The end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 are packed with the resurgence of the alien invasion genre. Our cities will be attacked relentlessly, famous landmarks will be blown up repeatedly and it will seem that all hope is lost on a monthly basis.
The genre has never truly gone away, mostly because people’s interest in things from outer space, and the likelihood that they would want to destroy us in a fiery apocalypse, seems certain to remain strong until the day extra-terrestrial life actually turns up on our doorstep, at which point rolling 24 hour news coverage will take over and provide us with a real life version.
This winter however definitely sees a surge of films that would fit within this bracket, though it has to be said, there’s an exciting variety in what’s arriving.
First to make it to earth is ‘Skyline’, a sci-fi adventure focussing on a predictably small and rag-tag group of people trying to escape a devastating alien invasion by heading out of the city, in this case Los Angeles.
Directors Colin & Greg Strause (Alien V Predator Requiem) have produced a generic but visually impressive thriller that has been met with a fairly dismissive critical reaction. Joe Leydon, writing for Variety magazine described it as: “Imagine a budget mash up of ‘Transformers’ and ‘Independence Day’ and you’re primed for skyline.” By all accounts the film suffers from it's familiarity, it's a perfectly well made film, but we've seen it all before. It lacks the set pieces of 'Independence Day', the grimly apocalyptic quality of 'War of the Worlds' or the charm of a 'Doctor Who' episode.
Following close on it’s heels is a completely different kind of beast. ‘Monsters’, released on the 3rd of December, is as it’s director Gareth Edwards described it to The Guardian newspaper: “A road movie set in a world with giant monsters.”
It’s an accurate summation of a film which constantly places it’s focus upon the two central human characters, a cynical journalist and the shaken tourist he is escorting, and their physical and emotional journey rather than the ‘Aliens’ which inhabit the land.
In ‘Monsters’ the aliens have been on earth for 6 years, quarantined in an area between Mexico and the U.S, which as you may have guessed, the two main characters (played brilliantly by Whitney Able and Scoot McNairy) are forced to travel through.
Made for around $200,000, a relative shoe-string budget in this genre, the film has gained critical acclaim, Mark Adams from Screen International referring to it as: “An intelligent sci-fi film that is absorbing, thrilling and ultimately moving.”
2011 will see several more alien based movies. One of the most hotly anticipated is ‘Battle: Los Angeles’ a big budget action film whose trailer seems to promise a cross between ‘Black Hawk Down’ and ‘Cloverfield’. The $100m production shows one squad of U.S marines attempting to fight back against the Alien invasion. It’s a refreshingly different take to actually see the battle from the point of view of individual soldiers (including Aaron Eckhart an Michelle Rodriguez) rather than government chiefs, top scientists or terrified civilians. My fingers are crossed for this because the trailer looks so promising.
With ‘Paul’ (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s comedy road movie about an encounter with a friendly alien), ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ (Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford fighting off aliens in the Wild West) and ‘I am Number Four’ (an action movie aimed at the teen audience soon to be available with the conclusion of the Harry Potter and Twilight sagas, with Alex Pettyfer in the central role) all due for release in 2011 it would appear the aliens aren’t planning on leaving anytime soon.