Saturday, March 26, 2011

Fire in the Sky

Fire in the Sky (Robert Lieberman, 1993) I once remarked to a family in distress that they'd gone through "everything except alien abduction." Not the most comforting of consolements.

But, if you believe Fire in the Sky (and that's not easy...), alien abduction can be pretty dull.

"Based on the (proverbial) True Story"—but trumped up by screenwriter Tracy Tormé from Travis Walton's account, evidently because studio executives found the story boring—Fire in the Sky tells the story of Walton's disappearance in 1975 around the area of Snowflake, Arizona.  What's different about the Walton story is that it was witnessed by several of his co-workers who were clearing brush for the Forest Service.*  They didn't actually see Walton lifted by the bright blue-green light into the bright disk that attracted them to the area.  He was lifted a couple feet into the air, then knocked to the ground, prompting his friends to gun their truck and get the hell out of the friends they were.  They came back for him...but the disc and Walton were gone.

Cue the theremin.

The initial phone call to the police merely said that Walton was "missing." The abduction story didn't come up until they actually met with the local constabulary to report that he was gone.  An extensive search ensued, lasting five days, until Walton called from a phone booth to ask to be picked up at a gas station—he was fully clothed, wearing the same clothes as the last time he'd been seen, and not naked as the movie depicts.

So...what happened?  The "story" had attracted attention, not only from police, but also "ufologists" from around the country, who flew to Arizona as if it was Mecca.  The story became bigger than the described spacecraft (8 feet high, 20 feet across) could contain.

And that's what Fire in the Sky is about—the turmoil on the ground between the friends and Walton's relatives and the police and the "experts."  It's a tale of suspicion, speculation, confused facts, guilt, and accusation....with elements of torture by black-eyed beings that looked like fetuses.  Of course, the latter is the most interesting part, so they save it for near the end—with Travis kept in a huge honey-combed hive until he escapes and starts making the aliens' lives difficult.  It bears little resemblance to his story, which involves actually moving the controls of the ship, and visits by smiling human-resembling "ambassadors."  The movie's sequence involves horror elements and probes and sticky shrouds.  The rest resembles a Lifetime movie with aliens instead of oxycontin.

Whether it's true or not seems irrelevent.  The story and the movie made from it is dull.  It only leads to wondering why advanced aliens choose to scope out the limited life-forms on Earth in rural areas at night, why they avoid cities or cultural centers (maybe they saw how well it went in The Day the Earth Stood Still?) or even people with a phD or a Master's anything.  There's only one thing sure, and that is, while the upper 1% of this country have 38% of the wealth, the lowest seem to get all the alien abductions.

* One of the things that brings up red glowing pulsating flags is that the job they were doing was running behind in schedule, and the crew had been working quite long hours to make up time.  There was some speculation that the whole thing was cooked up because the job couldn't be finished, and the disappearance was a convenient distraction.  But, that the contractor never invoked the "act of God" clause to get out of it, flies in the bug-eyed face of that theory.

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