Fire in the Sky
|Fire in the Sky|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Robert Lieberman|
|Produced by||Joe Wizan|
|Screenplay by||Tracy Tormé|
|Based on||The Walton Experience|
by Travis Walton
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||Steve Mirkovich|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$19.9 million (domestic)|
Fire in the Sky is a 1993 American biopic science fiction mystery film directed by Robert Lieberman and written by Tracy Tormé. It is based on Travis Walton's book The Walton Experience, which describes an alleged extraterrestrial encounter. The film stars Robert Patrick in the leading role as Walton's best friend and future brother-in-law, Mike Rogers, and D. B. Sweeney as Walton himself. James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Scott MacDonald, Henry Thomas, and Peter Berg also star.
Fire in the Sky was a modest box office success and met with generally positive reviews. The film's critical standing has since diminished, although its alien abduction scenes remain well-regarded. It was nominated for four Saturn Awards.
On November 5, 1975 in Snowflake, Arizona, logger Travis Walton (D. B. Sweeney), and his co-workers—Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer), David Whitlock (Peter Berg), Greg Hayes (Henry Thomas) and Bobby Cogdill (Bradley Gregg)—head to work in the White Mountains.
Driving home from work, the men come across an unidentified flying object. Curious to learn more, Walton gets out of the truck and is struck by a bright beam of light from the object and is sent flying several feet backwards as if pushed by an unseen force. Fearing Walton was just killed, the others flee the scene. Rogers decides to go back to the spot to retrieve Walton, but he is nowhere to be found. Making their way back to town to report the incident, the loggers are met with skepticism, as they relate what sounds like a tall tale to Sheriff Blake Davis (Noble Willingham) and Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner). They are suspected of foul play despite no apparent motive or knowledge of Walton's whereabouts.
After interviewing the men, Lieutenant Watters realizes there is a great deal of tension between Walton and Dallis, leading him to believe this might be a murder investigation. The Lieutenant also discovers a tabloid newspaper in their truck with headlines about aliens, hinting that they used the article to concoct their story. The men are accused of murder and are threatened by Travis' brother Dan Walton (Scott MacDonald). The men are offered a lie detector test and take it. After the testing is complete, Rogers is outraged that the results are not shared and he and his guys refuse to come back the next day to take it again. However, after the men leave, the man who administered the tests tells the Sheriff and Lieutenant that with the exception of Dallis' test (which was inconclusive), the other men seem to be telling the truth.
Five days later, Rogers receives a call from someone claiming to be Walton. He is found at a Heber gas station, alive but naked, dehydrated and incoherent. A ufologist questions Walton but he is thrown out and Walton is taken to a hospital. Rogers visits Walton while in the emergency room and ends up telling Walton that he left him after he was struck by the light but came back to get him. Walton appears very angry by this and turns away from Rogers who blames the whole incident on Walton for getting out of the truck. During a welcome home party, Walton suffers a flashback of the abduction by the extraterrestrials.
In his flashback, he awakens inside a slimy cocoon. Breaking out of its membrane, he finds himself in a zero-gravity environment inside a cylindrical enclosure whose walls contain other similar cocoons and he is horrified to inadvertently discover that one contains the decomposing remains of a human body that has apparently been dissected and is still semi-conscious. As he makes his way to a neighboring area featuring what appear to be several humanoid space suits, he is apprehended by two extraterrestrial creatures. He is unwillingly hauled down corridors full of terrestrial detritus such as shoes and keys before arriving in a bizarre examination room. The aliens strip him of his clothes and cover him with an elastic material that pins him painfully to a raised platform under an array of equipment and lights in the middle of the room. Despite Walton's terrified screams, the aliens pitilessly subject him to a traumatic, excruciating experiment in which a gelatinous substance is shoved into his mouth, his jaw is clamped open, a device is inserted into his neck and he is forced to endure an ocular probe while fully conscious during the experience. Afterwards, Walton loses consciousness until finding himself back on Earth disoriented, abused, and severely traumatized.
While interviewing Walton, Lieutenant Watters expresses his doubts about the abduction, believing it as merely a hoax. He notes Walton's newfound celebrity because of the tabloids' attempts to profit from his tale. The film culminates with a denouement between Walton and Rogers. The closing titles state that in 1993, the loggers were resubmitted to additional polygraph examinations, which they passed, corroborating their innocence.
