Skyline

Skyline

Skyline
Rating:

Directed by Colin Strause, Greg Strause . Starring Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins, David Zayas, Robin Gammell , Tanya Newbould, J. Paul Boehmer. Written by Joshua Cordes, Liam O’Donnell.

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‘This movie should be working´, I kept thinking to myself during Skyline, a Cloverfield-like alien invasion film (minus the shaky cam stylistics) that follows a small group of survivors as they witness the destruction of Los Angeles by an otherworldly threat. But Skyline simply doesn´t work, and it´s at times unbearably bad; the half-star rating is just for the film´s final five minutes, when it finally comes to life.

The concept is solid: during an alien invasion, we follow a group of incidental characters who know little of the grand scale of the invasion and are just fighting for personal survival. We see what they see from a penthouse apartment: huge alien motherships hovering above LA, blue beams abducting thousands of people, alien creatures roaming the streets, military efforts to stop them, which mostly fail. And we know what they know, which is next to nothing.



But for this concept to work, we must care about the characters, and the filmmakers must generate some suspense surrounding their situation. Neither of these things happen in Skyline, and the result is an inept and frustrating bore.

The first 15 minutes are, perhaps, the most painful. After a brief alien invasion intro, we´re treated to an incredibly bland roundup of the entirely uninteresting characters: Jarrod (Eric Balfour) has flown to LA with his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) to see his friend Terry (Donald Faison). They and assorted friends (Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins) spend the night at Donald´s apartment. These scenes – poorly directed, acted, and written – are only watchable because we know what´s coming next.

That would be…the alien invasion! Great! We watch a whole bunch of CGI spacecrafts and monsters blowing shit up through the apartment window. And then…the characters figure out that the aliens are monitoring the buildings, so they shut the blinds. And talk about what to do. Should they stay in the apartment? Try to flee? No consensus is reached.

And there´s your film, folks. A group of uninteresting and unlikable characters sit around and yell at each other while trying to figure out what to do. In the meantime, all the interesting stuff is happening elsewhere. It takes direction of great ineptitude to provide zero suspense in the midst of an alien attack, but that´s what we´ve got courtesy The Brothers Strause. The directors´ previous film, Aliens vs Predator: Requiem, delved into so-bad-it´s-good territory, but Skyline is just a total bore.

And yet, if you can somehow make it to the end of the film, you´ll see something…interesting. Here, finally, the film does something different – not good, not satisfying, just finally something – a plot development after 80+ minutes of boredom. This is a rare film comprised entirely of a single act – setup, setup, and setup – and then when something finally happens, it ends abruptly. Good for a laugh if nothing else.

The special effects are impressive: shot for just $10 million by directors and visual effects artists The Brothers Strause, the ever-present CGI work is just as good as films that cost ten times that to make. The Brothers and their company Hydraulx also worked on the (very) similarly-themed Battle: Los Angeles (also terrible); the producers of that film, which cost $70 million, filed suit against Hydraulx citing conflict of interest after learning about the production of Skyline.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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