Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, some language, and brief sexual content.
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, David Zayas, Donald Faison
Written by: Joshua Cordes/Liam O’Donnell
Directed by: The Brothers Strause
Full disclosure: I absolutely loathed Aliens Vs. Predators: Requiem with the fiery passion most reserve for things like famine and genocide. Although the original had been pretty bad in its own right, the sequel not only managed to be worse, but managed to be worse EVEN THOUGH it had an R rating and could have balls. Suffice it to say, that movie did endear me to the Brothers Strause (individually known as Colin Strause and Greg Strause). When the eerie yet still lame teaser for Skyline hit earlier this year, I was intrigued like many; the visual of a giant alien spaceship sucking up humans like dust in a rug would catch anyone’s eye. And it was great…until I found out that the Brothers Strause was behind it. Then the trailers that had the actual dialogue started airing. What should have been a surefire fun alien invasion movie was quickly turning in to what was sure to be a disaster.
So, is Skyline as bad as critics and moviegoers have been saying? In a word…yes. But at the same time instead of being a merciless and tedious trainwreck, it turned out to be a mercilous and “so bad it’s actually kind of fun” trainwreck. To put it bluntly, and to put another nail in the coffin of any credibility I was hoping to ever attain, it entertained the hell out of me. Despite all its flaws and despite the fact it’s just a hodge podge of better Science Fiction movies sewn together like a cinematic Frankenstein, Skyline turned out to actually be…surprisingly…fun.
Skyline stars Eric Balfour (what rock did he crawl out of?) and Scottie Thompson as Jarrod and Elaine, a couple that head to Los Angeles to hang with Jarrod’s best friend (and super rich SFX guy apparently) Terry (Donald Faison) on his birthday. A big party ensues and it’s a rip roaring good time, save for the fact Elaine is pregnant and upset at Jarrod because he got offered a job by Terry that would force them to move in L.A. as opposed to slumming it in Brooklyn.
Angst ensues, but that all gets pushed to the side when mysterious lights begin to shine all over the city. These aren’t just your run of the mill blue lights though; these are special alien lights of doom that attract humans like moths to a bug zapper. When you look directly into them, the aliens take control of your body and you are sucked into their giant alien ship. But let’s say you are smart enough not to stare; well the aliens have backup in the form of crazy alien creatures who venture out on foot looking to suck up as many people as they can for their world domination plan of…collecting brains…for…uh…fun I guess?
Regardless, Jarrod, Elaine, Terry, Terry’s girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel), and Terry’s assistant/lover Denise (Crystal Reed) are trapped in Terry’s sweet electronically controlled apartment. It’s a fight for survival from here on out, as they try to decide whether to hide in the loft or make a run for it, all the while the aliens continue to suck up more humans and battle the United States Army who is starting to mount an attack.
There is nothing original about Skyline whatsoever. Watching this movie invokes images of things you have seen that were far better; the alien invasion is Independence Day-like (they even split it up into three days), the aliens themselves look like something out of Starship Troopers and The Matrix (those robot things that chase after the ships in the real world, whatever they are called), and the whole human survival element feels just like a zombie movie. Hell, even the evil vacuum plan just reminded me of Spaceballs when they try to take Druidia’s air. Anything you see in Skyline will just feel like a rip-off.
And even for a science fiction movie that may or may not be going for the cheese, Skyline has some non-existent characterization. You get about ten minutes to meet the main characters, and in that time you don’t really get a real reason to root for any of them, save for one of the characters being pregnant which is just a cheap ploy. The writing is horrific on top of that and contrary to what Jessica Alba believes, that affects how the acting goes. It’s hard to deliver stupid lines of dialogue in any believable way, and while the principals try, it just doesn’t work. Balfour is bad, Thompson is even worse, Daniel just is kind of there, the only two who are lucky enough to rise above it are Faison and Zayas. And even then, not by much.
So the acting is bad, the screenplay is terrible (how is the electricity still on when aliens are smashing EVERYTHING?!?), and it’s just a potpourri of other ideas that have been done way better. Yet…there is some good to be found here, legitimately and if you love train wreck bad movies. First, the special effects are actually pretty decent. Sometimes it’s cheesy and derivitive design wise, but for such a small budget (low millions) it’s pretty damn impressive and that shouldn’t be a surprise since the Brothers Strause are normally FX guys (they’ve done work on Avatar, amongst other FX-heavy films). The whole war between the aliens and the army is pretty interesting and fun, even though you only get bits and pieces (the Cloverfield effect of concentrating on just the tiny instead of the broad). And the ending…the ending is completely ridiculous and makes little sense since you aren’t told or shown anything about the aliens, but it’s so over the top that it’s kind of endearing in a weird way. And even though I have said the acting and dialogue are horrifically bad, it’s also comically bad and if you’re into over the top stupidity then this is your joint. Skyline has been getting beaten down by all too eager critics, but there are bits and pieces to love here, both in a real way and in a “cinematic masochism” way.
Even though I was entertained by it, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend anyone see this, especially in a theater. Skyline walks a tight rope between “cheesy fun bad” and “oh my god make it end bad” and it all depends on how you like your movies and how well you can take it. If you have my taste and the ability to find joy in the stupid, then I’d say matinee or DVD just to see how crazy it really is. If you don’t have my taste, then you’ll probably want to avoid this and do a bunch of drugs to forget this movie ever happened.
BONUS LITMUS TEST:
Here’s a quick way to find out if you’ll dig Skyline or if you’ll hate it: towards the end of the movie, Jarrod and an alien come face to face. Jarrod proceeds to beat the alien to death with his fists; no guns, no special powers, just a whole bunch of punches to its cranium. If you just giggled at that thought, it might be worth a glance (at least that scene).