So lets get to it.
5. Battlestar Galactica, Episode 1, Season 1: “Thirty Three”
I’d missed the pilot, so this was the first episode of Battlestar that I ever watched and it was enough to sell me on the next one and half seasons.
My strongest memory of life in the military during an op (or for that matter even an exercise) was the constant, crushing painful need for sleep. Hunger for sleep. Bone baring starvation for sleep. The only word in the English language we have for this is “sleepy” and doesn’t come anywhere near to describing what you are going through after four days without sleep. You are in a near hallucinatory state and you still have function, calculate and fight.
There were a few other details they got right…and wrong, Lee Adama getting chewed out by Starbuck for being pussy in front of his troops was right. Starbuck would have said the things she said to him to include details like, “You don’t say good luck! You say good hunting!” Except an O-3 stick jock would already know all that, unless he was a hopeless incompetent who only got ahead because his Daddy was an O-7 looking after his boy’s career. Which in truth would have explained EVERYTHING about Lee Adama.
But like I said Thirty-Three sold me on the show for a while. Pretty much right up until it became incredibly obvious that the Cylons did NOT have any kind of a plan and Ron Moore was no Mike Straczynski.
4. Edge of Tomorrow/Live Die Repeat
Ground Hog’s Day meets Starship Troopers. A PAO pogue gets busted down to private and thrown into a battle that he dies in within five minutes. And then he does it again the next day and the next and the next…
I will be the first to admit that this is one of the weaker films on this list from the military perspective.
However, the feel was a lot closer to the novel Starship Troopers than the movie Starship Troopers ever got, so it had that going for it. The beach scene was good. The confusion and fog of battle was present and Cruise did a good job of being a useless guy with minimal training who was in over his head.
There is also sentiment on my part. I miss Bill Paxton.
3. Dog Soldiers
Okay. Okay. Not a science fiction movie and truth be said, the basic plot really is just Aliens with werewolves. But the Brit military culture as presented is pretty solid. I knew pretty much all of those guys at one time or another. Sean Pertwee was supposed to be a supporting player here but he carried the movie as a lifer Colour Sergeant. “When I signed my life away on that little dotted line I meant it! I am a professional solider.” Yep, been there.
My favorite scene was Spoon’s last defiant words to the werewolf that was about to kill him, “I hope I give you the shits!”
You were waiting for this one, weren’t you?
No list of military science fiction movies would be complete without James Cameron’s kinda sorta sequel to Ridley Scott’s Alien. While the first movie was a haunted house horror movie in space. This one was it’s own thing.
There was plenty Cameron got wrong. The biggest was the “make your own uniforms” thing. Although truth be said there is some precedent for that in Vietnam and the Pacific Theater in WWII. But that is a situation where you are talking about long term combat and your uniform is pretty shredded up rags anyway. These guys on the other hand were fresh out of garrison.
However, Cameron’s strength has always been in visual representations to tell stories and with as much economy as possible. To do that he has to work with visual tropes and stereotypes that the audience is already familiar with and in 1986 Vietnam was still a pretty fresh memory.
The two most squared away characters were the Clueless Lieutenant and the Hyper-competent Career Sergeant. Then Cameron played against type killed off the sergeant while keeping the lieutenant around thus creating a leadership vacuum for Ripley to step into. It worked…sort of.
Favorite characters on the military side of things are everybody’s; Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez. Hudson probably my favorite as the shortimer who talks a lot of shit, falls apart and then pulls it together again when the SHTF.
If by some miracle you haven’t seen any of the Alien films, then take my advice and only watch the first two film. Don’t see any of the others and most especially don’t see Alien 3 which is the The Last Jedi of the Alien franchise. Killing off Newt and Hicks in the opening credits? Suck my dick Alien III!
And now we reach my number one pick for military science fiction movies. A choice few of you will agree with but I absolutely stand by it.
1. Battle Los Angles
This film won me over in the opening scene. The broken down Career Man chugging along on Pendleton’s beach and then the eighteen year old first termers shoot past him one after another calling, “morning Staff Sergeant,” over their shoulders as they all leave him in the dust. This was a character that spoke to me.
The tactics side of things were completely solid and text book accurate. The producers…for once…really did their home work. The alien strategy was sound enough, “Rapid Dominance” what reporters stupidly call “shock and awe.”
But my favorite part of the movie were the alien rankers. These guys were clearly confused as hell. They didn’t know why had been scooped out of their nice warm nest and stuffed into a meat grinder with these savages.
“Oh my Glod! Did you see what the Monkeys did to Colonel Xerprklstyx? He was alive when they did it to him. They fucking dissected him alive! I can still hear him screaming. Oh my Glod! Oh my Glod! Oh my Glod!”
From the journal of LCpl Mxperti(*click-click*)crast: Operation Soaring Borehole day three. My captor tried to escape three times last night. I can not seem to get across to him that I am his prisoner and he has obligations to me. Provide food, provide shelter but primarily he MUST exfiltrate me safely out of the combat zone. This stupid Monkey just starts crying when try to explain these things to him.”