‘Extraterrestrial’ Review


Film Pulse Score

Release Date:  June 15, 2012 (Limited)
Currently Showing via Video OnDemand Platforms
Director:  Nacho Vigalondo
MPAA Rating:  NR
Film Pulse Score:  3/10

Extraterrestrial will frustrate you if you expect a science-fiction film.  Instead, be ready for a rather run-of-the-mill dramedy with a four-piece ensemble.  Yes, we get glimpses of an enormous spaceship hovering over a town near Madrid, but the film is set figuratively in the ship’s shadow and has really nothing to do with extraterrestrials at all.  Instead, it is about the rather mundane existence of four people whose lives intersect the day after aliens arrive at planet Earth.

The film opens late one afternoon with two individuals realizing that they have spent the night and most of the day together – most likely passed out from a drunken one-night stand.  Thus, we meet Julio (Julian Villagran) and Julia (Michele Jenner).  As they are coming to terms with what happened the night before, they notice the television does not work, the landline and cellphones have no service, and there is no internet connection.  Looking out the window, Julio spots a giant craft hovering in the distance which he estimates to be four miles wide.  Enter Julia’s lovesick and rather stalker-ish neighbor Angel (Carlos Areces).  Angel informs Julio and Julia that everyone else has evacuated except for himself, and of course Julia and Julio.  Then enter Carlos (Raul Cimas), Julia’s boyfriend who returns to the apartment. As Angel grows more suspicious and jealous of Julio, Julio slips and tells Angel that he and Julia had relations last night.  When Angel threatens to tell Carlos, Julio and Julia concoct a story to discredit him – Angel is actually an alien, or at least an alien who has taken the real Angel and replaced him.  Here, the film channels Invasion of the Body Snatchers and it’s a nice inside joke.

Carlos accepts the story, and the action picks up as Carlos and Julio decide what to do with the look-a-like alien.  They evict him from the apartment building, but he continues to try to warn Carlos that his girlfriend and Julio are an item.  The rather uninteresting events that follow involve Carlos going off-kilter, living outside of the apartment, and trying to get to the bottom of why the aliens are here while Julia and Julio stay together in the apartment and simply enjoy being alone together.  All this time, Angel has set up residence at the apartment building across the street and continues his attack of Julia and Julio’s relationship.
Eventually, Julio comes to his senses and decides Carlos is a good guy and that Julia would be better off with him instead.  Julio does this by way of videotaping a message to Julia and finding Carlos on the outside, admitting to Carlos that he is, in fact, an alien.  He has left the ship that is sitting over Madrid “for no reason” and was studying human beings.  He convinces Carlos to go back to Julia and says he will be moving on, leaving the couple to reignite their relationship.

If I made this sound boring, it’s because it is.  The characters have little depth.  There are moments of mild humor but really no drama on which to comment.  The interactions between the four characters are relatively tedious when there could have been much more excitement given that they are literally living in a gigantic spaceship’s shadow.  The writer-director, Nacho Vigalondo, is simply uninterested in aliens and only uses them as a plot device to drive the cheating Julia does with Julio, behind Carlos’ back.  Even as a straight four-hander, the dramedy does not work and I was uninterested in whether anyone was really an alien or not, whether Julia and Julio ride off into the proverbial sunset or whether Carlos and Julia stay together.  I just did not care about these characters or their lives at all.

There is certainly a story to be told about the reaction of individuals to an alien visitation, but those movies or television shows have already been made and are much better – see, e.g., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Signs, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, “Falling Skies,” etc..  Skip this mundane movie and find a better scripted ensemble piece about the intersection of lives in the wake of alien visitation or other significant change.