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Headscratchers / Cowboys & Aliens

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    Extra arm-guns 

  • Why couldn't she have grabbed an extra arm-gun from the huge pile of dead aliens they had to walk around to get out of the room? Why leave Jake essentially undefended?
    • It is shown that the arm guns can't be easily removed, and they can only be opened by the wearer willing them open. So unless she finds one left lying around that is already open, she can't help.


    Armband falling off 

  • If not thinking causes the armband to fall off, then why didn't it fall off when Lonergan slept? In fact, he was unconscious at the very beginning of the movie.
    • Just because your brain rests during sleep and unconsciousness doesn't mean that it doesn't stop thinking. What do you think dreams come from?
    • Because "stop thinking" was an oversimplification. Ella was trying to transmit the "detach" signal telepathically, and Lonergan's thoughts were interfering.
    • "Transmit the detach signal"? Is that what you kids are calling it these days.
    • Funny!

    Alien on foot in town 

  • If the aliens were attacking with aircraft, why was there randomly an alien on foot in the town during the attack?
    • Bailed from the wrecked ship. Same as later when one crashes into the water.

    Gold value 

  • Why is gold of any value to aliens that are clearly so advanced that they have spaceships and extremely effective weaponry? Are they cousins to the Psychlos or something?
    • Given that all the gold was being harvested towards a nest looking room in the ship where the aliens appear to be sleeping I think it was supposed to be implied that gold somehow reacts with their biology.
    • This doesn't address the fact that, with such technology, they could either fabricate it or find a gold asteroid someplace several times the size of their ship.
    • Mining asteroids for gold might indeed work, as this article attests. But fabrication? Gold is a chemical element — the only way to synthesize it is with nuclear fission (which would nearly always result in a gold isotope that was radioactive) or nuclear fusion (which requires far more energy than it would just to look for the stuff and mine it).
    • Alternatively, the gold probably serves an aesthetic or symbolic value; like it does with humans. Also, though we have the current technology to manufacture precious substances like diamond, it is still more economical to dig them out of the ground.

    Kidnapping humans 

  • Why did the aliens need to kidnap so many human beings when they apparently knew it was so easy to kill them? They are twice our size, ten times stronger, and they have blades in their arms. It would seem pointless to keep capturing humans when having about 10 of them would allow them to conclude that humans are the most easily killed species on the planet.
    • They were using them as lab rats for other experiments?
    • In historical imperial societies, colonists have been known to reserve the kind of experiments for natives, too reprehensible for them to ever consider practising on their own people. Perhaps the aliens had an ethical problem with vivisecting their own people.
    • Historical imperial societies performed medical experiments on captive humans to learn more about their own biology. These aliens aren't human. It would be like us performing unethical experiments on cockroaches or Sequoia trees.
    • Or on lab rats and chimpanzees. These aliens still have what appear to be lungs, hearts, eyes etc, meaning that humans are similar enough to carry out a whole bunch of test on, and all without being presented any ethical dilemma.
    • They're probably looking for an easier way of killing several million/billion of us than "personally shoot and stab every single one."
    • And the bigger the sample, the more accurate the results. Handy if you're developing bioweapons or Kill All Humans RAID.

    Ella arriving 

  • When did Ella arrive on Earth? Was she on the same ship that Jake had been captured on or did she crashland somewhere else? Even if she did, where's her ship and why didn't she have any technology with her? Did she spend a long time learning how to speak and act human or does she have alien powers that allow her to understand it all at once like Starfire? If all that was needed is to get inside the alien tower and blow it up, why did her entire race die? Were they a non-violent species or did they not know how to do it? If throwing her in a fire didn't kill her, how were the aliens able to kill her entire race in the first place?
    • I don't think blowing up the alien tower was "all that was needed". I'm pretty sure she said that that was just the scout ship and all the other aliens were somewhere else doing other things. If the scouts decided that Earthlings were pathetic enough they'd come back with more ships and glass the place. Blowing up the scout ship sent the message to the other aliens not to mess with humans and the gold wasn't worth it. Presumably her race didn't fight the scout ship that got sent to their planet and then were crushed by the main army.
    • As for her regenerative powers, it could be that they have a limited number of times they can regenerate, or have a maximum amount of damage they can regenerate from. The giant explosion at the end did kill Ella for good (unless you're of the belief that she took on another form and left Earth at that point).
    • If she can regenerate after her body was burned, she could just as easily regenerate after an explosion. Burning is a lot more through way to destroy cells than explosions, despite being less impressive to watch.
    • To the above, nonsense. She had only been on the fire for a minute, whereas it takes more than three hours to completely burn all the combustable elements of a human corpse. Meanwhile, she was in the dead centre of an explosion strong enough to disintigrate entire alien spacecraft. Which is likely to do the more damage to a body?
    • To the "when did she arrive" question, my theory was that she either stowed away on their ship (she seemed to have a pretty good idea where everything was) or followed close behind. Likewise, I got the sense that her species had developed more along the lines of Bio Tech, which gives you lots of great social advances (immortality, for one), but not so many weapons.
    • Answering the question of why Ella's species was killed in the first place, that's not as hard to explain as one might think. The movie establishes that the aliens study intelligent life forms on a gold-rich planet in order to discover their weaknesses and exterminate them. Ella seems familiar with the process, implying that it may have happened to her species. The aliens probably researched her species and discovered whatever was necessary to kill one of them (nuclear weapons?, a rare element? etc...), manufactured necessary tech for doing it on a larger scale, and wiped them off the star maps.


