Falling Skies Fails to Engage, But Apes Deliver A Sucker-Punch

Posted by Sharon Deans on July 06, 2011 in Blog tagged with , , , ,

Last night, in the interests of academic research, I watched the FX channel’s series premiere of Falling Skies, their latest take on the end-of-days/post-apocalyptic/human-race-under-threat scenario.  OK, admittedly I was really drawn to this because Noah Wyle was starring in it (sorry to be so shallow, but he was the gorgeous Dr John Carter in ER after all), however, not even the lovely Noah could save this.  The human race is under threat, AGAIN, this time from aliens referred to as ‘skitters’ who have wiped out 90% of the population, and the planet’s future depends on a military historian (Wyle), along with the soldiers and civilians who make up the resistance; so far, so tedious.  Although the special effects were good – indeed, it has the look of an extended version of War of the Worlds – I don’t think this series has anything to recommend it in respect of plot or characterisation that we haven’t seen before, and, for me, it was pretty dire. If you want a really good example of this ‘survivors’ genre, and you missed it first time round, then I would recommend that you check out the superlative first series of The Walking Dead, which has its second season starting soon (there is also an excellent post by Stuart Lindsay elsewhere on this website about The Walking Dead).

However, I was delivered a huge, unexpected, gothic sucker-punch half way through Falling Skies, which, although metaphorical, did, literally, knock the breath from me.  Unfortunately it wasn’t delivered by the programme itself, but during the commercial break, when the network ran a trailer for Rise of the Planet of the Apes, due for UK release on August 12th.  I don’t really know why I had such a visceral response to this trailer, but I’m guessing that it is due to the uncanny effects that are now achieved by state-of-the-art CGI.  This isn’t a film that I was even remotely aware of, and not something that I’d really be interested in, but the uncanniness of those chimps really got to me, and when one of the characters opened up that little box, well….!  I was floored. 

In the cold light of day I questioned my response to this trailer and had a look at it on YouTube, but my reaction remains much the same, despite now knowing what to expect.  The trailer just about moves me to tears, and I will not be able to go and watch this film (I have no idea, and make no comment, as to its merit or otherwise).  The last time I exited the cinema in a somewhat embarrassing and inconsolable state was after watching the most recent King Kong remake, a film I have vowed never to watch again because it upset me so much! I know that King Kong got to me on the level of its realistic CGI, rendering that poor creature so uncannily real to me – a grown and, frankly, rather hard-hearted woman. 

I have posted the link to the trailer that the network ran; it pretty much gives you the whole story arc, and, interestingly, it is quite reminiscent of Justin Cronin’s The Passage:  ‘We have developed a serum….’ etc, and then just look at those chimps flying around in the trees, remind you of anything?



I also found the ‘Official Trailer’, which seems to be trying to draw in a completely different audience, it appears to put greater emphasis on the malignant nature of the chimps, and doesn’t pull on the heartstrings quite so much.  Roddy McDowall and Helena Bonham-Carter they most definitely are not.


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