonies in other solar systems, the film tells the story of seven rogue soldiers attempting to prevent an alien civilisation form colonising humanity after a group of miners made humanity’s first contact with the aliens on a remote planet. Led by General Eron Ryle (Frank Grillo) and retired General James Ford (Bruce Willis), the group goes on a mission to the planet where the first contact took place in an attempt to locate the aliens’ homeworld and blow it up with a quantum bomb without concern for the government’s decision after their base was attacked by the alien parasites possessing the miners as they
came back to Earth.
The other important members of the team include Dr Lea Goss (Perrey Reeves), an exobiologist and Ford’s ex-wife, Lieutenant Fiona Ardene (Adelaide Kane), a quantum engineer responsible for operating the bomb as well as the teleportation device used by the group to travel to the alien planet, demolition expert Dash Wick (Corey Large), and Ryle’s nephew, young specialist Braxton Ryle (Brandon Thomas Lee). The group travels to the alien planet and plans to use the radioactive signature of the aliens’ ship in order to locate their home world, and use an orbital canon established on the planet in order to launch the quantum bomb. But after failing their landing and meeting with the planet’s human settlers, they realise that the aliens are already planning their invasion, and have a teleportation portal stationed in
orbit around the planet.
The movie’s themes revolve around how humanity would react to the discovery of an alien civilisation, and the ethics of such a decision. According to Drake, “The title of the film speaks to the idea that erasing another culture is as sin so unforgivable the cosmos would never forgive it. However, based on the colonization practices we’ve seen play out in our own history, it isn’t beyond reason that a similar pattern would play out when we encounter an alien civilization”, and the characters in the movie constantly question whether what they are doing is right or wrong. At least in the first half. Because the movie’s themes is a very important one, and one that hasn’t really been explored much in fiction compared to the countless stories of alien invasions that paint the aliens as a pure evil threat that needs to be destroyed, not
realising that H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds was a critique of human colonisation and capitalism, and that Wells’s Martians were supposed to hold a mirror to what humanity could become in the future.
But unfortunately, the movies seem to forget about its own themes and title halfway through to turn into an us-vs-them story that would make Robert A. Heinlein, the author of the original, unironic Starship Troopers proud. Instead of being a peaceful civilisation that simply wanted to make contact with us, the aliens are pure evil parasites who possess human bodies and were already planning to invade us from the start with their cliché Power-Rangers-villain-like costumes and reptilian voices, and instead of being an unforgivable genocide based on a misunderstanding, our “heroes’” actions are completely justified and a heroic sacrifice that saved humanity.
And then there is Bruce Willis’s character, John Ford. Ford is introduced as war criminal who, five years earlier, ordered a quantum bomb to be dropped on a colony wanting to secede from the Alliance, earning him the nickname of “Blood General” and causing Goss to divorce him. Ford is hired by the group in hopes that his tactical knowledge and military history would help them in their cause. And like with the moral questions about the aliens, all dilemmas about him are dismissed in the second half of the movie, and everyone suddenly treats him as a hero who sacrificed himself to save humanity after he headed to space to allow the q-bomb to pass through the aliens’ gate, dying in the process. In the end, not only are all comparisons between his actions in the movie and his past crime dropped, the former is even treated as a redemption arc. Because I guess it’s okay to bomb civilians and blow up entire planets Death Star style
if it’s against people who are not like us, right?
Because that’s what the movie seems to imply at the end. That we shouldn’t worry about the ethics of alien contact and military intervention on them, they are all evil anyways. At some point during the mission’s preparation, Wick remarks that the Aztecs were doing just fine before Cortes showed up, to which Ardene replies by asking who humans are in this situation, Cortes or the Aztecs. While the question is left open, the movie’s answer seems to be the latter, which is made all the more problematic by the fact that the protagonists are all white. This movie had amazing potential to ask questions about humanity’s potential relationships with alien civilisations in the future, and to be a cautionary tale abouthe legacy of colonisation and how it would pervade into those relationship, causing us to colonise and genocide aliens the same way white people used to do with other humans. But no, it instead decided to be a generic alien invasion movie filled with bad acting and horrendous CGI that not only doesn’t ask any ethical or sociological questions, but actively justifies treating potential aliens as inferiors and committing genocide on them. What is the message that you’re trying to convey exactly? Replace the aliens with BIPOC, and you’ve got a good ol’ archaic movie that justifies colonisation and genocide. Which is really sad considering what the movie could have been. Well, I guess it could receive the Starship Troopers treatment at some point in the future and be adapted into a satire of itself that makes the protagonists the actual villains of the story. But until then, I don’t recommend it.
Cosmic Sin releases in cinemas on 11 March 2021.
Embrace Brisbane are giving away 5 double passes to see Cosmic Sin. To enter click this link.