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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dark Skies is an alien invasion movie that, while not great, is at least subtler and more character-oriented than many in the genre; the focus is on solving problems rather than killing monsters. But it still has plenty of scary scenes, including a few jump-shock moments and some nightmare-like imagery (including blood, guns, and death). Most of the movie's content issues surround a secondary character, an older teen who hangs around with the 13-year-old main character: He introduces bad language ("s--t," "p---y," etc.), porn (a very tame but still inappropriate videotape), and drugs (it's suggested that teens have smoked pot). Overall, the movie feels like a throwback to moody 1970s and 1980s-era films, but it doesn't have much substance.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In troubled times, Daniel Barrett (Josh Hamilton) can't find a job, and his wife, Lacy (Keri Russell), must keep the family afloat as a real estate saleswoman. On top of that, intruders seem to be breaking into their house, making messes and stealing photos, as well as building bizarre sculptures out of kitchen items. Soon their youngest son, Sam (Kadan Rockett), starts exhibiting strange behavior, and hundreds of birds suddenly slam into the house. And older son Jesse (Dakota Goyo) begins to find teenage life extraordinarily difficult. A visit to a mysterious specialist (J.K. Simmons) confirms that aliens -- called "the greys" -- have been visiting, and that there's not much they can do to stop a potential abduction. Or is there?
Is it any good?
Without the aliens, the movie might actually have made an interesting drama. Director Scott Stewart, formerly of the San Francisco special effects house The Orphanage, has previously made two great-looking but jumbled movies, Legion and Priest, both drawing on strong ideas from the past but failing to make much new out of them. He continues in that vein here, although DARK SKIES is at least subtler and more character based than expected.
With the aliens, however, it appears to draw heavily on movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Poltergeist, building a mystery and making use of silences and empty spaces in addition to small character dramas. Unfortunately, it all adds up to very little. The story is oddly pessimistic. Nothing is learned, no victory is achieved, and even the expected "twist" ending is curiously dull. It's as if the aliens have already won.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dark Skies' violence. How much is actually shown? How much is threatened, but not shown? Which is scarier, and why? What's the difference between the simple jump-shocks and the more nightmarish imagery?
What's the relationship among the four family members like? What mistakes do they make? What do they do right?
What makes alien invasion movies so popular? How does this one compare to others you've seen?
- In theaters: February 22, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: May 28, 2013
- Cast: Dakota Goyo, J.K. Simmons, Keri Russell
- Director: Scott Stewart
- Studio: Dimension
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Space and Aliens
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, terror throughout, sexual material, drug content and language - all involving teens
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.