Stars: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Connor Jessup, Sechelle Gabriel, Mpho Koaho, Peter Shinkoda, Colin Cunningham and Sarah Sanguin Carter
Writer: Robert Rodat
Director: Carl Franklin
Network: TNT, Sunday nights
Original Telecast: June 19, 2011
There have been so many alien invasion flicks and TV series that have dealt with the alien invasion theme, that adding another one into the mix almost seems redundant. What else can be added, that we haven’t already seen done before – and better?
Still, the new TNT series FALLING SKIES hopes to stake out its own special place in this over-used genre and to ensure its quality it not only has SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Academy Award nominee Robert Rodat as the creator, but also RYAN director Steven Spielberg executive producing.
The end result for Part 1 of the two part series premiere “Live and Learn” is promising, if not a little undercooked.
The story starts not when the aliens first attack, but months after they’ve wiped out most of the military and taken out all our national monuments. Many younger kids have had alien ganglia attached to their neck to transformed them into mindless drones, while civilian survivors have banded together on the outskirts of society in an attempt to survive and find a way to stop this alien threat.
FALLING SKIES is seen through the eyes of Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) a former History professor turned reluctant military leader. He’s part of a small band of survivors serving as 2nd in command of the Second Massachusetts resistance fighters. Two of his sons are with him – teenage Hal (Drew Roy) who has turned into a fine warrior and youngest Matt (Maxim Knight) who Tom has been trying to create some semblance of a normal childhood among this heavy upheaval for humankind. Tom’s middle son Ben (Connor Jessup) is not so lucky – one of the many alien slaves and it’s clear during the course of the series the goal will be to save this third son.
A close confidant of Tom is Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), the Second Massachusetts’ doctor and Weaver (Will Patton) who is the leader of this faction of the resistance.
The episode has a lot of heavy lifting in terms of storytelling to get the audience up to speed – particularly what exactly this alien threat is and how to stop it. It’s clear that humans do not have the manpower to single-handedly wipe them out, but as Tom points out – history has occasionally favored the scrappy underdog.
The acting is pretty good, with Wyle the perfect person to anchor (and bring accessibility) to such a large story. We understand his pain and his fight, but we also relate to him because he is the everyman FALLING SKIES champions.
Bloodgood is strong and makes do with her slightly underdeveloped character which will probably get more interesting as the season wears on. She’s always a very interesting actress (she was great in JOURNEYMAN and the heart of the otherwise tragically bad TERMINATOR: SALVATION), and she clearly has a lot to offer here as the story gets more complex.
The alien FX is solid too, if not a bit familiar. At least these aliens do things – and they’re pretty aggressive throughout. For a premiere episode, you almost want to see a little more fighting and little more alien action, but I counter that it’s much smarter to have a slow burn of this stuff, so audiences don’t come in expecting a $100 million movie each week like some pilots promise and rarely deliver.
In some ways, FALLING SKIES is everything that the V reboot and THE EVENT tried to be, but never quite could achieved. Perhaps the beginning of the invasion just isn’t as interesting as putting you into the thick of the action. It worked for SAVING PRIVATE RYAN and it does work, for the most part here.
FALLING SKIES has a wealth of promise, and with only a 10-episode season, it will be interesting to see if it builds or simply peters out. I’m hoping for the former.
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Click on link: For AX’s FALLING SKIES – Season Premiere – Part 2 review – “The Armory”
Click on link: For AX’s FALLING SKIES – Season Premiere – Part 2 review – “Prisoner of War”
Click on link: For AX’s Exclusive Interview with FALLING SKIES star Noah Wyle
Click on link: For AX’s exclusive photos from the Los Angeles premiere of FALLING SKIES