Skyline (2010) / Sci Fi-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, some language and brief sexual content
Running time: 94 min.
Cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, David Zayas
Director: The Brothers Strause
Screenplay: Joshua Cordes, Liam O'Donnell
Set in modern-day Los Angeles, mysterious lights appear to drop from the sky onto the city streets in this tale told from the perspective of a group of twenty-something friends who find life getting more serious than they hoped when it appears that an alien invasion is afoot while they're holed up in a high-rise penthouse.
The plot summary above is really all you need to know. There are actual characters in the film with their own backgrounds, from the successful hip-hop mogul (Faison, Bachelor Party Vegas) cheating on his girlfriend (Daniel, Loveless in Los Angeles) to the main couple, played by Eric Balfour (The Spirit, In Her Shoes) and Scottie Thompson (Star Trek, "Trauma"), visiting L.A. who have just found out there they are expecting. But none of that really matters to the plot at large. Characters this disposable don't really merit naming in this review.
Cloverfield meets War of the Worlds in this mostly terrible b-movie injected with big budget-looking special effects (if the $10 million budget reported for this film hold true, it is at least remarkable what they were able to achieve, even though the movie still sucks) by the Brothers Strause, the special-effects-maestros-turned-directors sibling duo responsible for another sci-fi schlockfest, AVP2. Special effects are about all this film has, with so scant a story (and one that eventually leads nowhere), that one can only wonder why they bothered. Vagina-mouthed aliens run rampant over the city wreaking havoc and all the Strauses can offer is the occasional special effects shot of public property crumbling or the occasional human being enveloped. For all of their effort, these directors show that they belong behind the scenes as special effects artists, as it appears the only area of the production they put any effort into.
Although the special effects are the attraction, curiously, the film feels low rent much of the time, with digital camera textures and interior shots of a mostly barren apartment. There are probably as many shots of a person looking through a telescope at the action as there is in the action itself (none of the characters bother to check news reports or radio -- they just walk outside to look at the action). There's a twist in the story whereby one of the characters is having a reaction to his exposure to the alien that gives him some superhuman side effects but this side angle feels undeveloped, seemingly more an excuse to showcase the inky-veined special effect shots that have our protagonist give an eerie, glowy-eyed and painted-face look. This film might impress the SyFy Channel faithful once it hits the small screen, but as a major motion picture release, it's clearly not up to the snuff it promises.
If you're wondering why I would recommend Cloverfield over Skyline, the answer is simple. The makers of Cloverfield knew their limitations while those who made Skyline did not. Skyline is an attempt to make a summer blockbuster without the tools or talent to merit it. Add to this a nearly nonexistent script, flavorless actors who barely even merit network television roles, and no place to go with what little story there is. The ending in particular will leave many feeling cheated, as it doesn't really have one, and feels as though either the production ran out of money for the finale they wanted, or perhaps the true ending was deemed too dissatisfying to retain. Cloverfield may have been equally schlocky, but it did have, at the very least, a modicum of tension and immediacy that is clearly lacking from Skyline.
Logic often takes a back seat in films such as this -- why do the characters think that the top story of a high-rise building would be the safest place to hide from aliens that primarily fly and who decimate nearly every other building standing? The aliens, when shown, appear to be harvesting humans for their brains for reasons that the film can only hint at. One thing's for sure -- they wouldn't have gotten much use from the brains of those who concocted this anemic idea of a film.
©2010 Vince Leo