Captive State hits theaters on March 15 in the US and March 29 in the UK.
There have been countless different approaches to the alien invasion story, from sci-fi epics like Independence Day and Close Encounters of the Third Kind to more personal cultural and political commentaries like USA’s Colony. Director Rupert Wyatt, perhaps best known for his work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, opted for the latter with his new film Captive State, which is set in Chicago nearly a decade after militarized aliens occupied America and tells the story of both those who are for and against the extra-terrestrial forces.
Wyatt, who co-wrote the story with his wife Erica Beeney, knew they wanted to tell a more modern, timely story through the lens of science fiction. The origin of Captive State was the idea of exploring the stories both the collaborators and dissidents on both sides of an occupied state. But Wyatt and Beeney opted not to go the route of a historical drama (which, coincidentally, he already directed in the pilot of AMC’s Turn: Washington’s Spies) and instead looked to the near future and “create this idea of we’re putting a documentary film crew into the future and we’re under occupation by an alien life form.”
If you haven’t already, watch the trailer for Captive State below:
“I wanted to set the notion of what does it mean to be under-occupation but on the footprint of America. But I wanted to do it in a plausible way and with this idea that what you see outside this window is what you get on the screen, even though in our case we’re in the near future,” Wyatt told IGN during at sit-down interview at SXSW. “It’s not unique obviously, but [this story] done less often, which is, well, what happens if we lose? The aliens are the victors. They won. They won 10 years ago, and we’re now dealing with a society that’s being rebuilt but in the guise of an ordered society, but one that’s very much where we are in a captive state.”
Though Captive State never tries to hide the fact it’s part of a very science-fiction world, it focuses much more on the human characters than the aliens. Following anti-occupier brothers Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) and Rafe (Jonathan Majors) and the insurgents they join forces with on the one side and a ranking alien collaborator (John Goodman) on the other, Captive State tells a relatively small-scale human story against this much larger post-apocalyptic backdrop.
“I wanted there to be a normality to it, and that way I could then explore characters that are less dealing with a post-apocalyptic future, but more kind of everyday people in everyday circumstances being forced to make really, really, morally, sort of high-level choices,” said Wyatt. “Are you going to be a collaborator? Are you going to be essentially somebody that is a proponent of this erosion of civil liberties, or are you going to be somebody that takes a stand and fights back, no matter what the cost? Asking that question in a contemporary American context, I think, is really quite interesting and relevant for where we are today.”
At the end of the day, though, this is an alien story — which means, yes, you will see some aliens. Referring to whether or not to reveal what their extra-terrestrials look like as “the Jaws question,” Wyatt once again went back to real-life circumstances to try to figure out what made the most sense for this movie. Originally, his team didn’t want to put a face to Captive State’s occupier, but realized once they got to the editing process that showing the invaders was necessary to show what the humans are up against. The aliens in this movie are only revealed at a few very effective moments, which borrowed from the concept that, for “an Iraqi civilian in Baghdad in 2004 … it’d be very rare they might ever see [a US soldier] pass through a street in convoy, or coming through their door at 3 o’clock in the morning. But other than that, the coalition would be sequestered and sort of not part of everyday life.”
If you do walk out of Captive State hoping for a sequel, don’t worry, Wyatt has already started thinking about what comes next. Even though Captive State is designed as a standalone story, it leaves the door open to future installments of this potentially budding franchise — and, Wyatt confirms, there have been “conversations” about doing exactly that.
“[Captive State] has a very finite ending to it that brings to a resolution the greater goal of a particular character. … [But] it’s interesting because this in some ways, has aspects of longer-form storytelling; there are multiple characters, there’s the hyper-narrative,” Wyatt said. “I think some of the characters that survive our story would go into the more global conflicts between humans and aliens — like, this is the Arab Spring and we’ll then go tell the story of the actual militarized fight-back. And then, the final film could possibly go off planet. They came obviously, from a carbon-based planet and they’ve colonized other planets along the way and so, being able to go and explore that would be great.”
For more on IGN, be sure to check out IGN’s review of Captive State below. Let us know what you think of the movie in the comments below!
Terri Schwartz is Editor-in-Chief of Entertainment at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz.