“You expect me to believe that a flying saucer came down and took your friend away to outer space?”
Justin’s rating: It was Mr. Burns all along!
Justin’s review: I get the feeling that The X-Files kind of killed off any public fascination for UFO signings, abductions, and assorted probings. I’m sure there is still a community out there that strongly believes that aliens are snapping people up, but whether or not it’s true, we’ve never been convinced as a society that this is something that actually happens.
Doesn’t mean that there aren’t some mighty odd stories that have popped up over the years, though. One of these is from Travis Walton, a logger who claimed that he was abducted and experimented upon by extraterrestrials in 1975. His disappearance — in front of his co-workers — and reappearance prompted official investigations, public speculation, and at least one best-selling book. Everyone wondered: What actually happened? Was it aliens, shameless attention-seeking, or something else entirely?
That’s what Fire in the Sky seeks to answer by giving us all possibilities at once. Portrayed in an extended flashback (my least favorite story setup, by the way), the investigation of Walton (D.B. Sweeny), both before and after his reappearance, drives the narrative to what this movie is best known for — the scariest alien abduction scene ever. That’s the big ticket event, and the movie knows it, which is why it keeps you waiting over an hour and a half to finally get it.
It’s also why I avoided Fire in the Sky for so long. Despite some solid recommendations from friends, I needed more than “dude gets probed by E.T.” to rope me in. And even today, the only reason I saw it was to fill in another blank of well-known ’90s scifi than a personal desire to watch. And I guess I was willing to give it a shot because it had Sweeny, who I had a bit of a man-crush on during that decade for stuff like Strange Luck and The Cutting Edge.
So after literally decades of procrastination, what did I think when I finally saw it? Eh, it was pretty much as I had expected: a whole lot of boring character filler and a freaky alien ship bit. As a shared emotional trauma and nostalgia talking point, I can understand why this film gets brought up in some circles. But it’s not that entertaining or interesting, especially since the veracity of the characters and situation are so much in question — even within the movie itself — that the narrative remains vague right through the end credits.
Now, if a bulk of the movie had been Travis on the ship, evading capture and fighting back against Mr. Spock and Rygel, it might’ve been worth the price of admission. But as it stands now in an era unconcerned with alien conspiracies, I don’t see Fire in the Sky enduring into new generations.