Moscow, a city of a proud past upon which has been built a neon-lit future of glittering skyscrapers, hovering drones and holographic entertainment suddenly and shockingly curtailed on the night of the blackout, the world going dark as electricity fails, aeroplanes dropping out of the sky across the globe and eight billion people falling unconscious, never to awake.
An oasis of light in a world of darkness, the “Circle of Life” encompasses portions of Russia, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Belarus and the Ukraine beyond which all contact has been lost with the world beyond, but something has survived out there, those venturing into the quarantine zone encountering armed resistance from the few survivors who attack en masse, driven by a mindless compulsion.
Military expeditions are sent to gather intelligence, among them friends Oleg and Yura, Alyona, a doctor, and journalist Olga (Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Lukerya Ilyashenko and Svetlana Ivanova), but they are overwhelmed, their position hopeless; instead, within their ranks an individual who identifies himself as Id (Artyom Tkachenko) appears and claims the blackout is a prelude to invasion by an alien race who long ago laid claim to Earth and that they must trust him if anyone is to survive.
Directed by Egor Baranov and Nathalia Hencker from a script by Ilya Kulikov, The Blackout: Invasion Earth (Аванпост) is the latest big-budget Russian science fiction epic to receive international release following Attraction (Привлечение) and Guardians (Защитники), focused on the military response in a siege situation but moving towards the realms of cosmic horror with the arrival of the mothership and its sinister cargo whose design marks it as spliced with the twisted DNA of H R Giger’s creations.
Never capturing the weight of the premise, the population of Earth culled to only one survivor in a thousand, the rest drones controlled by an alien intelligence which has shaped the evolution and belief systems of humanity yet left them with a propensity towards violence, The Blackout: Invasion Earth parallels the themes of Quatermass but any approach to self-reflection is swiftly abandoned in favour of action scenes whose technical achievement cannot disguise how repetitive they become, bravado and hardware trumping intellect.
With civilians mown down as cannon fodder, the lead characters are barely more developed, nor do Id and his counterpart Ra inspire the required menace or mystery to carry the heavy narrative burden placed upon them: “I am the god you deserve” is Id’s claim, but looking more like fugitives from The Matrix than ancient aliens responsible for the pyramids the half-formed ideas fall on burned earth rather than fertile soil.
The Blackout: Invasion Earth is available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital platforms now