Reviewed by Nomad
Starring Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, David Zayas, Donald Faison
Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause
THE END OF THE WORLD IS FUCKING NIGH! AGAIN! Hollywood never grows tired of sending the planet spiraling into oblivion, and this week’s journey into darkness looks to be the first of many “end of days” scenarios for the foreseeable future. In Skyline the threat is made evident in the first five minutes of the film as a giant blue flame descends to the city streets of Los Angeles. Stare into the light for more than a moment, and unseen forces take hold. Seconds later you are hurled skyward to meet your fate. Is there any hope for mankind?! Well, no, not really.
So is this film really going to jump right into the action without any character development and rely on their WOW factor to see them through? Of course not! After our initial look into the blue lights, the story jumps backward to Jarrod (Balfour) and Elaine (Thompson) landing in LA to meet up with Jarrod’s now rich friend Terry (Faison) for his birthday celebration. What follows may have you yawning and itchy for more alien action ASAP. The filmmakers throw real life scenarios at you by the handful, getting you firmly embedded in a mini soap opera before putting all the characters’ lives in jeopardy, hoping you will then care if someone is…say…squashed under the foot of a giant, slobbering alien. The actors are believable enough in their roles, but there is zero chemistry to be found anywhere among the couples we are to focus on. Further, when their lives are actually on the line, all but Scottie Thompson remain believable. When your day goes from nursing a hangover to witnessing a giant space ship in the sky with squid-like horrors spilling out of its orifices, I expect a certain degree of hysteria in your reactions. What we get is across the board surprise face and the occasional steely “determined to survive” scowl.
As the squiddy aliens go door to door squelching “candy gram” and three-story biomechanical walkers thump across parking lots after prey, our merry band of partiers squabble over where it is more convenient to die and make a move now and then. This is NOT to say that this film is without action; it's just difficult getting to it. The back and forth when not being attacked by things from another world is most certainly designed to make you feel for the characters and maybe wonder if one of them is going to get the rest killed, but it is badly written and more often than not comes across like your friends bitching about who gets the last slice of pizza. It lacks emotional content, and therefore, I didn’t care if their next move was to head to the roof and jump off, spreading parachute wings like Lara Croft with music by Muse following as they spiral between attacking aliens and American military forces. The rest of the time there seemed to be an alien around every corner. If they escaped an untimely demise at ground level, the things were waiting for them in the staircase. If they made it to the roof, the giant drippy bastards were climbing after them. The message that “nowhere is safe” was clear, but you get to the point where it's like Brock Sampson in a dream sequence in the cartoon Venture Brothers where he stands upon a pile of dead ninjas and cowboys with more falling from the sky, covered in their blood, and he screams, “Enough already!” The damn things are everywhere, and honestly, I got bored of it pretty quickly.
Skyline feels like two movies stapled together. One, a gratuitous orgy of alien attacks with some stunning visual effects that never lets up on the action. The other, a story of humans struggling to survive, caught between the monsters invading and their own military struggling for a foothold, and even a glimpse of hope that tomorrow they will win. To cement this notion in your brain, the sequences with special effects wizards throwing up all over the screen are bright and crisp, full of atmosphere, beautiful cinematography and superior use of light. The bits with your heroes moaning at each other mostly take place in one tedious apartment that seems fairly small for a super rich guy with scenes lit by the sun and sound captured somewhere across the room, giving an extra dose of independent movie feel with every echo and clink captured. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone said the movie was a love project from some uber talented computer artist with far too much time on his hands and a couple of Hollywood friends that was then snapped up and lengthened for a theatrical release.
For most people it’s the aliens that have driven you to sit on moist popcorn and suffer the teens texting “I dunno...where do you wanna make out next?” beside you this evening so I’ll get right to the point. For the most part there’s nothing new here, and what seems original smacks of side-scrolling video game design. The squid monsters resemble the Matrix Sentinels with Independence Day heads smushed onto the front end…at least I think that’s the front end. For all I know, they travel backward and swallow people with their asses. The design is not fantastic, often makes little sense in a shot as you can’t tell what the hell it's doing (Is it smiling? No, it's burping...no...no...it’s in heat) and is instantly recognizable as theft. The large, biomechanical walker creatures thumping through town REALLY remind me of a video game whose title I can’t recall at this time. They drool, they roar, they have Hentai tendrils for attacking Japanese schoolgirls in a naughty way. They should be awesome to watch but come off as overkill, erased by your mind five minutes after seeing them. The thing is a mess…and they are EVERYWHERE. The ships these spooky boos spill from are your standard pointy for no good reason configurations that hover over the city and are fairly unstoppable just because the writer says so. No explanation is given as to why they’ve come or what they want other than their nasty habit of slurping up every human in sight. When you finally do see what is happening to the people, it makes zero sense and will elicit either groans or laughs out of those around you. Again, it's dumb and gratuitous -- and not in that good way we love here at mighty DC.
Are there any redeemable sequences in this film which would cause me to encourage you to drop your notebooks and fly to the theater this weekend? Sadly, no, unless you REALLY have nothing better to do and are a little drunk and/or stoned beforehand (with a designated driver of course). Only the truly stoned will leave this movie going "whoa" in the dulcet tones of Keanu Reeves. There is a bit of a plot twist that smacks of potential superhero crossover greatness, but it is never used to the extent we are wishing it would, barely surfaces at all and ends in a sort of messy cliffhanger we are sure to never see the second chapter for. This is video game madness at its finest or some excellently rendered TV miniseries you’d be screaming about when it gets cancelled, even though it deserves a quick and painless death. With little substance, you don’t care who dies next while the superfluous hordes of monsters stomp on your retinas until you are bored senseless and waiting for something new on the screen. Very little of this film is an actual battle, and for most of the time you'll watch the humans get their asses handed to them, which normally would be fine. I’ve got no problem watching the human race go down in flames; I just want to point and laugh while its happening!
At the end of the day Skyline is an inside joke you are not allowed to know the back story to. For a movie with so much alien menace, there is very little fun. There is only one proper way to enjoy Skyline: on VOD or DVD from the comfort of your couch, beer in hand and pants off.
2 out of 5
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