Review: 'Skyline' Is A Bore & Brain-Sucking Dreck

by Drew Taylor
November 12, 2010 12:34 AM
9 Comments
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In the opening moments of "Skyline," the new bargain basement sci-fi flick from the geniuses behind "Alien vs Predator: Requiem," glittery plumes of otherworldly mist drop into stock footage of a placid, sleepy Los Angeles. The goo is a hell of a light show, turning night into day, and puny humans unfortunate enough to gaze upon its bio-luminescent brilliance are immediately sucked into the void, either gobbled up by a myriad of spindly or crunchy creatures, or vacuumed into the mothership like an intergalactic Dyson.

And this is where the gee-whiz spectacle begins and ends.

"Skyline," for all its "let's put on a show" low-budget gumption, doesn't have the storytelling skills or the basic narrative fundamentals to make any of the flashy mayhem (or mundane human drama) compelling in the slightest. Instead, computer-generated doo-dads zip across the screen without much dazzle, employing the workmanlike sizzle of a top-shelf video game. For all its sizzle, it doesn't mean a damn thing.

Most of this has to do with the lumbering human storyline. Eric Balfour plays a childhood friend of Donald Faison's character. Faison has become some kind of a big shot, since we spend eons admiring his shiny sports car and luxurious post-millennial Los Angeles loft. His specialty or skill is never defined, but Balfour, supposedly there for Faison's birthday, is quickly offered a job as a special effects technician (it should be noted that the directors, "The Brothers Strause" as they're credited, make their bread and butter as special effects technicians). The morning after the big birthday bash, the aliens invade and all hell breaks loose. The dangling dramatic beats that never really get resolved or even investigated include Faison's dalliance with a much younger assistant (Crystal Reed) and Balfour's girlfriend (Scottie Thompson) learning she's pregnant. These characters are so flat that they fail to register even as disaster movie archetypes, so when they're snatched out of the sky or smashed by some beast, there's no pause. They might as well be made of the same weightless pixels that the spaceships are; they're certainly given the same emotional weight and depth.

It was reported early on that much of "Skyline" was filmed in the directors' apartment, which read like an exaggeration, but seems to very much be the case. For most of the movie, the unlikable characters are trapped in a pre-fab apartment as they watch Los Angeles get pulverized by outer space villains. Unlike "Signs," "Cloverfield" or Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" remake (which this movie borrows from, shamelessly), "Skyline" lacks a definitive point of view. If we had stuck with our characters, seeing what they see, then there might have been something kinetic and kicky and fun, running from apartment to apartment, trying to puzzle out what's going on. But since the action often cuts away, showing more large-scale destruction, we're zapped out of the manufactured immediacy. We can see that it's all happening not in a downtown Los Angeles besieged by gooey monstrosities, but on some geeky guy's computer screen. Most movies wear their low-budget ingenuity as a badge of honor, although with "Skyline" it feels more like a shameful scarlet letter. The entire time you'll be asking yourself: Is this all they could come up with?

The reason for the alien invasion in "Skyline" is never explicitly explained, although at some point we find out that they really, really like eating human brains (perhaps as a nod to the 1958 gem "Fiend Without a Face," but that's probably giving the filmmakers too much credit). All of the creatures -- the ones that zip around the sky like the squids from the "Matrix" movies and the towering behemoth that stomps around and has a Lovecraftian maw -- have a hankerin' for human gray matter. You can practically hear the Scarecrow singing, "If I only had a brain..." It's a sentiment that tidily summarizes the film itself: if it only had a brain it might not be such a worthless hunk of junk, all flash and noise but no soul. Although it should be said that the last five minutes, in which the special effects take over the entire movie turning it into some kind of bizarro outtake from "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," kind of has to be seen to be believed for its sheer, WTF-worthy absurdity. Beyond that, "Skyline" is a bore. It's all been there, abducted that. [D]

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More: Films, Review, Genre Films, Skyline

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9 Comments

  • pramod | March 22, 2011 2:16 AMReply

    Its a good movie. Cool CG. Aliens at daylight are very interesting. Characters are well built and actors are good too.

  • Wheezy | March 21, 2011 10:38 AMReply

    Will someone please speak English so that I know whether this is a good movie or not and if I should even bother getting it on DVD? Some of the reviews on here sound like some Luther Campbell track.

  • Marky G | November 20, 2010 11:51 AMReply

    Well thought out and written review. I think im still going to see this movie just because i love watching disaster movies and alien movies :)

  • boo | November 12, 2010 7:35 AMReply

    I have to concur. Went drug my non science fiction loving girl with me she slept through most of it. Just lacking story. Seems like some video game I've played before in the 80's cant put my finger on the title but it was definitely the storyline of some video game. Maybe some writer will put some story into it, and some studio will pick it up and make a good sequel- probably not, just boo. Think I'm going to LA to the strouse brothers place, like the kids from south-park did for some bad movie and ask for my money back.

  • Batista | November 12, 2010 4:13 AMReply

    Figured as much.

  • donkeynuts | November 12, 2010 2:49 AMReply

    please tell me the last ending is the same as it was in the script with...
    *****SPOILERS****************

    a Balfour brained alien saves his girlfriend from a massive brain harvesting plant and runs off into the night, er... whateverthefuck. thus leaving it open for a sequel.

    ***********END SPOILERS***********

    Cause that read like a maniac's idea of how to end a film and i'm hoping that batshit crazy stuff made it.

  • lolitahaze | November 12, 2010 2:43 AMReply

    you do know that all three of the other movies you referenced in this article, the ones with viewpoints, were also bad movies?

    just because they have a viewpoint, doesn't mean they don't suck.

  • Justin | November 12, 2010 1:39 AMReply

    Sooo...Balfour strikes again!

  • BradZuhl | November 12, 2010 12:58 AMReply

    How many of these Turdtanics have to capsize and sink before studios wise up and spend their money on better films?

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