The setting: Roswell, New Mexico, 1947. The situation, two aliens have crash landed on earth, and they are at cross purposes. One wants to destroy the world, and the other doesn't. The result: slickly produced mediocrity.
That may seem a harsh assessment, but Roswell: The Aliens Attack, a TV movie from the nineties, while displaying high production values and better than decent acting, has a story and characters as plain as an old shirt, and barely enough dramatic tension to notice.
The male and female aliens end up in different areas of the desert, owing to their escape pods being flung far apart after their mid-air collision with a secret Air Force jet. The male, played by Steven Flynn calls himself John Deerman, cadging his name from a John Deer tractor he happens to see. He falls in with Katie (Kate Greenhouse), a war widow who works in PR at the local military base. Actually, she accidentally hits him with her car and for some reason takes him home instead of to a hospital. John seems to basically be a good guy, even though he impersonates a government scientist to infiltrate the base, and reprograms the nuclear bomb there to have hundreds of times the normal yield.
Why would he do that? Because the mission that he and the female alien Eve Flowers (Heather Hanson) were sent to earth for is to destroy all human life, and they're going to use the jazzed up nuke to do it. However, John starts to have emotional feelings for Katie, and to have regard for humanity. Flowers (no reason is given for her choice of name) has no such attachments, and continues doggedly to pursue her mission as planetary pest controller, wiping out all human life at the bidding of an anonymous client. She also impersonates a federal official, and gains access to the base, to finish the work that John has started and abandoned. Working to discover both of them is the sinister Agent Phillips (Brent Staits), the typical movie spook who will stop at nothing to protect his country, even threatening to take away Katie's son, Sam, if she doesn't cooperate with his investigation.
Unfortunately, the whole thing is much less exciting than it sounds here. The writer is evidently more interested in the blossoming yet tepid love between John and Katie than in exploring the more intriguing aspects of the story. Who is the mysterious client that wants to depopulate the earth so that they can move in? Is humanity a lost colony of John and Flowers' race as John believes? Can we expect further attempts to attack the earth if this one fails? These questions are either ignored or quickly elided, and thus much material that could have captivated the audience is missed, as is any potential captivation.
Little effort is expended to build or maintain tension, and what tension exists is often broken by drowsy domestic scenes, either Katie mooning over John, or John being avuncular and providing guidance to the young and fatherless Sam. One is hard pressed to decide whether Flowers or Phillips are the true villain of the piece. Characters' motivations are often cloudy or obscure, and the overarching conflict seems somehow lifeless and drab. As far as alien invasion films go, this one is quite milquetoast.
This is not to say that Roswell: Aliens Attack is entirely without merit. The performances are pretty good across the board, hampered only by the clearly Canadian accents that the performers can't quite hide. The chemistry between Flynn and Greenhouse is real, even if there isn't much emotional fire underlying it. Brent Staits is sufficiently authoritarian and cold as Phillips, and Heather Hanson is a serviceable femme fatale. But that's part of the problem here. Everything is merely serviceable. There's no sense that the producers are reaching for excellence, even if they fail. That kind of effort and stretching for greatness would have inspired more respect than the workmanlike film we have here. Rent this one.