The answer, of course, is: What's Skyline?
From the fraternal team that brought you Alien vs. Predator: Requiem... okay, perhaps that's an unfair (certainly unfortunate) place to start. Colin and Greg Strause's Skyline is the kind of film that needs Comic-con, and regardless of its final quality, it's also the kind of film that Comic-con needs. An original property birthed over a lunch meeting early last fall, Skyline is home-brewed sci-fi that appears to be as earnest and impassioned as it does harmlessly derivative. Eric Balfour, Donald Faison (Turk!), Scottie Thompson, and Brittany Daniel are a bunch of fresh-faced kids who love to PARTTAYYYY when suddenly - at 4:58 one morning (the trailer is very precise about this) - their hedonistic weekend is interrupted by a phalanx of aliens who really don't like Los Angeles (I can't blame them, but unfortunately I lack both their technology and their ambition). If the kids in Cloverfield weren't trendy enough for you, Skyline is the movie you've been waiting for and now know exists.
But Alien vs. Predator: Requiem was an unmitigated disaster, and being excited for whatever the Strause Brothers do next is like frothing at the mouth for BP's next big underwater project. That being said, sometimes Comic-con has a way of making you question the most well-earned of cynicisms. So here are 8 reasons why Skyline may not be the worst film of 2010:
1. The Strause brothers are aware of their mistakes, and might have even learned from them. I wasn't there during production for AvP:R, so I can't speak as to why that film is so cosmically awful, but I can confirm with no small relief that its co-directors are cognizant of its myriad failings. When one member of the audience asked the panel about the design ofSkyline's aliens, Colin Strause wasted little time in responding that they're proud of their work, and "Want to make sure that people can see them this time around," an obvious allusion to the unintelligible lighting and compositions that marred their previous effort.
2. DAVID. ZAYAS. Dexter's loyal and lovable pal, it's great to see such a charismatic actor finding more genre work (a quick IMDB search confirms that Zayas also appears in The Expendables). In Skyline he's an employee at the hotel around which the early portion of the film seems to revolve, and though his dialogue in the clips shown was limited to witticisms like "Let's move!," when David Zayas says "let's move," he doesn't just move your body away from advancing alien hordes, he also moves your heart.
3. Blockbuster filmmaking on an indie scale. With micro-budget projects like Garreth Edwards' Monsters coming down the pike, large-scale films made on the cheap are becoming increasingly common, but they're still impressive, especially when they look like Skyline. The Strause brothers - inspired by Paranormal Activity to make a film in their own bedroom - shot and financed the film without studio participation. Of course, it's a lot easier to drum up some top-drawer equipment and a stellar special effects crew when you own Hydraulics, a company whose design and effects work has been featured in everything from Avatar to Iron Man 2. But by avoiding having to make even the smallest of production decisions by committee, it looks as if this time - for better or worse - the Strause brothers have made the movie they wanted to make, even if they had to do it without the benefit of some standard Hollywood amenities. As Donald Faison put it, "It's hard to make a movie about the end of the world when you have to worry about waking the neighbors."
4. The Last Airbender.
5. The aliens are enormous and varied. Their ships burst through the clouds, anticipated only by giant trails of blinding blue light (that have an unfortunate effect on human skin). Most of the shots of the beasts themselves couldn't fit more than a leg or a mouth into the frame, and a wide glimpse of a flying squid-like creature reminded me of a less pungent and vile version of the monsters from The Mist. Actually, I'd say that the prevailing vibe is one evocative of Gears of War, with the pulsating swaths of blue at the heart of the creatures the only bright color to be found amidst their grey masses.
6. It's clever. Maybe. The trailer's money shot involves a windstorm of human bodies being violently sucked into the belly of an alien ship. My first thought was that some sort of gravitational pull was in effect, but the lack of cars, pets, and various debris had me thrown. But then Colin Strause mentioned that the movie was primarily "About mass abduction... about how humans are like moths to a flame." This got me thinking that the blue lights serve as a spectacle to draw people from their homes and get them to look up at their new overlords (the trailer's tagline - "Don't look up" - suggests that you shouldn't do that, so much). The cultural implications of this dynamic are endless, and it seems like a meaty enough metaphor to support a monster movie.
7. As the Strause brothers said themselves, "If you hate Skyline, we can't blame anyone else." That's a beautiful thing, especially cause these guys seem really nice and well-intentioned, and I already feel bad publicly registering my distaste for their previous film... which was a life-crippling magnum opus of all things terrible in this world.
Skyline hits theaters on 11.12.10, and the fact that I'm now eager to see it is proof enough that this panel was a shocking success.