Blu-ray
For Fans Only
3 stars
Amazon
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Overall Grade
3 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
2.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
3 Stars
High-Def Extras
0.5 Stars
Bottom Line
For Fans Only

Falling Skies: The Complete First Season

Street Date:
June 5th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
June 4th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2011
Studio:
Warner Brothers
Length:
450 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I was surprised to see TNT's lackluster alien invasion drama 'Falling Skies' got renewed for a second season. Not only did it get renewed, but if you've watched any TNT over the last couple weeks, you've noticed the network is touting the premiere of the second season as much as ABC got excited whenever a new season of 'Lost' was about to start.

It wasn't until after seeing 'Falling Skies' was renewed that I took a look at the ratings numbers. Surprised, again! 'Falling Skies' was one of the biggest new cable shows of last year ratings wise. I guess quite a few people went along for a ride.

The series opens with gruesome crayon drawings of what happened when the aliens first invaded Earth. Children provide a voice-over of how the aliens came down, decimated the planet, killed millions of adults, and enslaved millions of children with organic mind control devices called "harnesses." Now this post-apocalyptic world is populated by survivors who have to scrounge and fight for guns, supplies, and food. Much like 'The Walking Dead' minus the flesh-chomping.

The show focuses on a certain group of survivors. They've banded together to create the 2nd Massachusetts Militia Regiment. Some military leaders are left and they continue to fight for freedom from the oppressing alien force. Leading this group of rag-tag fighters is Captain Dan Weaver (Will Patton), a no-nonsense sort of leader. One that doesn't like hearing about the gripes of the civilians he's charged with protecting. He'd much rather be leaning over a map planning their next attack. His second in command is a history professor named Tom Mason (Noah Wyle) who constantly references history in an attempt to make history somewhat relevant in a day and age where aliens have taken over the Earth. The last thing people want to do when trying to counteract an alien invasion is go to history class.

Mason has three sons. Two of his sons are with him in the militia, but his other son has been harnessed and captured by the aliens. The harnessed kids spend time doing manual labor, like gathering scrap metal as mindless zombies.

When I first tuned into 'Falling Skies' during its debut last year I wasn't all that enthralled. It seemed like a story we'd heard before, and it really didn't have anything new to say about an alien invasion scenario. We'd already had 'V' which turned out to be just as disappointing, because when you spread an invasion like this across multiple episodes and seasons you quickly run out of plots and subplots. 'V' fell into a rut and couldn't extricate itself. 'Falling Skies' feels like it's headed down the same path.

With multiple episodes to fill much of the meatier plot devices are spread few and far between, while the rest is filled with filler like the whole subplot about renegade and camp prsioner John Pope (Colin Cunningham) being a chef in disguise.

The other aspect of the show that didn't sit too well with me was the aliens themselves. They felt like cookie-cutter versions of malevolent aliens from outer space. There isn't much that's all that interesting about them. At least the aliens in 'V' had personalities and could take human form. Here they skitter around on six legs, looking more like reptilian bugs than anything. I know they've taken over the Earth and everything, but never do they feel all that menacing to begin with. I've probably been too desensitized by aliens in movies and on TV throughout the years. The aliens in 'Falling Skies' don't achieve anything close to a scare factor.

'Falling Skies' picks and borrows from all sorts of alien invasions/post-apocalyptic movies and shows. I know that Steven Spielberg is attached as an executive producer role, but that doesn't make the show any less generic. 'Falling Skies' is lacking that "wow" factor.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

I wasn't at all impressed with the visuals provided by Warner here. This is most likely due to the way the show was filmed, but it doesn't translate well to a high-def format like Blu-ray. I remember the show looking murky on television, but thought it would clear up when it came out on home video. Wrong. The murkiness is still there. Crushing is a frequent offender, stamping out detail and replacing it with flat blacks that never approach the coveted inkiness.

The entire picture seems flat. Nighttime scenes have little to no dimension to them. Faces turn in the darkness and instead of the shadows accentuating their features, then mar them by slathering the face in flat grays and blacks that really hamper the overall image. Blacks have a bluish sheen to them that becomes very annoying.

The CG work, as expected, is below average. Being a TV show it just doesn't have the budget to afford big blockbuster CG aliens. Instead they settle for something that is a step or two up from what you see on the SyFy Channel. The worst looking parts of the show involve the robotic war machines, called "Mechs." Being in high-def simply emphasizes the poor quality of the animation here.

