‘Dark Skies’ looks at aliens and family bonds

By: By Frank Miller Special to The News Messenger
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"Dark Skies"

Directed by Scott Stewart

Starring: Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton and J.K. Simmons

Two out of four stars

The beginning of "Dark Skies" opens with a quote from science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. It states, “Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.”

Clarke, author of "2001: A Space Odyssey," was fascinated by religion and paranormal phenomena. It would seem that "Dark Skies" is loosely influenced by Clarke's work but not his self-described sense of optimism.

"Dark Skies" is a story about how aliens have already invaded Earth and there is no stopping them from doing what they want. The film equates aliens to scientists experimenting on witless lab rats, which is defeatist and pessimistic.

Apparently, their experimentation involves a lot of breaking and entering, petty theft, possessing humans and stacking dishes in an odd manner. These are over-used cliches in movies that feature hauntings, a genre that director Scott Stewart ("Legion") struggles to graft onto his alien film.

As the aliens ratchet up the intensity of their contact with an already struggling suburban family, the bonds of marriage and parenthood are put to the test in the face of unknowable adversity.

Faith comes into play, not about God, but rather for each other. The husband must trust his wife, who is spouting nonsense about aliens, and both parents must trust their teenage son to make his own decisions.

These are admirable themes to have in a movie like this, if they weren't both derivative and repetitive. Stewart doesn't come up with an original way to implement these ideas and the film feels generically familiar because of it.

There are a number of decent scares and the imagery is serviceable but Stewart still hasn't figured out how to marry a compelling story to his background in effects work.

"Dark Skies" has ambitious influences but they are clumsily incorporated. The film attempts to coast next to greatness but it obviously pales in a comparison it shouldn't have welcomed.  

Frank Miller is a Sacramento writer.