    Gold asteroids 

  • So, they've got spaceships and mining technology. Earth has a) nasty critters, b) relatively inconvenient gold fields, especially compared to c) the large, uninhabited, unclaimed, dripping-with-gold asteroid belt right next door. Why hunt for gold here?
    • Who says they didn't already mine that dry?
    • Alternately, they may just prefer to do their mining in an atmosphere whenever possible. And they just underestimated the nastiness of the locals.
    • That is also making the big assumption that the aliens have a racewide government. For all we know, these aliens are a poor mining company who couldn't afford the 'rights' to mine any profitable asteroids.
    • Just to point out something: mining gold from asteroids is unlikely to be viable. Heavy elements only exist in large planetoids (due to gravitational attraction during formation), not loose in space. Asteroids would only contain gold (and similar heavy elements) if they were broken off a planetoid (which is possible, but very low frequency) during a massive impact, and only then in rough proportion to that found on their originating planetoid. Recent asteroid surveys suggest that Iron through Zinc are about the heaviest elements to be found in anything above trace amounts in asteroid fields. So, if you're looking for gold in a solar system, you look at the innermost set of planets. Anywhere else is unlikely to get you much.

    Looting guns 

  • When they were battling near the alien ship, why didn't they just take the firearms from the aliens that had them, instead of resorting to guns, spears, and dynamite?
    • Because its been made very clear that those weapons are Clingy MacGuffins. For all we know, once a weapon-bearer dies, the weapon is pretty much irretriveable, at least in the short timeframe the cowboys had. It could also explain why Ella took Jake's gun rather than nick one off the aliens Jake killed.
    • What about the rifles? There were quite clearly rifle-style guns as well as the armbands.
    • Unless the rifles are somehow tied into the armbands/their biology.

    Exposed heart 

  • The aliens' heart is exposed whenever it uses its second pair of arms? How in the world did their species survive long enough to learn how to build space ships?
    • By not opening it up when they're likely to get stabbed. Duh.
    • That didn't help the guy attacking Emmett at the end of the movie.
    • I think it's made pretty clear that the aliens underestimate the humans. I might have figured he would just give up and die. On top of all of that, why do we assume that the aliens are all ruthless killing machines? For all we know, that alien was a alien high school drop out who could only dig up rocks for a living.

    Taggart surname 

  • Why is Emmett's surname Taggart? It's clearly stated that he's John's daughter's son, and his father is still alive so it's unlikely John has adopted him officially.
    • Lots of people have their mother's maiden name. Emmett's father might not have been married to his mother.

    Naked aliens 

  • Why are the aliens completely naked? It's one thing to have bulletproof armor, its another thing to be completely naked, in a possibly hostile biosphere, and have natural armor. Maybe it's to facilitate the usage of the lung arms, whole other headscratchers in themselves, but why not have armor that opens up there whenever they need to use them?
    • Whose to say they ever needed clothes or armor before fighting the humans?
    • For previous wars? They already fought against at least one civilization and surely they must have had wars among themselves.
    • Why surely they must have? Which real-world alien races are you using as a basis for this assumption?
    • A race that never experiences war of any kind, including war amongst each other, is even less believable than aliens.
    • Gorillas, Elephants, Bats, Canadians, Swiss, Minoans....
    • Gorillas fight one another. So do elephants (what do you think the tusks are for?). I don't know enough about bats to comment—nevertheless, "race" indicates civilization, not animals. The Canadians fought in World War I and II, and numerous others. The Swiss are only neutral because they have compulsory military service and the whole country is set up to kick the shit out of anyone who tries to invade. The Minoans had fortifications and defensive walls.



  • If Ella can shapeshift, why did she keep choosing the form of a woman instead of turning into a Tyrannosaurus Rex and fighting the aliens?
    • Her shapeshifting might be limited to disguising herself, not actually changing her strength or abilities.
    • If you were on a planet full of gun toting born and bred hunters, you might think twice about becoming a big nasty that would need to eat copious amounts of said hunters to stay alive. It may be easier just to blend in and pick a side.
    • There's no indication that Ella can shapeshift to that degree. She might be able to alter her appearance but she likely still has to obey conservation of mass.
    • Her job on the planet was more to watch out for the aliens and warn/help the locals. It presumably takes effort to shapeshift, so she preferred to stay in the form of an attractive woman so as to get the most help from the humans.

    Raising Percy 

  • If Dolerhyde always wanted a son like Nat, how in the blazing hell did he raise up a brat like Percy?
    • Some kids you just can't reach under normal circumstances. Percy isn't the way he is because of how Dolerhyde tried to raise him, Percy is the way he is because that's the way he is.
    • Maybe Dolarhyde's just a shitty parent, because as already established, he's an asshole. A lot of tycoons end up raising people like Percy.
      • This is most likely it. Dolarhyde wanted a son like Nat, but he got Percy because he's just not very good at being a father. It's possible that's changed, both with his age mellowing him a tad and the experiences he's had, so it's a second chance for both of them. He's shown trying to be much more evenhanded with Percy at the end.

