Falling Skies - Pilot episode reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
THE best thing about most alien invasion movies is the actual invasion itself. So, Falling Skies was already operating in risky territory when it decided to forgo that approach.
Rather, it takes place in the aftermath… allowing a child’s voiceover and some drawings to take audiences through what happened and why it’s now left to Earth’s survivors (fathers and mothers) to offer any resistance.
But given that it boasts Steven Spielberg as executive producer and stars ER stalwart Noah Wyle it should perhaps have offered more.
Instead, a lacklustre script piled on the cliches, while countless survivors moaned to each other about the need to fight, to go back and rescue brothers, to continue to hunt for food and so on and so forth.
The big budget values, meanwhile, extended to a hovering mothership over a city landscape (a scene reminiscent of District 9) plus several shots of aliens chasing humans or pinning them down to do the unspeakable. At least the looked impressive.
That’s not to say Falling Skies was a complete write-off. Wyle’s presence alone is worth sticking around for as he invests a great deal of humanity into a fairly average role, while it should be interesting to see how the dynamic between his history professor and Will Patton’s ex-soldier develops.
The aliens, too, are suitably creepy, while their harnessing of children and reason for doing so warrants greater exploration (as does their reason for invasion and subsequent occupation over destruction).
But things need to happen fast, or else there’s a very big chance interest will wane.
The humans also need work, as the pilot’s heavy-handed religious and family motifs have already rendered many of them uninteresting and one dimensional.
But then Spielberg has always been a sucker for family values, underpinning some of his finest directing work with the cheesiest of elements (remember his War of the Worlds remake?).
This time, however, audiences may not be quite so forgiving, especially as someone else occupies the director’s chair with considerably less visual panache.
Hell, the lack of a Spielberg touch was never more sorely exposed than during the episode’s ‘big moment’, as Wyle and co broke into a warehouse to steal some food aware that it may be a trap.
Sure enough, the aliens came… but there was no real sense of tension, no shock moment as the lurking aliens were revealed and no real ingenuity in the way the set piece was handled.
Given the quality of its TV opposition (The Walking Dead included, which also features a band of survivors on the run from a threat to humanity), Falling Skies already has its work cut out trying to keep us hooked.
Falling Skies is on F/X on Tuesday nights from 9pm.