- D. B. Sweeney as Travis Walton
- Robert Patrick as Mike Rogers
- James Garner as Lt. Frank Watters
- Craig Sheffer as Allan Dallis
- Peter Berg as David Whitlock
- Henry Thomas as Greg Hayes
- Bradley Gregg as Bobby Cogdill
- Kathleen Wilhoite as Katie Rogers
- Georgia Emelin as Dana Rogers
- Scott MacDonald as Dan Walton
- Noble Willingham as Sheriff Blake Davis
The film is based on the book The Walton Experience by Travis Walton. In the book, Walton tells of how he was abducted by a UFO. Walton's original book was later re-released as Fire in the Sky (ISBN 1-56924-710-2) to promote the book's connection to the film. The real Travis Walton makes a cameo appearance in the film.
The film's alien abduction scenes bear almost no resemblance to Walton's actual claims. He reported that he flew the ship at the end of his encounter, which was not portrayed in the film. Scriptwriter Tracy Tormé reported that executives found Walton's account boring, and insisted on the changes.[page needed]
The special effects in the film were coordinated by Industrial Light & Magic, and the cinematography was handled by Bill Pope. The original music score was composed and arranged by Mark Isham. The audio soundtrack was released in Compact Disc format on March 30, 1993.
Fire in the Sky met with generally favorable reviews. John Ferguson of the Radio Times wrote: "Lieberman wisely concentrates on the emotional impact of the event on a close-knit circle of friends and family, although the eventual revelation of the abduction is genuinely scary. DB Sweeney shines in the lead role and there's good support." Entertainment Weekly journalist Owen Gleiberman suggested that "It almost doesn't matter if you don't believe any of this stuff. For a few queasy minutes, Fire in the Sky lets you meditate on the aliens in your imagination. Critic Roger Ebert said: "The scenes inside the craft are really very good. They convincingly depict a reality I haven't seen in the movies before, and for once I did believe that I was seeing something truly alien, and not just a set decorator's daydreams." He felt, however, that "there's not enough detail about the aliens, and the movie ends on an inconclusive and frustrating note."
Chris Hicks of the Deseret News found that Fire in the Sky "leans in favor of believers, suggesting that all of this really did happen. And some of it is fairly entertaining." He disliked the film's sober tone, however, and would have preferred it be "more humorous or satirical, without necessarily sacrificing the sense that these characters believe it all." Critic James Berardinelli applauded the "stunning, gut-wrenching realism" of the abduction scenes, but called the film a "muddled-up mess" that "can't make up its mind whether it wants to be horror, drama or science-fiction." The X-Files creator Chris Carter was impressed by Patrick's performance in the film, which led to his casting Patrick as FBI Special Agent John Doggett for the series' eighth season in 2000.
Critical opinion of Fire in the Sky settled into a mixed range: the film holds a 39% approval rating at review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 appraisals, with an average score of 5.1/10. Nonetheless, its alien abduction scenes are considered by many to be highly effective. In 2017, Paste named Fire in the Sky as one of the 25 best science fiction films on Netflix.
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- "Fire in the Sky". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
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- Clark, Jerome. The UFO Book, Detroit: Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- Spry, Jeff (March 16, 2018). "Fire In The Sky still a frightening flick at 25". Syfy. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
- Ferguson, John. "Fire in the Sky". Radio Times. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
- Gleiberman, Owen (March 26, 1993). "Fire in the Sky". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved June 16, 2018.
- Ebert, Roger. Fire in the Sky review, Chicago Sun Times, accessed 22 June 2007.
- Hicks, Chris (16 March 1993). Review, Deseret News.
- Berardinelli, James. Review, 1993.
- Robert Patrick, All Movie Guide biography
- Brownfield, Troy (November 8, 2009). "Ten alien abductions, from 'V' to 'X-Files'". Today. MSNBC.
- Fire in the Sky from Rottentomatoes.com URL accessed 4 November 2018
- "The 25 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix". Paste. February 5, 2017. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
- Fire in the Sky - Awards