A film review by Craig J. Koban November 26, 2010
2010, PG-13, 92 mins.
2010, PG-13, 92 mins.
Eric Balfour: Jarrod / Scottie Thompson: Elaine / Brittany
Daniel: Candice / David Zayas: Oliver / Donald Faison
is one of the most punishingly awful alien invasion films that I’ve seen. The most memorable
thing that I will take from it is that I wanted it to be over so I could
leave the theatre at about the ten-minute mark.
Even worse is that the astronomically inept screenplay is merciless for bombarding viewers with characters that are real
double-threats: they are completely unlikable yuppies and are
mind-numbingly stupid. They fit so neatly into the “Idiot Plot
Syndrome” that you grow to admire their galactic incompetence.
Few films have moronic characters making every unconditionally
idiotic choice available to them in response to an extra-terrestrial
invasion like SKYLINE offers. This
might be the first invasion film where you want humanity to die and die
can forgive a film for plagiarizing (ahem, paying tribute to) other
similar sci-fi films like INDEPENDENCE
DAY, CLOVERFIELD, WAR
OF THE WORLDS and DISTRICT 9,
but when teeth-grating derivativeness morphs into insipidness and unintentional
hilarity throughout, then you know you're in trouble.
Scary monster flicks should frighten and thrill, but SKYLINE is so
criminally lacking in even minimalist levels of suspense that you want to
reach out and check the collective pulses of everyone on board that made
this film. There is no
tension, no sense of urgency, and, most importantly, no chair-grabbing scares to
be had all throughout SKYLINE, just an unwatchably forgettable film about
dumb characters we don’t care about at all doing inexplicably silly
things that lead to them being served up for the alien slaughter.
film begins with a scintilla of promise: brain-hungry (no,
seriously) aliens from outer space come to earth and attack without
warning. No wasteful
exposition, no rationale as to why, no nothing; they just come within the
first few seconds of the film in the form of brilliant, Na’vi blue
streaks that come from the night skies and hit the ground in L.A..
The “heroes” (ha-ha-ha!) are Jarrod (Eric Balfour, so laughably
stiff and mannered that an inanimate Ken doll could have emoted more) and
his girlfriend, Elaine (the ravishingly easy-on-the eyes Scottie Thompson)
awake from their beds at the wee hours of the morning to the light.
When Jerrod opens the blinds and peeks outside, he is penetrated by
the otherworldly blu-rays and starts to undergo some sort of grisly
transformation (his eyes gloss over, blue veins protrude everywhere, and
he becomes zombified). When
his friends help him against his will to not look at the lights anymore,
he reverts back to his human self.
opening few minutes are interesting, but then the screenplay makes an
unpardonable mistake by flashbacking “15 hours” into the past to
provide some of the most uninspired and boring character development
segments you're likely to find in a film all year.
After Jarrod and Elaine – who are vacationing in California and
are unexpectedly expecting a child together – we meet a bunch of their
West Coast friends that are equally tedious.
There is Terry (Donald Faison) an old friend of Jarrod’s that has
become a big success in California; his blonde floozy of a wife (Crystal
Reed); and his equally slutty mistress.
They all hook up and gather in character building moments that
involve Jarrod and Terry reconnecting, Terry offering a job opportunity
for his buddy, Jerrod having issues with coming to grips with fatherdom…and
all other forms of inexcusably watch-checking melodrama that guarantees
that you will not feel any remorse for any of them when the aliens come a
the head-scratching trivialities of these cardboard cut-outs masquerading
as characters is SKYLINE’s most abortive creative decision, and when the
film’s script brings us back to the present and begins to show the full,
earth-kicking arsenal of the alien invaders we have perhaps the only
viable sequences that show some visual interest.
The swarm of cyboric, tentacle-adorned creatures come in all forms and
sizes: some are small drones, others are multi-limbed beasts the size of
King Kong, and others zip around in smaller-ships that intercept the U.S.
military’s drones, F-16s, and stealth bombers.
They all, of course, come in the standard order, obligatory
city-sized mothership that seems hopelessly impenetrable.
this point "The Idiot Plot Syndrome” kicks into hyperspace.
It’s clearly established that staring into the alien’s LED-like blue lasers will cause nearly irrecoverable harm to humans, so
instead of staying within the confines of Terry’s high-rise condo, all
of the surviving characters decide to go outside, grab a couple of cars, and escape the city.
When this initial plan is thwarted by the sudden appearance of
gargantuan alien monstrosity, they head back inside for
cover. Yet, even when an
attempted Nuclear missile strike against the mothership fails miserably,
Jarrod convinces Elaine that they would still fare better outdoors than
inside. Now, Jarrod is either
tenaciously courageous or the stupidest hero in action-thriller history. Clearly, he is unafraid of the unrelentingly hostility and
vastly superior powers of the aliens and their crafts, but he also seems
equally fearless with going outside with his preggers wife after a nuke
has just been set off in the city. He
obviously has also never heard of radiation. Okay, the dude's an imbecile.
incompetence just stains this film: I
giggled after the nuclear warhead hit the mothership, creating an
enormous mushroom cloud in L.A., but in subsequent scenes the city looks
relatively pristine, not to mention that the brightly hued skies and
atmosphere show no outward effects of nuclear winter and/or fallout.
I also laughed at a would-be awesome moment of Jerrod picking up a
cinder block and continually bashing one of the more diminutive alien
beasties followed by him giving it a fist pummeling that is positively
uproarious. Then we are given
painfully routine segments where the characters scream “ruuunnnn” and
“noooooo” followed by quieter, introspective moments when they spew
out cookie cutter lines like, “You can’t go out there” and “What
are we gonna do now?” In
response to the latter, I suggest acting off of a serviceable screenplay.
the most alarmingly absurd moment of SKYLINE comes with its ending, which
just might be the most mind-blowingly ridiculous conclusion ever presented
in a mainstream sci-fi flick. Without
giving too much away, we do get a glimpse of a few of the main survivors
trapped with the dark, dreary, and gooey surroundings of the
mothership interior, where we see the processes involved with taking the human
captors and converting their brains into a workable fuel source (it’s
funny, technologically superlative aliens capable of interstellar,
light-speed travel must rely on slurping human brains to continue to
function). When we then see
the what happens to one key character after a – shall we say –
interspecies melding of the minds and body – SKYLINE becomes so
pitifully cartoonish that you pray it to abruptly end.
Thankfully, it does at this point.
two things are decent about this film: Scottie Thompson is a naturally
beautiful presence to gaze at and admire in the film and – at a scant,
bargain basement sum of a reported $15-20 million – the film’s effects
are competently polished and can match a film ten times its cost. The film was the brainchild of the “Brothers Strause” –
Illinois-born siblings that began their careers working on visual effects
productions raging from TITANIC, 300, X-MEN:
THE LAST STAND, FANTASTIC
FOUR, and even AVATAR.
SKYLINE is their second feature film as directors (following ALIENS
VS. PREDATORS: REQUIEM) and they show decent skills at throwing up eye candy on
someone needed to tells these guys that a workable sci-fi effort needs to
be more than just a scattershot “best-of” reel of proficient visual
effects. The effects, yes,
are good looking, but there is no wide-eyed inspiration or fruitful
imagination in them. They
linger on the screen amidst a script that is peppered by annoyingly
functionless characters that under no circumstance garners our emotional
rooting interest. So self-indulgently blinded by the quality of their
final product, the Brothers Strause have insisted that they will make a
sequel to SKYLINE even if they have to find their own money and distributors
to do so. Now that’s scarier
than the prospect of an alien invasion eradicating humanity.