In the upcoming films portion of our most recent No-Name Movie Podcast, Matt mentioned that he was looking forward to BATTLE:LOS ANGELES. I was skeptical and delivered an anecdote about my sister and I seeing the trailer in theatres and not knowing whether to laugh or grip our armrests in trepidation. (We chose to laugh.)
However, a day or two later, I saw the trailer for BATTLE:LOS ANGELES and realized I’d been thinking of a different film, because the BATTLE:LOS ANGELES trailer actually does look pretty decent, if a little reminiscent of, say, INDEPENDENCE DAY, WAR OF THE WORLDS, and CLOVERFIELD.
Today I googled “alien movies in 2011” and quickly found an article entitled, “Alien Invasion Movies are Taking Over Hollywood! 16 of Them!” After a quick perusal of the list, I found the trailer I’d actually been thinking of was for SKYLINE. So, I decided to find it on youtube. Here’s what my search came up with.
One can forgive a girl for being confused.
Here are the trailers for the two films.
And hey, just for the heck of it, let’s look at the trailer for…
Notice how many of the same beats these trailers hit? Now, of course, you can’t always judge a movie by its trailer, but, in essence, that’s exactly what the trailers ask you to do. To drive the concept home, check out the loglines below (via IMDB).
Can you tell to which films they belong? (Answers at the bottom of the post.)
- As Earth is invaded by alien tripod fighting machines, one family fights for survival.
- The aliens are coming and their goal is to invade and destroy. Fighting superior technology, Man’s best weapon is the will to survive.
- Strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame where an extraterrestrial force threatens to swallow the entire human population off the face of the Earth.
- A family living on a farm finds mysterious crop circles in their fields which suggests something more frightening to come.
- A Marine platoon faces off against an alien invasion in Los Angeles.
- An extraterrestrial race forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.
Only one jumps out at me as truly different. The rest seem like they could all belong to the same movie. I’m not sure exactly what lessons there are to be learned from this, but it seems like it’s something worth thinking about.
Despite the proliferation of movies that at least appear to be incredibly similar via their marketing, I think it’s still important as a writer to do our best to provide the basis for differentiation from everything else out there.
It starts with the script, and finding that balance between a frame of recognition for an audience (that starts with a single reader and ultimately grows, one hopes, to a larger crowd) and a reason to shell out hard-earned money and valuable time/effort (to option, to produce, to buy a cinema ticket, to move it to the top of one’s Netflix queue) for something they haven’t seen before is the struggle we face. (Thank you, Professor Fred Lamer, for cementing this concept of Information Theory in my brain during my second year of college.)
I can only assume that there was something about each of the scripts for these films that grabbed the attention of a series of very important people. Even if they are fairly similar in premise and even execution, it doesn’t speak against the quality of the films (or the scripts on which they’re based). Frankly, that’s the problem I had with THE FIGHTER. It’s a very good film with excellent performances. But I essentially could have just watched ROCKY, which I already know and like and can see for less money.
And therein lies the problem: audience buy-in. As we hear complaint after complaint about box office problems and big-budget tentpoles flopping and people not going to the movies anymore, perhaps a big part of the problem is, regardless of the quality, we’ve seen so much of it before.