There’s something undeniably appealing about a good conspiracy theory. I mean, what if there is a secret cabal that’s ruling the world, what if there really is an Illuminati controlling the actions of millions, what if there really are aliens? And they’re among us?!
Self-avowed “world’s leading expert on UFOs, the unexplained and conspiracy theories” Nick Pope acts as writer and on-screen host for the documentary Aliens At The Pentagon and it’s an entertaining 66 minutes of paranoia, daft video sequences, and an occasional nugget of information that will make you actually wonder whether there is a seed of truth here after all.
While the film ostensibly revolves around the now infamous New York Times article from 2017 that revealed the various US Military projects investigating unknown aerial phenomena, almost the entire film is actually a tour of the history of UFOs. It all starts back in 1947 at, yes, you guessed it, Roswell, New Mexico. June 24, 1947: Pilot Kenneth Arnold reports seeing 9 unidentified flying objects zipping over the Cascade Mountains in Washington State. For the next few weeks UFO reports come in from all over the USA. July 7, 1947, something crashed into the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, initially reported as a UFO, but then explained away as debris from a weather balloon.
Pope asks “Could the personnel from this elite military unit really have misidentified debris from a weather balloon as a flying saucer?” Apparently the military wasn’t so sure, and created a series of research projects to accumulate and investigate unidentified sightings: Project Sign, Project Grudge and, most famously, Project Blue Book. Project Blue Book investigated over 12,000 sighting reports and ended with over 700 left unexplained. In 1966, researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder were contracted to analyze the Blue Book data, producing “A Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects” in 1968. Their final report: nothing sufficient to justify further funding. And Project Blue Book was shut down.
But what if (cue dramatic music and dopey stock footage) that was just a coverup because they really had found credible evidence of alien life here on Earth? Pope makes sure you get the point: “Are we to believe that from 1970 forward, the United States has ignored all unidentified reports in US airspace? This is ridiculous! UFO’s didn’t go away!”
The entire documentary has this sort of sensibility, with National Enquirer-style breathless, click-bait writing and precious little time allocated to explanations that don’t further the conspiracy theory of UFOs actually existing. Even if you’re a fan or believer (as The X-Files would phrase it), the film is hopelessly saddled with video footage that is only a tiny step up from clip-art, sequences of a half-dozen young people “sitting at a press conference, asking questions”, or animations that are the equivalent of what a high school video club could produce. These sequences appear again and again too, so while I appreciate the desire to tell the story visually, it weakens the entire argument as viewers mentally trip up on the amateur editing and video sequences.
Oh, and did I mention the typos and other mistakes in the film? Earlier I cited pilot Kenneth Arnold seeing 9 unidentified objects over Washington State but the animated sequence to illustrate this has 8, not 9, UFOs zipping along. Apparently accurate counting is not a requirement for UFO conspiracists. Then there’s AATIP, the project created by the military to track unidentified objects through the 70’s, 80’s and onward. It might have been an acronym for Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Project, but it also is explained as the Advanced Aerial Threat Identification Project. Which is illustrated in the video thusly:
Apparently the graphics person had typefaces on the mind: Arial is, of course, a typeface you have included with your PC or Mac system. Having this show up once is disappointing, but this graphic is used again and again in the latter portion of the film, an egregious error that further undermines the credibility of the film.
Pope goes on to talk about billionaire and UFO conspiracy believer Robert Bigelow, whose aerospace company builds modules for the space station. He also funds the Mutual UFO Network MUFON; he believes. He wants others to believe too. Bigelow Aerospace was also awarded the AATIP contract 2007-2012 from the Pentagon, which makes this all quite relevant. Running AATIP at Bigelow Aerospace was Luis Elizondo, quoted extensively in the movie after having resigned from AATIP and Bigelow Aerospace. He subsequently revealed that AATIP was actually all about investigating UFOs. Got it?
Tom DeLonge of rock group Link 182 is also a believer, and he created the To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science where they seem to work in conjunction with the AATIP team to accumulate reports of UFO sightings, interview people involved and collect all the data before the government arrives and silences everyone. Paranoia? Oh, yeah, a little bit. It’s about at this point that Pope starts to go on about “secret UFO technology that will let humanity travel to the stars” and posits that these secrets are all held by the deep state.
Yes, by this point you’ve either gone deep, deep down the rabbit hole and started to really wonder about all the “coincidences” in your life, or laughed as you bail on the movie. Which is too bad, because Pope brings up some really interesting questions and while the film might not actually mention the NY Times article until almost 50min into a 66min movie, there are some curious incidents that are hard to explain.
But then again, perhaps there really is a level of random chaos in the universe and while it’s appealing to think of great conspiracies (and yes, Pope also talks about the Illuminati, the über-conspiracy) it’s also possible that people say and do dumb things.
Then again, perhaps this very review is part of a great “false flag alien invasion” where I’m part of the group deliberately creating a belief in aliens and manufacturing a threat that doesn’t exist. Heck, there’s a name for it: Project Blue Beam. Purpose: to “literally” bring about a new world order with no nation-states. Pope talks about this possibility too, kind of blowing the lid off our great and nefarious plot. But…. now ya know. Turns out I’m a alien too. Thanks for reading this, puny human. My friends from Planet Znigthar will be showing up any day now…