Interesting Premise But Utterly Pompous
Before I comment on the execution of this 1994 TV movie, I'd like to say
something about the unbelievably pompous sermonizing this movie does by
offering this hypothetical. Suppose Captain Kirk sent an unmanned shuttle
to contact a planet that had never experienced an alien contact before, and
then the aliens, not having any clue what this was, then shot the shuttle
down. Captain Kirk then decides this is a hostile act and decides to nuke
the planet and destroy all life on it.
Now if Captain Kirk did this, you'd think he was a madman and the epitomoe
of all things evil. You would not as a matter of course blame the aliens
for not knowing any better. So why then I ask, does this TV-movie serve
the exact same premise to us, and then deliver a scathing indictment about
how this is all humanity's fault, and that our barbarism caused this, and
that ultimately, as Sander Vanocur says before Washington blows up around
him, "The fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves"? That kind of
thinking is not merely insulting to one's intelligence, it's just plain
dumb. Yet for some reason, Hollywood has long had a fascination with this
incredible cliche of how aliens are always wiser than humans and that any
normal reaction of fear on the part of humans constitutes barbarism making
destruction by the aliens justifiable (this after all is the very premise
"The Day The Earth Stood Still").
Now setting aside the dumb philosophy, how does this work in terms of
execution? Only so-so. I can't believe anyone would have fallen for
in a minute since it should have occurred to them to merely change channels
and then remember that the last time Sander Vanocur was a serious
was a long time ago. But then again, the people who listened to Orson
Welles long ago never had the sense to do that either so I suppose that can
be forgiven. The problem with this fake newscast is that we are served
the most shallow of cliched characters to represent the different points of
view in the scientific, military and political communities and you can't
take them seriously for a second. This is always the greatest problem
any "fake newscast" style of drama. They spend so much time trying to
the newscasting sound authentic that in the end they forget all about
to make the characters themselves have the ring of authenticity.
As mindless entertainment this film has its merits but for chilling
authenticity in a fake newscast, try to find Buffalo radio station WKBW's
1971 update of the War Of The Worlds. THAT was a drama that knew how to
push all the right buttons and come off with an air of
Wow, this stayed with me!
I saw this pretty late at night, and it draws you in so much. The plot
twists and turns in an amazing story that mirrors a real-situation, so
that I thought it was a real news broadcast too. Only the appearance of Q
from Star Trek, and references to 1994 gave the game away.
The end sequence, from the destruction of the 3 meteors onwards was as
as many of the scenes in films like Scream. It also showed man's darker
side, and gave many lessons for the future.
It wouldn't work on the big screen, but on the small screen it is one of
best films I have seen in a long time. And that's saying a lot for a film
such small stature!.