So Week Two of Stephen Spielberg’s Taken has drawn to its close w./ one more innocent willingly entering one more unidentified flying object: twenty hours to get to a conclusion it took Close Encounters two-hours-plus-change to reach.
From a storytelling standpoint, the second half was more fully realized than its building block episodes. Where the first six entries chronologically rushed through snatches of foo fighting mythology, the final four brought us into the here-&-now where we finally got to meet narrating Allie (Dakota Fanning). Fanning is so wise in her role as a little kid part-alien that you quickly realize why she was given voiceover duties. More than the repetitive fx, she’s the element that kept us watching to the end.
It sure wasn’t the adult actors: primary baddies Dr. Chet Wakeman (Matt Frewer) & 3rd generation Crawford schemer Mary (Heather Donahue) never gained enough villainous heft to really push the story along. Frewer was so over-the-top irritating that when James McDaniels’ military man finally slugged him for just one too many know-it-all wisecracks, it brought applause in my house. (To be fair, I liked a moment in the final installment where Wakeman appears on a computer screen to deliver a final message to his killer: ticking his head to the side, he was like a less frenetic Max Headroom.) And while Donahue had moments of neatly sociopathic menace, for much of the series she had the awkward air of someone wearing adult clothes for the first time.
As for the other main players: neither of Allie’s parents (who conceived the child while abducted in a nicely fuzzy sex scene that got flashbacked once too often) conveyed the same level of fear & wonderment as their forbearers. But when Eric Close’s line-initiating alien John popped back up in the final episode, his appearance was welcome.
Midpoint into the ninth installment – where it became obvious where the series was heading – I found myself thinking that scripter Leslie Bohem and co. might’ve done better by their audience if they’d presented Taken as a six-day series, starting in modern times then introducing pertinent background material as lengthy flashbacks. Could’ve spared us some of the go-nowhere irrelevancies, but then it also probably would’ve lessened the series’ event stature. I know I’d have been willing to make the sacrifice.
In the end, we learn, all the sightings & abductions & probing tubes up victims’ noses were the actions of amorally inquisitive extraterrestrials. The aliens, we’re told, are much like us, only further evolved down the road to the point where concepts of right & wrong or guilt & empathy are meaningless. By breeding w./ humanity, they hope to regain the emotional component that they’ve lost.
Or something like that, anyway. It was all kept deliberately murky in the meant-to-be-uplifting humanistic mode of other Spielbergian fare. I didn’t quite buy it – any more than I bought hard-assed military guy McDaniels’ uncharacteristic yielding in the last ten minutes of the series – but then I guess I’m more an X-Files kinda guy. When I hear a character tell us to “Keep Watching the Skies,” I don’t think of cuddly bug-eyed E.T. I think of James Arness as The Thing.