Taken: Nothing Beyond The Sky? [Back to Mods In The Key of X or Harsh Realm]

By FLAtRich (from eXoNews December 3, 2002)

[Please note: all that flutters doesn't flop. This review only covers the first episode of Taken. Thanks. Ed.]

Hollywood December 3, 2002 (eXoNews) - Unnecessary, frankly obvious. What more can be said about UFO movies? 1947 was fifty-five years ago and there is still no proof of intelligent extraterrestrial life in the universe, so Steven Spielberg Presents Taken is really just another chronicle of modern mythology.

And, from what we got in episode one of Sci Fi Channel's Taken miniseries, we been there and done that. Oh, Sci Fi and Mr. Spielberg have the special effects down. Those starry Spielberg skies and preternatural glows! Nobody does those better than Spielberg. Some of the CGI stuff didn't work for me - the WWII bombers looked fake and one shot where a curious Captain Owen Crawford (Joel Gretsch) stands in front of a downed saucer - but I'm a picky kind of guy. Sci Fi shows like Farscape have spoiled me.

Taken's creator and writer is not Mr. Spielberg, but rather Leslie Bohem, who also wrote Dante's Peak and Nightmare On Elm Street 5. I don't remember which Elm Street that was, but I did like Dante's Peak.

Beyond The Sky was directed by Tobe Hooper, a slasher/horror film pro (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) with some UFO myth experience. Mr. Hooper directed Lifeforce in the 80s, one of my personal cult feature favorites. Lifeforce featured ghostly vampire aliens, which was kind of old hat for hardcore sci fi fans at the time, but it has a great climax. Maybe episode ten of Taken will end well too.

On the small screen, Mr. Hooper directed for the failed UFO - X-Files rip-off Dark Skies on NBC, which I mostly didn't like, and a big favorite of mine called Nowhere Man on UPN. He also did one episode of the failed NBC Morgan and Wong series The Others, which I still miss.

Unfortunately, the science fiction film I always associate with Mr. Hooper was his unnecessary remake of the William Cameron Menzies' classic 50s paranoia sci fi B-movie, Invaders From Mars. The original was spooky when I was a kid. Hooper's remake just plain sucked.

So that gets my prejudices out in the open. I love Spielberg, I'm OK with Leslie Bohem, and I have mixed feelings about Hooper's science fiction efforts.

The problem with Beyond The Sky is that it isn't. Nothing in this episode was new or beyond what has already been done in previous renditions of the great UFO mythology. In fact, Mr. Bohem seems to be quite a fan of science fiction because his screenplay contains fingerprints from a lot of other authors and directors.

Homage is all very well and good, but Beyond The Sky stirred up far too many memories of images and threads from The X-Files, The Visitor, Martian Chronicles, The Invaders, Starman, and even First Wave - not to mention every saucer film made between 1950 and 1960, Roswell (the series), and DS9's Little Green Men episode and other Star Trek stories of first contact.

From Scully's nosebleeds to Bradbury's wish-shifting ancients to SG1's rubbery aliens to Enterprise's wall-walking Suliban, we've seen this all before. Maybe some of Steven Spielberg's kids are too young to remember, but the rest of us aren't.

I watched Beyond The Sky at 9 PM, after a new episode of Boston Public on Fox. OK, I started watching Boston Public when Jeri Ryan joined the cast. I admit it. I like the ex-Borg.

Stay with me. There's a point.

The BP episode wound up a previous week's crisis where principal Steven Harper (Chi McBride) got in a fight with a racist parent and the parent tripped and died. Harper looked guilty of at least manslaughter last week, but David Kelley and company saved him from The Big House.

In this same BP episode, Kelley explored teenage danger freaks, the Catholic priest child molestation issue, the relationship between an older woman and a younger man, the responsibility a teacher has to get involved with his students, and the effects a teacher can have on adult futures.

They did all that in an hour with a lot of good actors and fast dialog and a few dashes of humor. Sure, we knew the characters from previous episodes of Boston Public, but Kelley did it all in an hour and the episode had social substance.

In two hours, Beyond The Sky gave us nothing we hadn't seen elsewhere. Good actors but slow dialog, and they played it absolutely straight-faced. Not one laugh.

Taken will have moved on to other episodes by the time most of you read this. I hope the rest fly higher than the first.