B-Movie Inspirations: The Blackout – Invasion Earth (2019)
I found this movie on Tubi and watched the trailer. Despite it being a Russian movie, it did intrigue me. The Blackout is a 2019 Russian science fiction action thriller film. The film is about an event that suddenly plunges the entire world into darkness, rapidly destroying life on Earth except for a small area in Eastern Europe, all as a prelude to an alien invasion.
The movie starts out weeks after the events of the core plot when an alarm is triggered at the Outpost military base and soldiers take up positions and prepare for battle. It is reported that an unidentified enemy is approaching, creatures larger than humans moving at a speed of twenty kilometers per hour. Everyone in the outpost prepares for the attack, where we see a lot of hardware at the ready – heavy machine guns, tanks and automated chain guns.
Before the big battle ensues, it flashes back 24 days before where we meet a bunch of Russian soldiers doing their regular things and going about their regular lives. There is a human story for each of them but I did not want to get into that for this RPG inspiration. What really is at the heart of this movie for an RPG GM is the world building and the mythos behind it. It is actually pretty cool. So I will summarize the story without going too deep into characters, unlike what I have done in the past.
The entire world, except for the area around Moscow, and parts of Belarus, Ukraine and Finland is suddenly plunged into darkness. People just drop prone as if dead. Plains are seen dropping out of the sky. Lights go off all around the globe. Communications are down throughout the rest of the world, and only a small number of people have survived in the area that becomes known as the Circle of Life. A defensive perimeter is established around the Circle and reconnaissance groups are sent out but do not return. They find that there was an attack on Earth, leaving unknown numbers dead. To defend against the mysterious enemy, the humans mobilize an army, and outposts are built along the perimeter of the Circle.
Scout teams are sent out to run recon on the cities outside the Circle only to be attacked by people they presumed were dead. They attack savagely and with no remorse. They are not like zombies, however, because they can use tools and weapons. They are like slave-minds tied to some unknown master.
It is later revealed that some survivors within the Circle now have psychic-like abilities. It is vaguely referenced in the movie and only used in one instance.
One particular human character – Sahsa – with abilities has a strange connection to an entity associated to those behind all that is happening – an alien calling himself Eid. Eid wishes to help the humans and stop his brother Ra, the leader behind the alien invasion. Eid says that Sasha has the ability to locate Ra. Eventually Eid explains everything to the survivors.
The Aliens and the Invasion
Eid explains that he and his kind are aliens from a distant star system that has long died out. To humans, Eid explains that he and his kind would be considered gods – which I assume implies they are immortal or at the very least long lived. This goes down a pretty strong anti-creationist path, which I would expect from the Russians. The invasion plan is a pretty epic story and a perfect set up for a post-apocalyptic RPG setting. However, there are some plot holes in it, but I will try to explain them away.
The aliens want to move to Earth, because in their constellation the star Sun is still young. As Eid explains, the invasion started 200,000 years ago and it is made up of several phases.
- The first phase (Phase 0) took place 200,000 years ago, when they aliens sent a weapon to wipe out the original inhabitance of Earth and they were not humans. “Do you really think Humans build the Great Pyramids?” Yes, it goes down the Ancient Aliens trope but in reality, Earth was inhabited by a much more advanced race before Humans. In fact, Humans were the weapon sent to wipe out the Ancient Earthling race – Humans were a bio-weapon design by these aliens.
- This is where I assume that Eid has been on Earth for 200,000 years and why he sympathizes with Humans. He deployed the weapon and watched it’s own society grow.
- PLOT HOLE: They do not have FTL so the colony ship is going to take 200,000 years to get to Earth but they do have hyperspace technology to send the bio-weapon (and Eid, I presume) to Earth as the first phase of the invasion. Not sure how that works but I would presume the colony ship is just too big for a hyperspace engine.
- The Second Phase (Phase 1) is the events that occur in the movie. Eid implies there are other aliens under his command when he said he gave the order to irradiate the planet with a specific radiation that triggers a genetic encoding in every human. This causes all humanity to becomes mindless drones at the service of the aliens. This encoding is there because these aliens created humanity in the first place.
- However, because he gave the order at the wrong moment – when the Moon covered the specific area that is now the Circle of Life. This gave humanity a fighting chance.
- PLOT HOLE: Who did he give the command to and where are they now? Why didn’t they sympathize with the humans like he did?
- The Final Phase is the alien colony ship’s arrival. The ship with the alien army, according to Eid’s calculations, will be here tomorrow, after is 200,000 year sub-light journey.
Eid wants the humans help in hunting down his brother – Ra. Once they find him, he will will be able to stop the invasion. Ra is the one that controls the minds of humans drones outside the Circle. He does not know where Ra is hiding and the only one who knows is Sasha. This leads to an epic battle in Kirov, a Russian city. Thousands of human drones attacking the surviving soldiers, the two aliens at battle and the final twist revealed. Of course, Eid was not altruistic and has his own motivations behind helping the humans. None of that matters for this article because this is more about the world that was built.
While I do not necessarily enjoy the idea of a new world being built by Russians (and I am sure many would agree), this Circle of Life does not have to be there. This sets up a great setting for an RPG if you simply ignore the final act of the movie. Instead, have several ships come down and lay dormant until the command is given to open them up. Adventures could be outside the Circle of Life or inside. Depending on where you put it, there could be competing factions within the Circle of life – Government officials, Military personnel, and general civilians. Not all civilians could be complacent with the situation. You could have criminal organizations taking advantage of the people and the situations, scavengers going in and out of the blackout zones as well as general resistance that are not happy with the military government rule.
Characters could be:
- Human Survivors – As mentioned above, you can have military personnel, general civies or government officials. They could also be Humans that somehow survived the radiation trigger, perhaps they are a strain of humans that through evolution no long have the trigger.
- The Gifted – people with strange abilities granted to them at the time of the Blackout. We don’t have to limit it to psychic powers but to keep thing balanced, I would keep to one single ability per character and have some trade offs for that ability.
- Alien sympathizers – They don’t have to have the same motivations as Eid – they could truly sympathize with humans.
Of course, adventures would revolve around thwarting various plots of the invaders, destroying dormant ships, or freeing groups of drones somehow. Maybe the drones can be freed and the genetic trigger can be reversed. There is a lot of potential for adventures.
Overall, from a movie stand-point, it isn’t that bad. Lots of action and an pretty epic story overall. There is a lot in this movie and it could have been broken down into a trilogy if you really think about it. I enjoyed the general premise but felt like it was a little rushed.