    After the battle 

  • So what now? There's plenty of bits of spacecraft and technology lying around. There are alien corpses galore lying around to prove what happened happened. Does the timeline branch off in a new direction or did the government swoop in and hush the whole thing up?
    • Seeing how Absolution seems to be pretty much in the middle of nothing, it's possible that the locals collected everything, started to "mine" all the gold the explosion has spread around and kept the "truth" about "demon" invasion to themselves. In our times, the tales of "demons of Absolution" may be some sort of town legend. Perhaps it's even some kind of tourist destination or cryptozoologist/ufologist mecca.

    Amnesia medicine 

  • So Native Americans keep anti-amnesia medicine sitting around just in case... why? Is amnesia common in the Wild West?
    • Whose to say it was just for amnesia. For all we know, it was 19th century tylenol.
    • My father theorized it was just Peyote.

    Hand to hand 

  • Why aliens, capable of intergalaxy space travel, relayed so much on hand-to-hand combat in final battle instead of just sitting at the BFG's of their tower and shooting the annoying human beings away?
    • The aliens relied mostly on their aircraft for overhead supporting fire. That being said, there only appeared to be a single vantage point from the top of the tower to fire from, and the humans were not directly attacking the tower itself. The aliens were moving out from the tower to eliminate a hostile force surrounding it rather than defending it from a direct assault. They were also pretty solidly convinced that the humans were no direct threat individually, as bullets and arrows just bounced off their skin unless they were shot in a vulnerable spot and they'd kill humans immediately in close combat.
    • As said above, they didn't have a reason to think that we're any danger to them. Perhaps they enjoy it?


  • Why alien tower totally lacked any kind of security? No guards, no any kind or detectors, no power shield, open doors(!!!). Perfect example of Insecurity System?
    • The aliens were convinced that humans weren't a threat. You don't put up guards to defend against ants. You just spray them when you find them. Similarly, the aliens didn't think humans were any serious threat. Besides, they were also scouts primarily concerned with mining gold and observing humans. They weren't a serious military force.
    • On other side, they already had one escaped human (Lonergan), as well as at least two downed aircrafts. Of course, it could not be considered as strategic treat, however, it is definitely tactical treat. Just imagine, how we would react to such incidents if we were in place of those alien expedition? Certain security system around our main operation base in the region is totally neccessary and must have.
    • It's still unreasonable to think that they'd just leave everything open like that, humans might be mostly harmless but they still have explosives and can penetrate their armor if they get lucky. You might not think a squirrel can kill you, but it can still mess up your stuff if you let one in the house. The problem is that while humans aren't that threatening, they still CAN be. They have the technology to attract gold directly to them but can't be bothered to set up motion detectors or a security camera?

    Technology levels 

  • What's with all the assumptions by tropers that just because an alien race creates spaceflight, they're also obviously going to have power armor, energy blasters coming out the wazoo, and in effect be invincible?
    • The fact that they can create energy weapons and spacecraft means they have advanced metallurgy and engineering skills, and clothing is a thing they should have developed in their infancy. If they ever had a single war, they should have learned to make armor. These aliens, if their technology and society progressed at anything resembling a logical rate, should have won that battle hands-down.
    • Look at it this way - why is nobody complaining that the crew of Nostromo in the Alien movie didn't have any fancy futuristic military equipment? The aliens in this film are probably like that crew - they are blue collar workers on a mining mission.
    • Moreover, if they had any military history, they would use better tactics, beginning with recon actions to evaluate the type and level of treat. In movie, they attacked distraction group of humans and in the result were ambushed, what wouldn't happen, if they had proper security zone around their base with movement sensors, video and aerial surveilance...
    • What we're seeing in the movie is the "recon actions to evaluate the type and level of threat." Remember what Ella says—these are scouts, sent to research the indigenous lifeforms and figure out how best to kill them. What they found, presumably, was a bunch of squishy people who die really easily, and whose most common weapons barely scratch their own skin. Up until the cowboys find them—with help from an alien they thought they'd wiped out—they'd been operating with impunity.

      In short, in the end they were caught off guard because they'd had it really, really easy in previous skirmishes with humanity.

    Table restraints 

  • Why didn't the alien experimentation tables have any restraints? The main character kicks off the events because he woke up and was able to just get off the table grabbing any pointy or shooty thing he could get his hands on to say nothing about how silly it is that an alien would put his gun down next to a human when it doesn't even occupy his fingers, the whole point of an arm mounted gun like that. Even if you want to go with the 'they underestimated humans' thing, there's still the fact that it's easily expected a human would be terrified and run which would make you have to call guards and wait for him to be retrieved. Just one set of arm straps and this whole plot wouldn't have happened.
    • The humans are usually so mind-blanked by their previous restraints that they don't wake up at all. No need to tie down someone who's heavily sedated.


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