Do you enjoy movies and TV shows about alien invasions? Great news, then: There is a ridiculous number of upcoming movies and TV shows about alien invasions! That includes (deep breath): Falling Skies (Steven Spielberg alien invasion); Super 8 (secret Spielberg-indebted JJ Abrams alien invasion); Battle: Los Angeles (pro–U.S. Military alien invasion); I Am Number Four (James Frey YA alien invasion); Cowboys and Aliens (period-piece alien invasion); Monsters (romance/alien invasion); The Event (Lost-replacing alien invasion); Skyline (human-tornado alien invasion); Men in Black III (franchised alien invasion); The Thing (prequel alien invasion); Battleship (childhood-toy alien invasion); Iron Sky (dark-side-of-the-moon Nazis alien invasion). And exhale.
Will this new surge of alien-invasion projects be met with boffo box-office tallies and ratings? We have no idea! Will this new surge of alien invasion projects be met with oodles of theories by pop-culture “experts” purporting to explain the sociological reasons behind the new surge of alien-invasion projects? Absolutely! Can we try to predict the most popular alien-invasion theories ahead of time, handicapping their individual odds of emerging as the reigning alien-invasion invasion theory? Why, yes.
Potential Theory No. 1: Doomsday.
Producers are betting that now, more than ever — with two troublesome wars, oil-spill disasters, racial and religious friction, and various giant, terrifying sinkholes popping up left and right — the country has the end days on the brain. And these are not your old-school Will Smith–will-save-the-world-again alien-invasion flicks (except for the one movie where Will Smith will save the world again): largely, these are either post-or-mid-apocalypse, with destruction and despair rampant. Hollywood is assuming that we’ve subconsciously accepted the world is ending, and are interested in having that general anxiety represented, in entertaining fashion, on the big screen.
Potential Theory No. 2: It’s a good way to make a blockbuster but not pay for stars.
JJ Abrams turned a hefty profit on the low-budget, cast-of-unknowns-having Cloverfield, and he’s back for another go-around with Super 8. Peter Berg’s shooting for a blockbuster with Battleship, but he’s perfectly content stuffing his movie with pop stars, supermodels, and cast members from poorly rated NBC football dramas. Spielberg’s TNT show stars Noah Wyle. Hollywood is betting that the timeless alien-invasion concept, coupled with a few intriguing plot twists and attention-grabbing special effects, can pull in at least a tiny fraction of the audience that went to see Avatar not for Sam Worthington.
Potential Theory No. 3: Owing to current sociopolitical issues, there are no safe stock movie villains on Earth.
Make your movie villain vaguely Arab, and risk coming off uncouth and jingoistic; make your movie villain Russian, and no one gets too worked up; make your movie villain any other arbitrary ethnicity, and it feels nonsensical. Berg, for one, has explicitly said that “the idea of finding a credible context for … a film where America goes to war against China … [or] England or Australia or Japan … eluded me.” Hollywood, of course, doesn’t want to stop making movies where American characters kill bad guys, and has decided making those bad guys aliens is the most politically correct solution.
Potential Theory No. 4: Vampire fatigue.
While the vampire industry is huge, Hollywood is hedging against the still-inevitable backlash and gearing up the next tried-and-true cinema convention to inexplicably rotate back through the spotlight.
Odds: 20:1 (Note: If any of these movies feature aliens that turn out to be sexy, odds for this one will be adjusted accordingly).
Potential Theory No. 5: Immigration issues in the news.
Doesn’t make a ton of sense: So the fictional aliens are meant to represent the nonfictional aliens? And, if so, what is the real-life parallel for the fictional aliens’ advanced murderous technology? That said, someone will convolutedly attempt to make this connection.
Potential Theory No. 6: The vagaries of the Hollywood production cycle mean a bunch of alien-invasion movies are seeing release at the same time.
As in, the surge is more or less completely arbitrary. Working for this theory: It’s the actual explanation. Working against this theory: It’s boring!
Potential Theory No. 7: Aliens are real and secretly running Hollywood.
Look, as much as we’d love to believe this, it’s implausible — if aliens are real and secretly running Hollywood, would they be green-lighting movies in which aliens are hostile, deceitful beings? Most likely, if aliens were real and secretly running Hollywood, we’d get a bunch of movies featuring friendly species from space, in an attempt to lull us into a false sense of security before the alien Hollywood exec invasion starts.