Monday, June 20, 2011

Falling Skies Review

The problem with reviewing a TV series is that you don't know how it will turn up in later episodes or how the series will end. Lost was fantastic for five years, then year six hit and killed the whole series. Last night TNT premiered a new TV science fiction series produced by Stephen Spielberg called Falling Skies.

The TV pilot starts months after aliens have attacked earth. They've decimated the planet, killing millions. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) is scavenging for food with his son, Hal Mason (Drew Roy) when they are jumped by an unseen alien which we find out later is an alien mech, a walking robotic tank. The alien has advanced weaponry. They lose the food they were carrying. But more ominously, they see the real aliens capture a civilian.

Tom and his son escape back to their home base. Tom is an "officer" in a resistance movement. His unit is called the Second Massachusetts as they had been living in Boston. Tom was formerly a history professor at Boston University. Porter, (Dale Dye) a former military officer, decides to split up the resistance factions and evacuate Boston. He gives command of the Second Massachusetts to an Iraq War veteran, Weaver. (Will Patton) But Porter values Tom's intellect as a historian and makes him second in command to Weaver. Tom is also torn between his duties to the unit and looking for his missing son, Ben.

But resistance units not only have to fight but they must protect civilians moving with them. The Second Massachusetts's doctor is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), a former pediatrician, who due to the dire straits of the survivors has been forced to treat war wounds of the fighters. She also represents the concerns of the civilians which includes Tom's youngest son, a child named Matt.

During a search for food, the aliens are revealed in their full glory. That's a rule for any alien-monster show. The humans call the aliens Skitters. They're multi-legged creatures, and have a "The Fly" kind of vibe. The special effects are decent. The Skitters are also accompanied by bipedal mechs which have act like tanks. The humans can kill Skitters but must get close to do so. The mechs require more firepower to be destroyed. The aliens also capture humans and control them by attaching a insect like harness. Removing the harness usually leads to death. It's during this mission that Hal sees his brother Ben, with a harness, being led away by a mech.

The performances are dead on. Noah Wyle is excellent as the academic and father turned soldier. Drew Roy correctly makes his teenage character to be an immature but loyal son. Will Patton, at first comes off as a gruff stereotypical military man who only knows of the mission but there are times his character does show cracks. Colin Cunningham plays a nihilistic criminal named John Pope. He gives his character the right amount of menace yet there's some humanity. Moon Bloodgood gives her doctor a compassionate and empathetic performance. Now in old war movies, racial diversity would be a stereotype but in this show it's a current American reality. Plus it gives the resistance a metaphor for humanity. And while the younger women in the cast are good, they're just too pretty to be believed as part of a ragtag resistance force. For example, Jessy Schram plays Hal's girlfriend, Karen and she's still very blond. Really? After the alien apocalypse, there's time to bleach your hair? But I digress.

What makes Falling Skies compelling is the mix of sci-fi action, ideals and human drama. It's hard not to shed a tear when the refugees celebrate Matt's birthday with a cupcake and instead of a candle, they must use a match. The skateboard given to Matt is eagerly shared among the children. The intrigue about the aliens makes you want to discover more about what do they want. What is that large structure towering over Boston? It's reminiscent of the ship in District 9. The action is well done. The aliens are frightening. You root when they are taken down. It is war after all.

As with any television, the goal is to make you the viewer want to see the next episode. And Falling Skies does that. You will wonder what has happened to Ben. Is the John Pope character redeemable? How do the humans defeat the aliens? It's War of the Worlds (2005), only this time the refugees fight back. Falling Skies is thought provoking, action packed and emotional. This is must see TV. The grade is A.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An "A"?

This show has bad science, bad fiction, bad acting and bad writing. Everyone is too happy by far for people on the run being hunted to extinction. Meanwhile, the supior alien race can't hunt during the day?

What, they don't have drones? Or how about infra-red detectors that can find less then 500 people at once at night? Heck, our satellites could do that thirty years ago.