Invasion – More dull sci-fi from Apple TV

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by | Oct 13, 2023 | Film & TV

An alien invasion of the Earth shown from the perspective of a normal person is nothing new - HG Wells did it masterfully in War of the Worlds, but Apple TV have created a laboured and dull show

Dull aliens invade Earth and dull people react to it

The premise was OK, aliens land on Earth and we are shown the effects of it from the POV of a disparate group of people around the world. Invasion gives us hints of what the aliens are after and that some humans can tune in (unwillingly) to their comms or brainwaves or something that still isn’t clear. Unfortunately that sentence sums up around 16 hours of TV, that is literally it in terms of story development. There are lots and lots of earnest conversations between characters, which if any of them were more than two dimensional might be interesting, the show doesn’t even have the drama that would keep you tuned into a soap opera.

Early trailers heavily featured Sam Neil, an actor who would surely only grace something good and exciting? They killed him off in the first episode, or maybe the second, I can’t bear to go back and watch it to be certain.

Every episode of Invasion teases some tantalising nugget of information about the aliens; a character nearly opens a door behind which lie answers, evidence almost makes sense or a conversation with the alien mind sort of nearly maybe explains something possibly. But it is never resolved or developed, the Government is doing something behind security fences, the ‘special’ kids can tune into some part of the alien mind, a billionaire funds a project to communicate with them, none of which advance the plot or story one iota. There is a feeling of Lost levels of setup for disappointment around this whole thing.

I’ve stuck with it in the hope that something genuinely interesting would happen (it hasn’t). The fact that you can fast forward through every conversation without missing any plot points (because there are none) is another damning indictment. You can see all of the influences that the writers had, from Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival to John Wyndhams The Midwich Cuckoos via James Cameron’s The Abyss, you just wish they had paid attention to what made those stories so good in the first place. Does this point to a bigger problem with streaming ‘content’?

Is this what is wrong with streaming?

Churning out episode after episode as mere content rather than drama seems to be the way it is done now – we’ve had a writers strike protesting at the threat of AI, but the sad thing is that a lot of these shows feel like they have already been authored by a bot, tasked with a handful of plot points and told to drip feed them through multiple seasons.

The idea of focusing on the drama between the survivors rather than a bombastic fight-the-aliens kind of action feature is fine – if it is done well. Yet there are no characters you can root for here, they are all grey cut-outs, uniformly miserable and bland. Apple have wisely stuck to releasing an episode a week otherwise you would just skip to the last one to see if anything had actually happened. If you want to see great example of that being done with flair and a fresh eye just watch They Cloned Tyrone, a movie that reinvigorates a genre.

Apple are a dab hand at this – all of their series are over long and shallow, only the big bucks production design saves them. The one show that stands out is the Idris Elba starring Hijack, this had an edge of your seat excitement from beginning to end and told a thrilling, cohesive story without outstaying its welcome. But shows like Silo, For All Mankind and even Foundation suffer from pacing issues. Silo would have been great as a film but feels stretched very thin by the last episode. You have to give the writers credit for making a spectacle out of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, the books were all constructed around people talking about things happening somewhere else. yet the series doesn’t make a whole lot of sense or feel like it’s really going anywhere.

It is a sad day if if execs look at a potential adaptation and just assess it on how much content can be squeezed from it.

Written by Iain Hazlewood

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