between series UFO(s) and Infiniti on Canal+, Parallels on Disney+, The Seven Lives of Lea on Netflix or the movie Flashback on Amazon Prime Video, a wave of French genre productions has been surging for several months on streaming platforms. Fantastic and science fiction works are still not legion in France, the new creation of Simon Astier is therefore presented as the last UFO to be listed in the hexagonal serial catalog. And if the formula of Visitors turns out to be less original than expected, it is nonetheless a fun pop-retro ballad.
After Stranger Things who trivialized his fantasized old school filter, Visitors opted in turn for an ultra-referenced retro design with a nostalgic aim. With a less meta and philosophical approach thanUFO(s)the episodes compile more or less subtle nods to the classics of the 80s and 90s which they invoke as totems and pastiche for parodic purposes: ET The Extraterrestrial by Steven Spileberg thus becomes Fred the Extraterrestrialwhile Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of X Files give way to the absurd duo of Muller and Scolla.
The plot also takes up the narrative clichés of the genre, whether with the nocturnal discovery of the crashed spaceship in the forest, the disappearances of civilians who do not worry many people, the inexplicable phenomena which affect the population or the eternal shenanigans of the ‘army.
Return of the Boy Bands
Fortunately, the series is not content to pile up lazy tributes and grotesque caricatures already rinsed out by Les Nuls, Kad and Olivier or Le Palmashow (also present in the cast). More meticulous than it seems, Visitors takes the time to take care of its artistic direction and the synth pieces of its soundtrack, little flashy, but which facilitates immersion without denouncing the economy of means. Simon Astier also demonstrates a commendable attention to detail, in particular with his old-fashioned commercials, the many “easter eggs” scattered across the screen or the kitsch reworking of the Warner TV logo for the opening of the episode set in the past.
To complete the panoply of the vintage SF series, the episodes also favor prostheses and other mucous substances with digital effects. In addition to giving itself a well-made artisanal cachet, the series draws at the same time from the dripping, slimy imagery of Fly Where The Thingwhile presenting repulsive creatures close to the facehuggers ofAlien to perfect the cinephile decal. With these different patterns, Simon Astier has made an entertaining and sometimes playful pop patchworkbut unfortunately not always striking or relevant.
The passion in the eyes
war of the Worlds
The writing of the younger Astier is less corrosive and elegant than that of his elder, but Simon Astier handles absurd and inept humor with skill. Without falling into the series of clumsy and mind-numbing gags, the screenwriter chiseled the dialogues, sharpened the lines and refined his comic tempo, in addition to relying on a cast adapted to this more lunar register. We note in particular Tiphaine Daviot, formidable in her role of unbearable wife, Julie Bargeton, brilliant as a jaded ex and I don’t care, or Vincent Desagnat, almost too comfortable in his jumpsuit of geek on edge.
This tongue-in-cheek humor bordering on surrealism echoes Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy (to which the first episode briefly alludes). Visitors borrowed the frame from Hot Fuzz with another disillusioned cop and brainless, unwelcoming co-workers in a remote small town, the group dynamic of old pals worn down by life and the alien invasion way The Last Pub before the end of the worldas well as the unprecedented crisis managed with as much seriousness as in Shaun of the Dead. The events take place in Pointe-Claire, a fictitious Franco-American town that one would think came out of the depths of Kentucky, in particular for the attire and the vehicles of the local police.
Between FBI: Missing in Action and Captain Marleau
With its short sitcom format and only eight episodes on the clock, the series avoids getting bogged down in its schoolboy humor while allowing itself to chain events without downtime, although the story still lacks a bit of euphoria and energy to be really gripping. But the beginning of the story refuses to take itself seriously, the sixth episode marks a welcome and quite surprising break in tone. The camera movements are less clean and wise, the frames are destructured, the editing gets carried away and the narration breaks its linearity to cause confusion and a paranoid and psychotic atmosphere that the first episodes did not foreshadow.
Despite several agreed, even expected reversals of situations, the mid-season is above all an opportunity to reveal the real issues of the story, to go beyond the caricatures of the characters, but also to build a real galactic mythology (and not only for the joke). Season 2, if ordered, thus promises to push the apocalyptic delirium even further and find the balance between low-brow humor and cosmic epic. This first batch therefore serves more to take the temperature before Simon Astier gets down to business.
Three episodes of the Visitors series every Tuesday evening on Warner TV from May 10, 2022
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