I had such high hopes for Skyline heading in. After witnessing the incredibly cool teaser trailer, I was pumped. Under the mindset that the film would have its maximum effect on me if I was genuinely surprised with what was in store, rather than having the best bits ruined in the trailer, I decided on the spot that I would avoid any other promotional material for it best I could. Well, it turns out I chose the wrong film to put all this extra effort into, since at best, Skyline is a mediocre alien invasion flick that borrows heavily from nearly every other successful film in the genre. At worst, the film is a god-awful mess.
The film starts off promising enough, with the appearance of strange blue orbs descending from the heavens above that proceed to suck up any individuals unfortunate enough to be in close proximity. Worse is yet to come though since these blue lights are only the entrée to a full-blown alien invasion comprised of all manner of extraterrestrial nasties. Now a group of survivors are stuck in a high-rise penthouse suite and must work together if there’s any chance for survival. Sounds intriguing right? I mean who doesn’t love an alien invasion film? Well unfortunately Skyline falls flat on its face in an astoundingly wide variety of ways. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; let’s first take a look at what little it does right.
First and foremost, Skyline attempts to replicate the blockbuster alien invasion flicks from yesteryear in order to deliver a straightforward slice of entertaining escapism. There’s no deep-seeded message or thought provoking themes here, instead we’re left with a streamlined narrative that exists solely to provided an impressive number of entertaining set pieces. And in this regard, it does somewhat succeed. Although since the entire film is set within the confines of an apartment complex, there are never really huge, epic action sequences to enjoy which is disappointing, though it does still have its fair share of cool moments.
Directors Colin and Greg Strause both have backgrounds in the visual effects department, and these skills are clearly shown off on screen. With a modest budget of ten million dollars, the Strause brothers have effectively delivered a final product that exceeds its budget in terms of the spectacle on display. Daunting alien mother ships fill the sky, giant beasts roam the streets and airborne creatures dart through the air, constantly searching for hapless victims to abduct. This truly is an alien invasion on a grand scale, the only problem is, we never get to leave the freaking apartment complex! Sure, we get slight detours to the rooftop and the parking garage, but this isn’t any fun. I want to out there in the midst of it all, I want to feel dwarfed by the epic scale; I don’t want to be stuck in an ugly, drab apartment for nearly the entire duration. And I understand this single location is used to save some bucks, but this really ends up making the entire film an excruciating tease.
To make matters worse, while we have to spend nearly the entire run time in a charmless location, we also have to put up with some horribly uninteresting characters, paired with some terrible acting. If we’re going to be stuck in a room with a small group of characters then the film best make them likeable. Instead, Skyline offers up a generic group who we know very little about, and who we most definitely don’t care for. Eric Balfour is uninteresting and stale as an expecting father, while Scottie Thompson fares slightly better as his more sympathetic pregnant wife. Donald Faison is hilariously miscast as the rich, arrogant… well to be honest I have no idea what he was meant to be. Did I miss something here? Was he a rapper or an actor or something? It doesn’t matter, because whatever his mysterious occupation may be, you won’t be able to help but chuckle as he struts around wearing his best ‘I’m a badass’ scowl. As for Dexter’s David Zayas, well the less said about his eventual appearance the better. His lazy portrayal of the familiar bossy, angry guy who’s always on edge is an unimaginative case of seen it all before. And in case that wasn’t enough, there are so many poorly executed lines to enjoy that it’s hard not to wonder if the film you’re watching was originally intended for a straight-to-DVD release.
An alien invasion film is only as strong as the design of the invading creatures themselves, and in this department Skyline offers up a mixed bag. I dug the bulk of the creature designs, despite the fact that the main airborne creatures look like rejected biological versions of the flying robots in The Matrix, with the added bonus of a vagina-like face. (Slight spoilers ahead) However my main issue with these interplanetary villains is their apparent invulnerability. It’s actually legitimately frustrating to watch these creatures be defeated, only for them to simply regenerate their wounds afterwards. This virtually eliminates any suspense the action sequences could have and instead practically sucks any remaining fun out of the film (end spoilers).
And then there’s the ending. All I can say is what the hell was that? You’re really going to make us sit through this entire film and then top it off with the most unsatisfactorily conclusion conceivable? I don’t want to say too much for the benefit for those few individuals left out there who still have intentions in checking out this outrageous disappointment, but I will say that it literally wraps up nothing and leaves us with a horrifying threat of a sequel. Although based solely on what’s on display here, I highly doubt any sequel will ever see the light of day.
So that’s Skyline, I’ll sure think twice before getting excited over a movie next time. There was so much potential here but unfortunately the final product ended up resembling a straight-to-DVD Scyfy channel movie. I’ve still got to give the directors kudos for milking every penny in order to create the illusion of a higher budget film, it’s just a shame that the behind the scenes story is infinitely more interesting than anything that wound up on screen. Regardless, there are a handful of fun moments amidst what is otherwise a frustrating and very flawed film.
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