The last five or six times I’ve gone to the movies, I’ve had to suffer through the trailer for the upcoming alien-invasion film “Skyline.” With each viewing, I get more and more aggravated, but my first response was, “I feel like I’ve seen this before. It looks like Independence Day.'”
I thought the same in the opening moments of “V,” and not because the ABC series is a reboot of the 1980s one. Missing this new version’s prime-time run last season, I dove into the three DVD set, containing all dozen episodes. And lo and behold, right there in the pilot, one character shares my sentiment about his situation’s remarkable similarity to “ID4.” Do I have my finger on the pulse of pop culture or what?
Anyhoo, the gist of “V” finds 29 huge, mysterious space ships suddenly hovering in major cities all over the world. They mean no harm, per the holographic message of pretty-girl leader Anna (Morena Baccarin), but that’s just alien-speak for “we’re so going to screw you over, petty Earthlings.” Her kind — the Visitors, as they’re called — look like perfect-specimen humans, but that smooth, cloned flesh masks their true reptilian form.
After initial empathy, FBI Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretsch) are on to the Visitors’ nefarious plan and slowly join the resistance fighters known as The Fifth Column in exposing the Visitors for who they are. Erica has a personal stake in it, because her son (Logan Huffman) is being manipulated by one of them: the super-sexy Lisa (Laura Vandervoort). And who can blame him?
With a nod to its source material, there’s also a late-season subplot about a half-human/half-lizard baby being birthed, but minus the original’s watercooler-worthy payoff. CGI special effects rule the roost in every ep, possibly to hide the show’s overall slow momentum, story-wise. It barely moves forward, and when it does, the narrative distance can be measured in steps. To put it bluntly, it’s kind of a bore, although a nice-looking one.
The characters are another downfall: They’re not developed well enough to truly like any of them. Mitchell is appealing enough and a good actress, but you don’t get to know anything about her character (other than that she’s a single mom) before the invasion begins. Vandervoort is ridiculously cute, but holds little screen presence other than visual dressing. Huffman, I just want to punch, for some of the most forced facial expressions allowed on network TV.
Speaking of, “Party of Five” vet Scott Wolf is unbelievable as a news anchor, because he still — God bless his genes — looks like he’s in high school.
While I appreciated “V”‘s political and social messages that in part play like an allegory to today’s anti-gay, anti-Muslim hysteria, it’s all just a good idea, with unrealized potential. Don’t discount its cult appeal, however. —Rod Lott