TAKEN: Tuesday 13th September, FX, 9pm
ALIEN SEX. Boom, you have been well and truly hooked. Yes. It’s been almost a decade since Steven Spielberg bought Taken onto our small screens, and now the FX Channel have delightfully given us the opportunity to watch this epic mini-series all over again. And there’s no question about it – it really is epic. However, there’s a thin line between epic and epic fail. [Old Chinese proverb.]
The series is comprised of ten two-hour episodes. That’s practically ten feature length films which chart a story spanning three alien-infiltrated generations. The episode gets off to a flying start in 1944 as American and German airplanes engage in a ferocious mid-air battle until the Americans are abducted by a cluster of bright lights. This is accompanied by a somewhat creepy child-narrator, played by Dakota Fanning. All in all; a very accomplished opening. Bags of potential.
And then… Somewhere around the thirty minute mark, after the aliens have been revealed in beautiful 2002 CGI, the narrative grinds to a halt and nothing much happens for a while. Of course, periods of non-action are not necessarily a problem, but they always need something to propel the audience through the down time.
Like the crusts on a sandwich; you don’t always want to eat them but you stomach them to get to the tasty ham. Unfortunately, in this case, there is no tasty ham. There’s ham, but it’s not very tasty. TESCO Value ham. The vital component that should be propelling the slower scenes of Taken is good old mystery. But there is none. The computer graphic aliens and their space-ships are bluntly flaunted in front of us. No shaky camera, no blurred shot, no corner of the eye stuff. Just, plonk: here are your generic extra terrestrials.
Everybody knows that the mystery is more enchanting than the answer. Take the recent Super 8 as an example – we are shown tiny fragments of the alien, right until the end – and that movie had me so gripped to my seat, I thought somebody had spilt a bottle of super (8) glue. Another example is Spielberg’s incredible breakthrough film Close Encounters, where mystery and wonderment and the unknown drive the narrative forward.
Unfortunately, despite the ambition and imaginative scope of Taken, the periods of non-action severely slow the narrative drive, and the story told in these initial two hours could easily have been told in an hour. To continue my sandwich metaphor, sometimes it’s best to cut the crusts. I fear that the remainder of the series will become bogged down in a similar non-action dead zone.
However, mystery is created at the very end of the two hours. After a naughty bit of alien-human hanky-panky (are there laws against that?) a child is conceived. So, what happens when a hybrid alien-human is born?