Often, alien invasions are very noisy and spectacular, but this is not the case with a film like Risen, an intriguing and original story strangely slaughtered almost unanimously by audiences and critics in 2021.
As we expect, everything begins with something coming from deep, unknown space: a meteorite merely the size of a basketball that crashes into a small town not far from New York City.
Around the crater, the air immediately becomes toxic and unbreathable, so the military sends a small team in protective suits to study the problem.
Leading the investigation is Lauren Stone, a troubled but highly respected doctor and researcher who leads the group of biologists along with astrologer David Santiago.
Scientists have nothing to examine since the meteorite dissolved in the crash, nor anyone to question since the entire population of the town died at the same time.
So, the doctors set about to perform autopsies to try to discover the nature of the phenomenon; still, just as they are about to open the first corpse, it inexplicably comes back to life and sits on the morgue table.
This happens to all the other victims as well, but unfortunately, none of them really come back to life; instead, they all together always point in the same direction.
Indeed, these zombies always look toward the crash site, where, at the same time, a strange plant comes out of nowhere, quickly becoming a giant tree.
As the military prepares to counter what is undoubtedly an invasion, the Secret Service also finds evidence of someone sending classified information to unknown space for years, using the alias SuperNova94.
Increasingly alone and estranged from reality, Lauren Stone will attempt to bring together the pieces of this absurd story before it is too late for all of humanity.
Does slow necessarily mean bad?
This is the third film for director and screenwriter Eddie Arya, whom I did not know but whose earlier work I will catch up on very soon.
Arya alternates between a slow pace with a lot of dialogue and scenes of silence, especially with the protagonist Nicole Schalmo, contrasting with the constant pounding of the mass media, which cheerfully speculates on the fear of events to get ratings.
In the tragedy, it is almost amusing to observe the rush toward the scoop by journalists, as well as the military almost childishly refusing to recognize the impotence of all our weapons in the face of this unknown biological threat.
The government tries to impose territorial dominance with weapons against aliens who, conversely, already seem to be masters at home and almost heedless of us humans, as if we could never be a real threat to them.
Moreover, it is paradoxical how, from a symbol of life, the seed from which a flower blossoms that later becomes a tree instead emerges a deadly halo that exterminates every plant and animal in its path.
Equally pleasing is the tasty cinematic reminder of the distant zombies of the late George Romero, who here return to life as slaves with mutated DNA, utterly absent in will and serving and defending the aliens.
As I have said from the beginning, very few people besides me enjoyed this movie, seeing mainly a fault, as usual, for the slow pace and wide time in the events unfolding.
Among what was not said, many did not appreciate the lack of a consoling happy ending, a feature that instead, in my opinion, for this very reason, places Risen among the most intriguing alien films ever and not only of 2021.
Is there consistency among critics looking for consistency?
Among other criticisms, let’s broaden the discussion to include all who found debutant actress Nicole Schalmo inadequate.
Who knows, not everyone felt like watching the film to the end or had better things to do in 2021, so they did not even understand the meaning of the title Risen.
Indeed, the character of this woman, lonely and tormented all her life, becomes more alive and aware toward the end, when the totality of humanity is in utter despair instead.
As for the story’s coherence, the recurring flashbacks are sufficient to make sense of the woman’s behavior and the development of events; in fact, all of the dialogues are useful and fit perfectly within the narrative line and general distress mood.
In this regard, it is good to pay attention to the dialogues of Schalmo with his colleague Kenneth Trujillo, who, on the other hand, is a more cheerful and optimistic scientist and confident that contact with the aliens may have positive outcomes.
The man repeatedly tries to form a bond with the woman without ever really succeeding, but their collaboration will be the only real push toward the final resolution of the aliens’ true intentions.
Campbell closes the trio of the most essential characters in this story, among whom the most significant dialogues occur to shed light on the critical moments of this deadly and silent invasion.
I really enjoyed this kind of science fiction, so different from the usual special effects-filled blockbusters we are used to, although I understand how some of the audience will always prefer something more direct and spectacular.