From Nacho Vigalondo, the director of Timecrimes, comes Extraterrestrial, a comedic thriller that looks at the evolution of four people's behaviors after they learn that a giant spaceship has arrived over Madrid and that much of the population has fled, or disappeared. Unlike Timecrimes, unfortunately, Extraterrestrial doesn't leave much of an impression.
Julián Villagrán and Michelle Jenner star as Julio and Julia, who wake up together in Julia's apartment even though neither remembers the other or how they met. They soon discover the big spacecraft outside and decide to remain together, even after Julia's boyfriend Carlos (Raúl Cimas) arrives. Meanwhile, the three begin to suspect that Julia's strange next door neighbor Ángel (Carlos Areces) may somehow be involved. He may even be an alien. As suspicions and paranoia increase, Julio and Julia become concerned that there is no one they can trust.
I have fond memories of Timecrimes. It wasn't without its flaws, but Vigalondo developed a "complicated and twisting story of time travel, murder and deception." In my Timecrimes movie review, I also called it "one of the better time travel films."
Needless to say, I had high expectations for Extraterrestrial.
Like Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial is not a simple movie, but instead of plot turns and story complexities, the layered characters and their truths and half-truths are what drive the movie. The movie could very well be remade as a stage play - and in fact be better than the final product here - as aside from a few CGI shots of a spacecraft in the distance, Extraterrestrial is primarily set in an apartment and involves the characters talking to one another. Arguing. Debating. Sometimes flirting.
Extraterrestrial works for a while, with the peculiar nature of how the characters came to be a mystery that keeps things interesting. But the movie is about how quickly a group of people can spiral out of control when mistrust is introduced, and Vigalondo never completely sold me on that aspect. The mounting suspicions among the characters is intriguing and entertaining at first, but by about halfway through the movie, when things start blowing up in their faces, it becomes clear that the movie is never going to ascend to be something more. While Villagrán and Jenner have good chemistry together, Villagrán becomes increasingly annoying to the point where he is no longer a relatable protagonist.
The biggest issue is that Vigalondo, who also wrote the movie, fails to establish Extraterrestrial as a comedy early on. Though lacking grit, it plays out more like a dramatic thriller at the beginning. Only as things get crazier and crazier does it become clear that Vigalondo never intended Extraterrestrial to be taken very seriously. It's a big disappointment. The cheese-ball ending is especially deflating, as it forced me to ask myself why even bothered in the first place.
Extraterrestrial offers an interesting premise and begins strong, but it slowly devolves into something that is neither thrilling, dramatic or funny. It's a disappointing follow up to Timecrimes.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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