DVD Review: Extraterrestrial

You would think in a movie called Extraterrestrial that the main focus of the film would be about aliens, but that’s actually not the case when it comes to writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s latest release. No, Extraterrestrial is actually a romantic comedy of sorts, though I use that term softly, as the film doesn’t really strike any major comedic or romantic chords like one would expect from a romantic comedy.

This could be seen as a failure by most, and there are times when it comes close; however, there’s something about this film that just makes it interesting to watch. If I had to try and put my finger on it (which I do) I’d say that it’s the chemistry of the three main characters, as well as the unique, somewhat sweet story that’s trying to be told while an alien invasion is happening in the background.

That’s right, there are actually no aliens to be found in this film, and no over the top action sequences; so if you’re looking for that, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Instead, Vigalondo has chosen to focus on three people, and how their lives all become intertwined through multiple misunderstandings and mishaps, as well as this alien invasion happening in the background.

The concept here is quite interesting, and Vigalondo sets it up fairly well, where Julio (Julian Villagran) wakes up half naked in an unfamiliar bed. He hears noises coming from the other room, and when he goes to investigate, he finds Julia (Michelle Jenner) in a nightshirt making coffee. The two have an awkward “morning after” conversation, with both unsure of what may have happened the night before. Trying to make small talk with Julia, Julio looks out the window and asks why there’s nobody outside. It’s then that he and Julia notice the giant UFO floating above a building in the distance.

Now while the set-up worked well, it’s the execution of the second part of the first act that slows things down a bit. There’s a lot of awkward talk between Julia and Julio due to the situation they woke up in, and they’re just kind of sitting in this apartment trying to figure out how big the UFO is. There’s definitely a pacing issue of sorts that many will find boring, but things do pick up a bit once Julia’s boyfriend enters the picture – ah, a twist!

Yes, when Carlos (Raul Cimas) shows up the story starts to get a bit more interesting (on a curiosity level, at least) and the lies and misunderstandings begin to build up which makes the situation more fun – not really all that funny, but at least more fun. When Carlos and Julia’s nosey neighbour Angel (Carlos Areces) shows up, things get even more out of hand, especially after Julio lets it slip to Angel (who also has a thing for Julia) that he and Julia may have hooked up.

Most of the film takes place in Julia’s apartment, though there are a few times when characters go out on the street, or take a quick drive through the empty streets of Spain. There are no overly glamorous shots of the country, but that’s not what this movie is about. Extraterrestrial aims to keep a smaller focus on these characters, which helps make their situation seem that much crazier in the midst of an alien invasion. And it works, for the most part, though some will definitely grow tired of the lack of any major comedic moments, and the slow pacing the pushes the film forward.

The chemistry between Jenner, Villagran and Cimas is strong and entertaining, as they have some fun conversations that really show how things are getting out of hand as time goes on. Villagran does a great job of trying to balance out all the lies that are piling up, while also trying to hook up with Julia. Jenner is incredibly beautiful, and plays her part really well, with some fantastic facial reactions that say more than any words could in certain situations. One character that I couldn’t stand was Angel, and while I get that he’s there to be an annoying neighbour, he’s just so overly annoying that you really just want an alien to show up for the simple purpose of disintegrating him, then they can leave, mission accomplished.

Vigalondo is a really talented filmmaker who has some incredibly original, and quite awesome ideas that I hope to see more of in the coming years. While I’ll mention them again in the special features section, it’s worth noting that there are four short films of his found on this disc, and three of them are just brilliant, really showcasing just how much of a comedic talent this guy is. Unfortunately, there’s just something off about Extraterrestrial that makes it a movie that’s hard to fully recommend. It’s clear early on that there are a great deal of people out there who simply won’t have the patience for it, and even some of those who do still won’t find this unique, soft take on a romantic comedy all that interesting.

Overall, I liked what Vigalondo was trying to accomplish with Extraterrestrial, and give him kudos for going out there and trying something different. It works well on some levels, and not so well on others, though the final act (for those who make it there) is actually quite fun, and helps bring everything that’s happened together quite well. Check it out if it sounds interesting, just also be aware that this is a Spanish film, so unless you speak Spanish, you’ll have to read along.

The video quality of the film is actually quite sharp. This is a film that uses cooler colours for the most part, and the world outside has an overcast look to it, but all in all there are no complaints to be found as far as the video transfer goes. The audio is also well done, and while most will be reading the dialogue, it still sounds perfectly clear when it’s spoken by the actors, and it’s mixed well with the sound effects as well.

The special features found on the disc are as follows:

Making-of Extraterrestrial – This feature comes in at 24 minutes and is worth checking out if you’re a fan of the film. The cast and crew talk about working on the film, their characters and the story, all while clips and behind-the-scenes footage plays throughout.

Short Films of Nacho Vigalondo – There are four short films here, with each being under five minutes in length. The first is Marisa, which comes in at just under four minutes; the second is called Sunday, which is a funny take on a UFO sighting made by a couple while at a picnic; the third is called Changing the World, which is a great idea focusing on the creation of a new universe/timeline when it comes to us making decisions; and the fourth is called A Lesson in Filmmaking, which is the shortest, yet quite brilliant in its delivery. All are definitely worth checking out.

There’s also a Poster Gallery to be found for the film.

Nacho Vigalondo is a talented filmmaker that definitely has a bright future ahead of him. His latest film Extraterrestrial is a mixed bag, though I’d say it’s worth checking out just for the simple fact that he’s trying something different and it works more than it doesn’t – and sometimes that’s reason enough.

Sayaka Producciones Presents Extraterrestrials. Written & Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo. Starring: Michelle Jenner, Julian Villagran, Carlos Areces, Raul Cimas, Miguel Noguera. Running time: 94 minutes. Rating: PG-13. Released: July 17, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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