Monday, August 8, 2011

Season One of 'Falling Skies' Ends

TNT's sci-fi/drama Falling Skies aired its two-hour season one finale yesterday. With an onslaught of Hollywood blockbusters in theaters this summer, like Captain America, Green Lantern, Thor, Cowboys and Aliens, Hangover 2, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2, and X-Men: First Class, was anyone actually paying attention to their weekly television schedule to catch on to this series? Well, it's okay if you didn't. This post is not much of a love letter to the series, but I'd like to discuss what really thrilled me with this series--the special FX and makeup.

The Falling Skies story is typical. Set in New England, it begins in the aftermath of an alien invasion in a post-apocalyptic world without running electricity. A band of survivors in a military outfit, known as 2nd Mass, search through desolated homeland for rations, artillery, and stolen children. A simple story we've seen one too many times in countless films and television. The series' characters are bland and two-dimensional at best. The main character and widower Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) searches for a stolen son while protecting two others, as well as plays the part of second in command. I can go on and tell you about the doctor, the 1st in command, the three sons, a drone/boy, and the overly religious girl, but out of all honesty, these characters are so flat their titles give away their description in the series. For instance, I can hardly tolerate Lourdes' (Seychelle Gabriele, The Last Airbender) character, the overtly religious girl whose sole purpose is to recite the Bible, sing religious songs, or scowl after girls that are flirtatious. But despite my pithy complaints for Falling Skies, the single reason I watched the series from episode one to episode eight was for the special effect work done on the aliens, or skitters, as seen below.

As of now, there are two types of aliens in Falling Skies. One is a tall, silver alien that resembles a generic grayman design hardly worth mentioning. The second is a fleshy colored, sextopedal (six-legged) alien known as a Skitter. Quite often the skitters appear in a lesser quality form thanks to computer graphics, but some episodes give fans of tangible effects a nicely detailed Skitter puppet/suit. Just look at the amount of detail that went into the Skitter costume! It's special make-up effects like this that put a shame to more Hollywood financed productions, like JJ Abram's monster in Super 8. If it wasn't for this amount of detail put forth in Falling Skies I would have stopped watching somewhere around episode four--yeah, it's that bland and unimportant of a series. Which makes me wonder, why are audiences grifted so often in genres of horror, sci-fi, or fantasy when it comes to special effects? Obviously, the easy answer is CGI is cheap and affordable entertainment, in comparison to long man-hours spent sculpting and casting problematic masks and prosthetics. But doesn't the work speak for itself? Won't audiences ten or twenty years from now catch on and recognize quality when they see it? I can only hope so. Thanks to producer/director Greg Beeman'blog, fans of the skitter costume can see original concept art and sculpting designs featured below.

For more information on TNT's Falling Skies, go to the series' homepage here.

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