Falling Skies review

by Sarah Barnett / 14 January, 2012
The skitters have landed! So, what can 300 humans do to save the world?


Here’s a free movie or TV series idea: the alien invasion, as seen from New Zealand. They never come here – presumably because we don’t have any internationally recognisable landmarks for motherships to hover over – so what are we doing when they take Manhattan?

Will we take refugees? Send aid? Get the Skyhawks out of mothballs in case we feel like giving the invaders a giggle? Is the Prime Minister relaxed about the demise of every other world currency?

In the Steven Spielberg executive-produced Falling Skies, we join our band of invasion survivors six months after the aliens first landed: an opening montage of children’s pictures is narrated by those kids and quickly explains that the authorities decided not to nuke the aliens in case they were friendly – and for their good manners, the humans have been close to ground out.

The armies are gone, as is 90% of the population. What the “skitters” want is anyone’s guess, although they take adolescent kids and “harness” them with some sort of mind-control device fused to their spine, which seems to turn them into a docile slave-labour force.

Former US history professor Tom Mason, played by ER’s Noah Wyle, was widowed in the first attack, and is now second in command of a group of 300 survivors, thanks to the books he has written about military history (and you thought the uprising would be led by physical types). His eldest and youngest sons have survived, but his middle boy has been harnessed – adding a personal crusade to save the boy to his more general mission to save the world.

TV2 has scheduled this to run before The Walking Dead, giving the middle of the week a bleak pick-your-post-apocalyptic-poison vibe: aliens, zombies, or two more days of work before the weekend? As Tom and his future love interest, paediatrician Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), discuss, aliens might not be so bad. If humans weren’t running for their lives, he’d be grading mid-terms and she’d be dealing with “flu shots and neurotic mothers”.

But where The Walking Dead is chilling, Falling Skies hasn’t yet quite captured the real horror of an invasion in the way that Spielberg’s War of the Worlds did. Blame a smaller budget, or perhaps simply a decision to make it slightly more family-friendly fare, but these survivors seem to be coping with being the 10% with more equanimity than an Occupy Aotea Square protester.

Still, once you’re used to Wyle out of scrubs, it zips along nicely, with a good ratio of alien fights to trouble in the ranks. Of course, being a Spielberg production, family drama is paramount: the professor has to make sure his youngest gets a birthday party in among armoury raids and being taken hostage by outlaws – not to mention boring everyone with his professional interest in Trojan horses and sappers, which will presumably come in handy down the track.

He is relentlessly optimistic, as he keeps reminding everyone that history is littered with stories of inferior armies beating the big guys with guile and pluck. He likens their situation to that of the colonials in the American War of Independence, although as the leader of the outlaws, John Pope, points out, they’re really more like the Native Americans. History is written, as Mason should know, having done so, by the team with the greater firepower and better diseases.

Pope (Colin Cunningham) looks set to be a combination of comic relief and the voice of sanity – if the sane response to unbeatable aliens is to accept the inevitable and have fun while it lasts. He takes his capture by Mason good-humouredly: “Being a leader of a post-apocalyptic gang of outlaws has been exhausting.”

The series feels as if it’s in good hands; there will be no endless mysteries, bizarre plot twists or trickery just for the sake of it. Falling Skies will answer your questions and keep things moving at a clip; surely the skitters’ demands will be evident before long.

Wouldn’t it be fun, though, if a desperate band of people decided to strike out, On the Beach-style, for New Zealand, and discover that we’d finally fulfilled our destiny of actually becoming Hobbiton? An agrarian paradise in the midst of strife, only mildly aware of the agonies suffered in countries with ­expensive monuments.

FALLING SKIES, TV2, Wednesday, 8.30pm.
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Cat control and 'barking consultants': Is the council coming after your pet?
76916 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Politics

Cat control and 'barking consultants': Is the coun…

by Bill Ralston

Councils must be barking mad to be considering spending millions more controlling cats and silencing dogs.

Read more
Filmmaker Raoul Peck: Karl Marx, James Baldwin and me
76930 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Movies

Filmmaker Raoul Peck: Karl Marx, James Baldwin and…

by Helen Barlow

A film-maker focuses on two thinkers who questioned the social order of their day.

Read more
PayWave's great, but we're light years behind China's payment methods
76945 2017-07-28 00:00:00Z Technology

PayWave's great, but we're light years behind Chin…

by Sophie Boot

New Zealand is in the dark ages compared with China’s electronic payment methods and we need to upgrade if we want more of that country’s business.

Read more
Ain’t No Taco: Symonds Street gets a new taqueria with a twist
77130 2017-07-27 14:58:01Z Auckland Eats

Ain’t No Taco: Symonds Street gets a new taqueria …

by Kate Richards

Peter Barton, co-owner of Burger Geek, opens a taqueria a few doors down the road

Read more
Synthetic cannabis: The killer high
77113 2017-07-27 11:56:15Z Social issues

Synthetic cannabis: The killer high

by Susan Strongman

There have been eight deaths related to synthetic cannabis in just over a month. People know it's killing them. So why are they smoking it?

Read more
Winston Peters criticises use of te reo in Parliament
77102 2017-07-27 10:34:33Z Politics

Winston Peters criticises use of te reo in Parliam…

by RNZ

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has criticised Te Ururoa Flavell for using te reo Māori in Parliament during question time.

Read more
NZ has done 'horrific job' protecting most vulnerable - commissioner
77095 2017-07-27 10:06:22Z Social issues

NZ has done 'horrific job' protecting most vulnera…

by Emile Donovan

Abuse of intellectually disabled people in state care over five decades has been brought to light in a new report by the Human Rights Commission.

Read more
Why it's time for a female Doctor Who
77083 2017-07-27 09:12:33Z Social issues

Why it's time for a female Doctor Who

by The Listener

Gender equality is lamentably slow-dawning in many endeavours, but TV and film help normalise desirable social trends. However it does cuts both ways.

Read more