Falling Skies: Complete Season 1 (UK - DVD R2)
Marcus runs away from aliens with Noah Wyle in this sci-fi drama show.
Steven Spielberg presents Falling Skies. The world is in tatters after an alien invasion. Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) a former history professor battles to survive with his family beside him. The invaders' true intentions are unknown but they are kidnapping children between 8 – 18 and attaching biomechanical devices to them, giving the aliens control over their actions. With Tom’s son, Ben taken, the resistance against Earth’s invaders is about to come to a head.
Falling Skies is the first real response to the success of The Walking Dead. Replacing the post apocalyptic world of zombies with a post apocalyptic world of aliens, we see a large cast of characters surviving against the odds, fighting between themselves and struggling to stand up against their attackers. That being said there’s a chasm of difference between the two shows, even though they both suffer with many of the same issues. Both shows depict life in a world forever changed, and both shows can have long stretches where nothing really happens outside of long chats about the situation we find ourselves in. However Falling Skies has the problem of the bad guys being CGI - and TV CGI at that. Every time they show up, it feels like a video game cut away sequence and the more thoroughbred sci-fi the show becomes, the more it loses me.
I just couldn’t warm to Falling Skies. Noah Wyle is a good lead and there’s a fair bunch of likeable actors supporting him but I just don’t feel the world we are set in with this show. There are a handful of great alien moments but generally speaking whenever they turned up the show lost my attention. The designs are pretty drab and feel quite generic and there’s not always a believable response to the interaction between human and alien. On top of that, at least half of the cast aren’t all that great at selling the bleakness of the situation. The iffy acting (mainly the younger actors) and very routine sci-fi responses really let this fairly large ensemble down. To draw another comparison, Lost, another show with a large cast and things to carry out week on week, managed to sell the importance of nearly every move, no matter how small. Everything felt important to the whole, the individual characters and the progression of the plot. Falling Skies pulls this off about 25% of the time and I found it really hard to connect with the show because of it.
The show never really took off the way it wanted to in my view. The finale felt flat for the most part as well and other than finding out what's going to happen because of the intriguing turn of events in the closing scenes, I can’t see me ever wanting to return for a second season.
Given the setting of the show is a fairly drab collection of blues and greys, you’d think that the dingy appearance would be covered in grain (especially with Spielberg’s involvement). This is generally not the case. The show is actually fairly grain free outside of the odd night scene. The image is that of a clean, glossy, modern show. However, this can sometimes undermine the overall effect of the post apocalyptic world. Sets can feel fake. Stuff like ash covered cars feel set dressed as opposed to part of the world and other than characters' beards, costume wear and tear and the odd well lit location, the bright presentation doesn’t always sell the illusion of a conquered Earth.
Colours are also something that both add and reduce the sense of realism. Skin tones can sometimes feel a little too warm, giving the cast a healthy glow in certain settings. Sets have the odd colour that pops but this can take away the disaster zone feel. With that said though, the greys, blacks and blues all make for a believably cold setting and this combined with good detail on faces, textures on clothes and a show that holds up in darker scenes, the overall presentation works for modern TV.
Outside of the odd spike within an alien attack and the battle scenes, this is actually quite a routine audio presentation. The dialogue sits centrally as expected and the rears are only really used for the score to underpin the drama. Gunshots, machine gun fire, explosions and more lively moments can often spread out well but are generally played out in the front speakers. It’s a good enough mix but one that feels like it could have been larger in places.
The moment the disc comes on you’ll be struck by the horrid menus. They look like they were made with an off the shelf DVD burning program and a cheap one at that.
As for the extras, Disc 1 supplies a commentary on the episodes ‘The Armory’ and ‘Prisoner of War’. Disc 2 includes a commentary on ‘What Hides Beneath’.Disc 3 houses the majority of the extras ‘Animating a Skitter’ (03:53), ‘San Diego Comic Con Panel 2011’ (20:45), ‘Behind The Scenes’ on two episodes running at about 3 minutes each and ‘Unanswered Questions: Season 2 Sneak Peak’ (01:48). There are also commentary tracks on the final two episodes.
The extras a very EPK in nature and nothing all that interesting outside of the Comic Con panel. The commentary tracks are a mixture of cast and crew and provide plenty of insight into the show and specific scenes. They are not wildly exciting but fans should enjoy the behind the scenes stories and slight extensions of what we’re seeing in the episodes.
Falling Skies is a show I feel like I’ve seen too many times. Whether it’s in movies, comics or other TV shows, the premise is a little too familiar and I struggled to connect with it. For post apocalyptic bleakness, I’m going with The Walking Dead every time (especially now it’s finally stopped dragging its feet). That said, fans of pretty classic science fiction, with aliens invading and humans resisting to save those that are left will probably get more out it and the show’s popularity seems to have grown since season 2 started and the comic book series arrived. The presentation of this DVD is okay. Nothing special is really housed within the terrible menus but both video and audio do their jobs, they just don’t do them with any sort of flare.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 2nd July 2012
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Spanish,Swedish
Extras: Commentaries, Featurettes, Season 2 Sneak Peak
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Maxim Knight, Seychelle Gabriel, Peter Shinkoda
Genre: Drama and Sci-Fi
Length: 420 minutes
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