Daylight scenes do feature some nice scenery. When the screen is well-lit faces have nice detail. Everyone is covered in a fine layer of grit and dirt which is always visible. Five o'clock shadows abound in order to let us know just how hard these people have it. Their stubble is always clear whenever the sun is out. I have quite a few quarrels with 'Falling Skies' video presentation on Blu-ray, but the clearly defined daytime scene somewhat make up the difference. At any rate, this is a pretty average video presentation.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Audio is more of the same in the "average" department. The release has been furnished with a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD sound mix. Just like when it was on TV the show lacks the sort of punch you'd expect from a story featuring aliens, explosions and spaceships.

Dialogue is fairly clear most of the time. Rear channels are lively for the most part with milling citizens talking and performing chores in the background. The battle scenes seem a little soft and one-dimensional. That could be due to the actual sound design though and not necessarily the disc itself.

Gunfights with aliens are very standard sounding. Bullets fly and whiz through the sound stage, but it doesn't have the depth or dimensionality that really good war movies have. Or, if we're comparing TV show to TV show, 'Falling Skies' lacks the kind of action-packed audio oomph that the seasons of '24' had on Blu-ray. LFE bellows here and there, but when you think it should be shaking your house, in merely pumps out a few deep notes and quits. Those Mech footsteps should be low and rumbling when instead they're short, staccato-like quick booms and that's it. Like the video presentation, there's nothing noteworthy to report here.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentaries – Out of the 10 episodes provided there are only three audio commentaries. The commentaries come on the last three episodes of the season. They start on the eighth episode, "What Hides Beneath," with Wyle, and writer Mark Verheiden. Then onto the ninth episode, "Mutiny," with Wyle and Verheiden being joined by co-executive producer Greg Beeman. Finally, the tenth episode, "Eight Hours" is another commentary with the trio of Wyle, Verheiden, and Beeman (this time around Beeman is commenting as the director of the episode). I'm not really sure why they decided to do commentaries on the last three episodes when it’s the usual case that the commentaries get spread out amongst the season. However, I liked the decision here because the commentaries seem more cohesive as they travel from one episode to the next, referring to other commentaries and such. These are decent discussions for fans of the series who want to know more about the filming and creation of the show.

  • Animating a Skitter (HD, 4 min.) – A short look at what it takes to animate one of the aliens on a computer.

  • 'Falling Skies' Panel: Comic-Con 2011 (HD, 21 min.) – Hosted by TV Guide Magazine editor Debra Birnbaum this is the full Comic-Con panel for 'Falling Skies.' The cast is there to answer questions about the show, but like so many Comic-Con panels it really seems like a giant advertisement for the show.

  • Behind The Scenes (HD, 6 min.) – This is broken up into two parts, "The Unknown," and "The 2nd Mass." "The Unknown" covers the basics of us quite possibly not being alone in the universe whereas "The 2nd Mass" discusses what it would be like to lead so many people through a similar crisis.

  • Unanswered Questions: Season 2 Sneak Peek (HD, 2 min.) – A preview for season two which premieres June 17, 2012.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • 'Falling Skies': From Pencils to Print: The Dark Horse Comic Book Revealed (HD, 16 min.) – Dark Horse president Mike Richardson talks about the 'Falling Skies' comic book series.

Final Thoughts

I was intrigued at the thought of 'Falling Skies,' butmy interest soon waned as the show settled into very familiar alien invasion territory. Maybe the second season will be better, but when all it has to build upon is a very standard first season I don't see that happening. In the end, the show seemed dull and uneventful. The characters never held much weight and seemed to be either taking up space or performing generic characters duties (like tough guy, nice old guy, cute doctor etc.). Fans of the show will probably still pick up this set, but just know that the video and audio are pretty lackluster. Since I wouldn't recommend anyone spend their time on this series, this seems like one that's for fans only.

Technical Specs

  • 2 BD-50 Blu-ray Discs
  • Ultraviolet Digital Copy

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/VC-1

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Supplements

  • Commentary on selected episodes
  • Season 2 sneak peek
  • 2011 Comic Con panel
  • The Making of Skitter

Exclusive HD Content

  • Falling Skies from Pencils to Print: The Comic Book Revealed featurette
  • Collectible trading card

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