Now this is a movie! After suffering through The Avengers, I had despaired the future of the aliens-invade-earth genre. It seemed as if story and character development had been sacrificed for special effects. Not so here.
Based on Hasbro’s board game of the same name, from a very good script by Jon Hoeber & Erich Hoeber, Peter Berg directs Taylor Kitsch, who plays a ne’er do well naval Lieutenant, Alex Hopper, who is assigned to the USS John Paul Jones as a junior officer which is participating in some war games. Alas, an experiment headed by Cal Zapata (Hamish Linklater), a scientist who mans the international satellite station in Hawaii that searches the skies for signs of life to contact an earth-like planet, goes awry when earth is suddenly attacked and all hell breaks lose.
Like The Avengers, this is a no-holds-barred fight to the finish against enormous odds. Unlike The Avengers, this is relatively believable. It contains real people as characters, involved in real emotions. Alex is in love with Sam Shane (Brooklyn Decker) who is the daughter of the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, Admiral Shane (Liam Neeson). They all get caught up in this cataclysmic battle.
The special effects are the best I’ve ever seen. The only downside is that the film falls into Hollywood’s pit in portraying civilizations far more advanced than we as ugly monsters. One would think that with Star Wars as the model, aliens could be portrayed as brilliant foes, not machine-clad automatons. But these guys look like refugees built from discarded auto parts.
Another jarring aspect is when the film flashes to Obama making a speech about the battle. Most films have fictional presidents when telling their fictional stories. Given the strong negative feelings this president inspires in many people, Universal would have been better advised to keep this non-political. Lots of people won’t like having to be reminded that Obama is the president in a movie that they are watching to escape what’s going on in the country. But, then, again, one must remember that this is an NBC/Universal film and one need not view Matt Lauer or Brian Williams very often to know NBC’s political bias. Counterbalancing that is that the film shows the Navy in a terrific light.
But those are very minor criticisms (which is, after all, why I get the big bucks to write this stuff). This is a terrific movie, the kind everyone can see, even children. The tension mounts as the movie progresses and Berg keeps the pace boiling. The brilliance of it is that preposterous as it is, it’s believable enough that one can empathize with the humans battling these aliens, which is another thing that sets it apart from The Avengers.
A heartwarming part of the film is the appearance of U.S. Army Colonel Gregory D. Gadson, a battalion leader who lost both legs in Iraq in 2007, in his professional acting debut playing Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales, an Army combat veteran and double amputee who begins his recovery just as the alien attack begins. He acquits himself admirably.