“Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the Universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.” – Arthur C. Clarke
Dir: Scott Stewart (2013)
Dark Skies is the newest project from Director Scott Stewart. He is most recently known for his not-so-memorable films, Legion (2010) and Priest (2011), which he also wrote. Like many audience members, I was not excessively excited for the release of his newest project based his track record. Honestly, the most impressive part of his filmography are the films that he did visual effects for. Some of that list includes great films such as The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Sin City (2005), The Host (2006), and Iron Man (2008). Although, I wasn’t about to camp out at the theater for the release of Dark Skies, my curiosity and love of science-fiction got the best of me again (like always) and I ventured to the theater to give it a chance; a chance that paid off in enough parts to leave me satisfied as I left the theater.
The marketing for this film was very misleading. The first trailer didn’t give away much information and made the film come across as some kind of paranormal or apocalyptic thriller. The poster was just as misleading with the tagline of “Fear The Dark”. Not many potential viewers would immediately think that this is a movie about aliens. But, I think this was the best way to market a film like this.
Keri Russell and Josh Hamilton had good onscreen chemistry and felt like a real couple for the majority of the film. Prior to seeing this film, I hadn’t had much exposure to either actor’s work (sorry readers, I never watched Felicity (1998)), but I was mostly pleased with this film. Something that wasn’t as pleasing was the rest of the family, but it’s always hard for me to judge child actors because more time than not, they annoy me to no end. The best character in the film is the alien zealot, Edwin Pollard, which is played perfectly by J.K. Simmons.
Something that I thought worked particularly well was the lack of shots of the aliens and even better was the lack of focus on the subjects as they were onscreen. This made them more mysterious and scary. The complete opposite of this is exactly what I disliked about M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs. In his film, the aliens had multiple full-focus shots at the end and completely lost the mystique that had been created over the previous two hours. The only film that I will say that Shyamalan’s technique worked is Fire in the Sky (1993), but that film is flat out terrifying. This film borrowed a few techniques from Signs, like the twist ending (which I won’t reveal), one of the kid’s having asthma, and the children using walkie talkies that pick up alien interference. The editing and cinematography of the film gave it a TV feel. I felt like small parts here and there made it feel like an episode of The X-Files (1993).
Even though I’ve given the film much praise to this point, Dark Skies is not even a blip on the science-fiction radar. It was a nice surprise disguised under secretive marketing that was conveniently released around the same time as the lead’s new TV show. The entire film lead up to a climatic conclusion that felt like lighting the world’s longest fuse on a firework that didn’t explode once the fuse burned away. Let’s hope that this is the film where Scott Stewart’s career turns a corner and leads to bigger and better projects. Like Josh Hamilton’s character in the film says, “I’m ready to believe.”