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Aliens overthrow government in ‘Captive State,’ but miss execution

Corrupt governments are the new vampires and zombies of Hollywood; can’t blame the filmmakers though. It’s perfect timing.

Directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Gambler), Captive State stars John Goodman, Ashton Sanders, Vera Farmiga, Jonathan Majors and Kevin Dunn.

A decade after extraterrestrial life has taken over our governments for ‘the benefit of humanity,’ a rebellion in a Chicago neighborhood rises to fight against their oppressors trying to regain freedom and expose the humans and the aliens trying to feed off the Earth’s natural resources, killing our planet along with those who aren’t considered elite.

Captive State doesn’t feel like the big start that director Rupert Wyatt created for the Planet of the Apes trilogy, which is one of my favorite trilogies of all time. Instead, Wyatt carefully plans out a more though-provoking science fiction movie that hits some marks while missing wildly on others.

It plays out like a novel for an audience that wants more than the popular alien invasion premise. Screenwriters Wyatt and Erica Beeney create a script, here, that has the guts to tell a more realistic story.

However, execution has a lot to do on whether a film sticks the risky landing. And here, Captive State stumbles.

The ideas behind Wyatt’s dystopian future spark some great discussion. In theory, there is a great set-up for Captive State, but the flow of the story is interrupted by an unnecessary side plot that takes over the majority of the second act.

During the second act, a series of scenes shows the audience how the resistance infiltrates a ‘legislator’ event — the legislators are humans in this future call the alien overlords in charge of our government — with a bomb.

It’s a well-shot and exciting part of the film, except the people carrying this movement have not been set up at this point in the runtime, feeling way out of left field. It takes too long for this event to be triggered and by the end I was wondering where Ashton Sanders’ and John Goodman’s characters were.

The filmmakers use a Rube Goldberg-esque way of telling this sub-plot, which is totally awesome, but it works better as perhaps a short film rather than slamming it in as a chunk of an otherwise bland movie.

The trailers also led me to believe that there would be more action, or even more aliens than there actually is. Captive State works in a subtler way and I appreciate the intricacies of turning a genre film into something more than it should be. This won’t bode well for most people though.

As we’ve seen with genre movies advertising it as something it isn’t like The Witch or Under the Skin, audiences won’t agree with the marketing strategy. Sometimes it works too. Arrival and, most recently, Annihilation, takes risks by telling a story that isn’t as black and white as big box office hits and gets on the good sides of both audiences and critics.

Captive State is a harmless indulgence in experimenting, but, unfortunately, the two great leads, Sanders and Goodman, can’t save this confusing script.

Goodman has taken a liking to making more science fiction films lately, 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of my favorite clips of his. It was nice to see him sharing screen time with some crazy looking aliens again.

The aliens are the best part of an alien invasion movie, no matter how hard a filmmaker tweaks the standard for sci-fi movies. In Captive State, the aliens are more like the zombies in the latter seasons of The Walking Dead: unimportant and disposable. They have some cool material when it’s time for them to fight, but other than that, this is a human movie, in more ways than one.

Wyatt posed some interesting ideas and political issues rarely discussed in science fiction films, but a janky script takes away from how ballsy Captive State is.

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