Dark Skies (2013) – Directed by Scott Stewart – Starring Keri Russell, Josh Hamilton, Dakota Goyo, Kadan Rockett, and J.K. Simmons.
There is but one scene in the utterly forgettable DARK SKIES worth watching, and that is the scene with J.K. Simmons.
Simmons plays Edwin Pollard, an expert on alien visitations from the Greys, one of three “recognized” alien species. He is visited by Daniel and Lacy Barrett (Josh Hamilton and Keri Russell), who are freaking out about all kinds of weird things happening in their house and to the members of their family. Pollard has become something of a recluse, living in a cramped apartment, tracking all these cases of what he perceives to be alien abductions. He tells the Barretts he doesn’t fight aliens anymore, but he explains what he knows and sends them on their merry way to fight the aliens with everything they can muster.
Pollard is wise and tired, and Simmons gives him a gravitas that belongs in The Exorcist far more than The Exorcist with Aliens.
DARK SKIES is what happens when a bunch of talented people make a totally predictable movie. I have no issue with the acting or the directing, and the script competently tells us a story we’ve seen a billion times before. But that’s the problem – DARK SKIES isn’t so much a movie as it is an echo of other movies. It exists because studios know they can make a competent, cheap movie that fills a niche audiences are waiting for. It’s a minimal audience but it’s also a minimal budget. For the reported budget of $3.5 million, it’s almost impossible to lose money on a studio movie, which makes films like DARK SKIES a wise investment. Sure, the movie only brought in around $26.5 million, but that’s more than $3.5, isn’t it?
And if you strike it rich with a cheap movie (like The Purge, which was made for $3 mil and took in $89 million), it’s Mai Tais for everyone.
DARK SKIES didn’t hit the box office jackpot, but no one connected with this movie is going to have a harder time getting a job afterwards.
The movie I wish the filmmakers had made was the one suggested at the end of the film. After one of the Barrett’s kids has been abducted (a well executed, if obvious swerve), the film skips three months ahead. The cops think Daniel and Lacy are responsible for their child’s absence. They’ve moved out of their house into a smaller place, and Daniel is frustrated that their lawyer doesn’t seem to believe him. They’ve set up a map not unlike something Edwin Pollard would have made years earlier. Lacy goes into her son’s room and finds drawings made by the abducted child and she realizes the evidence was there all along, only they didn’t have the wisdom to see the potential for alien abduction. The present child’s walkie talkie crackles and we hear the voice of the abducted son coming through the speaker.
That’s the movie. That would have given us something far less frequently seen than all that came before it. Give me a story that starts right there and I’m intrigued. That movie can go places, can give us twists and turns we might not see coming.
But that’s not the movie we get. The movie we get isn’t poorly made, it’s just not worth talking about.