Spielberg's Falling Skies Needs To Show Some Guts to Win Our Hearts

Spielberg has for years succeeded with family-orientated fun, but for Falling Skies to steal our hearts it needs to pick at a few scabs and expose the frailties of human race in a world ravaged by Alien invasion...
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Humanity is on the brink of extinction. Billions have been mercilessly wiped out. Cities have fallen. Children have been enslaved by Earth’s new alien overlords whose merciless droids gun down any adult that moves. But despite this, the importance of finding time for those special moments in life like chucking a ball about with your buddies is the key message of ‘Falling Skies’, the show making its UK debut on the FX UK Channel this evening.

With a backdrop of such overwhelming doom-and-gloom, Falling Skies could have been a bleak ‘Battlestar Galactica’-style series focussing on what dastardly deeds lowly, stinkin’ humans will do to each other to survive for a minute or two more. Instead, this glossy import from America largely concerns itself with the importance of friends, family and finding time for that skateboarding session with your kid, despite the chance of being vaporised into a neat, vacuum-able pile by the creepy ‘Skitters’ who are now firmly in charge of the planet.

As the executive producer of ‘Falling Skies’, Steven Spielberg’s heavy, stomping boot,  can be felt all over the start of this sci-fi epic that kicks off six months after the slaughter of much of the human race. The DreamWorks-produced show focuses on the life of the brilliantly-bearded Tom Mason, played by ER’s Noah Wyle, who has had to lose the tweed jacket of his former life as a professor of military history to become an heroic freedom fighter - and dutiful father of three - in the Second Massachusetts, a group of survivors making their way out of Boston, apparently without the alien invaders noticing.

Despite this exhilarating career change, poor Tom has the haunted look of a disgruntled Starbucks employee with three PHD’s as he battles with the Skitters whilst scavenging for supplies with a scouting group and trying to track down his youngest son, who has been captured by the aliens and enslaved through the use of unrealistic spine-clinging parasites.

Falling Skies may need to scratch at a few scabs if it is going to survive as long as the unfeasibly attractive characters that star in the show.

Also on the run from the four-legged buggy monsters and their war machines are hundreds of weary, dusty but largely silent extras from Robert Emmerich movies, swarthy hunks with perfect post-apocalyptic beards, hot babe pediatricians and cute children whose hair is ruffled by ordinary-people turned heroes, who lie through their teeth when telling them their mothers were definitely not blasted into another dimension by the bugs.

Motor cycle gangs have also done well in the survival stakes with one member of a group featuring in the early episodes arguably being the most realistic character of all, having actively enjoyed the lifestyle upgrade that enables him and his colleagues to spend their days drinking heavily, stealing supplies and killing alien nasties rather than being pestered by The Man.

‘Falling Skies’ is still in its early stages, but the fact that this kind of behaviour - all the bad guys share a love of a good booze-up - is frowned upon by the writers suggests that this is going to be a different kind of experience compared to darker, more philosophical contemporaries like ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and the ‘V’ remake - shows that were reflections on the Iraq war and Hitler’s rise to power.

There’s certainly potential for a poke at the human condition with a few army types itching to declare martial law and the possibility of a spot of Geneva Convention breaking, but the tone of the show focuses on the struggles of one man to be both a good Dad and a make-shift soldier rather than the more depressing tendencies of the human race, not unlike the Spielberg directed, ‘War of the Worlds’, which saw Tom Cruise attempting to reconnect with his children as well as prevent them from becoming Martian food fodder.

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this more family-orientated approach as Spielberg has proved rather successfully for decades now, but with the current taste for more sci-fi fare of a more gloomy nature, Falling Skies may need to scratch at a few scabs if it is going to survive as long as the unfeasibly attractive characters that star in the show.

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