South Africa. 2017.
Director/Screenplay – Grant Humphreys, Story – Michael Harrison, Grant Humphreys & Grant Knight, Producer – Michael Harrison, Photography – Michael Harrison, Grant Humphreys, Grant Knight & F.W. Stark, Music – Josh Cruddas, Visual Effects – Digital Forces 3MT (Michael Harrison, Grant Humphreys & Grant Knight). Production Company – Digital Forces Films.
Marco Torlage (Cameron/Camiru), Ronan Quarmby (David), Brad Richards (Garabon/Graeme), Barbara Harrison (Ellen/Elle-chanan), Dick Sorensen (Devenera), Tsenolo Neo Mofokeng (Warehouse 10), Virgilio Da Silva (Irekhull), Claudia Noble-Areff (Reveniah), Annebell Van Heerden (Sarah), Tyla Goodwin (Shanna), Nancy Bingham (Nancy/Granny B)
Earth has been invaded by alien ships that hover in the skies. The populace flee from attack by ordinary people that are being controlled by the aliens. In the midst of this, David has been separated from his girlfriend Sarah. While trying to find her, he has fallen in with the younger Cameron. Cameron then reveals to David that he is an alien and that the purpose of the alien invasion is because they are searching for him. David is sceptical of this but Cameron’s abilities, including being able to make them invisible to pursuers, convinces him. Cameron is travelling to be reunited with his guardian Ellen. In the alien fleet overhead, the leader Devenera demands that his acolytes intensify the search for Cameron. His subordinate Garabon comes down to Earth, pretending to be a man displaced by the invasion as he befriends Ellen and joins her on the journey to reunite with Cameron.
Taking Earth is a South African-produced science-fiction film. It is the brainchild of Grant Humphreys and Grant Knight, who formed Digital Forces in 1999 and spent the near-two decades in between shooting commercials and segments for South African sports and tv programs. It was their long-time dream to branch out and make a work of fiction. The film was shot on a budget of around $250,000, which is usually the amount afforded for a low-end B-budget film in the US, and represents a considerable ambition given the scope of some of the effects.
The basic set-up of Taking Earth reminds of the Michael Bay-produced I Am Number Four (2011), which had Alex Pettyfer as an alien teenager in hiding on Earth as aliens come searching for him. Taking Earth keeps the same basic premise of a teenager with powers (neither film does much to explain what these powers are and why they are key) in hiding on Earth accompanied by a guardian as alien bad guys come to capture/eliminate him. There endeth resemblances however. The bigger budgeted I Am Number Four had the far more limited horizons of merely being set around a guy, a girl and the stuff of Young Adult drama along with the addition of a handful of pursuing alien nasties.
By contrast, the lower budgeted but far more ambitious Taking Earth takes place amid an entire invasion of the Earth, catastrophic mass displacement of people, with the aliens sending the body-snatched out to hunt for one individual and climaxes with him wielding his powers to repel the invasion. You can bet if I Am Number Four has been made with this kind of ambitiousness of scale, it would have not ended up with the middling box-office reception that it did.
In many regards, particularly some of the writing (like more explanation of who Camiru is and the threat he presents to Devenera) and conception of the alien villains (who are never more than standard bad guys in capes), Taking Earth is still a B movie. That said, you have to admire the enormous ambition and skill of the filmmakers when it comes to some of the things they manage to pull off. You can see that this has been a real labour of love rather than a work that has just been quickly tossed off by B-budget producers.
The visual effects, especially considering that they were all delivered by the three-person team of Digital Forces, Humphreys, Knight and Michael Harrison, are extraordinarily well accomplished, including dazzling shots of airplanes crashing down between the buildings in metropolitan streets and especially the models of the alien spaceships hovering in the sky and landing. I’d definitely be interested in seeing more from Digital Forces.