“Skyline” is entertaining for the most part
Directed by Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Written by Joshua Cordes, Liam O’Donnell
Skyline begins with a pre-credits sequence that looks like it could have been ripped directly from a decidedly average 90’s X-Files episode and culminates in a flurry of muddled CGI that feels more computer game cut-scene (think Resistance or Gears of War) than Hollywood blockbuster.
In between, it largely occupies a place reserved for straight-to-DVD sci-fi /horror fodder: clichéd lead characters – check, limited location spaces – check, ridiculously sincere but hilarious dialogue – check, hell even the camera work is generally decidedly uninspired and forgettable. But there are elements here that obviously strive for greater things and it’s these little touches that have allowed Skyline the privilege of a big screen outing rather that simply limping onto your nearest rental shelf. The music, whilst hardly note-worthy, is composed and recorded with blockbuster lambast. The action, when it does kick in, steals just enough slow-mo and ridiculous close-calls from Michael Bay to warrant money-shot potential and the effects are actually surprisingly good all things considered.
I say all things considered, but it should come as little surprise since this show is not only directed by The Strause Brothers (AVP : Requiem) who hold an impressive resume of visual effects work, but it’s even written by a pair of visual effects supervisors with no prior screenplay credits. It may explain why the soul of the movie nudges at mainstream intentions but is never able to follow through resulting in a cloud of paper-thin sentiments decorated in some visually arresting if slightly tired visuals. The monsters themselves being a perfect example of this, looking like an organic hybrid of The Matrix‘s drones, the looming insects in Starship Troopers and, again, pretty much anything from Gears of War.
But it’s not all bad. It’s clear that The Strause Brothers are trying as hard as they can, bless them, and I must admit that I think I was the only person in the world who actually preferred AVP : Requiem to its precursor, Alien VS. Predator. Not because it was a better film, necessarily, but rather because it had some character and inventiveness to it, no matter how misguided, unlike the entirely flavourless and blandly forgettable original. So I’m not adversely against their style or back-catalogue and I must admit that despite feeling somewhat bored throughout the middle slump of Skyline; I was, for the most part, entertained.
Mainly because I was intrigued to see how the characters could be written out of such an inescapable situation. You’ll all have seen the posters and trailers by now so I hardly need to go into detail – it’s very simple – aliens are bringing all kinds of shit down on LA and we follow a small band of friends who are trying to survive. What the trailers don’t hint at is that the entirety of the film takes place entirely either within, around or on top of a single apartment building and most of that is within one flat. You see, the budget for Skyline was $10,000,000. An incredibly modest amount for an invasion flick when you bear in mind that Independence Day came out 14 years ago and cost $75,000,000. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of Skyline’s budget was divided between securing some impressive attack scenes, paying the tab on Donald Faison’s (Scrubs) cheque and obtaining the rights for 30 Second to Mars hit ‘Kings and Queens’.
But when you can make a film like Gareth Edwards’s sublimely affecting and engrossing Monsters for a mere $15,000 you have to wonder what’s going on in the world. An unfair comparison, perhaps, since Skyline isn’t concerned with character development, mood, environment or intelligent, mature pacing. It has one concern only and that’s to play in the big leagues as a thrilling alien-invasion action / horror / sci-fi extravaganza and at the end of the day, despite succeeding in spurts here and there, it largely falls on its ass as a memorable entry into the genre.
If you need a film to turn your brain off to and laugh along to (despite its serious intentions) then you could do far worse than be entertained by Skyline. Just don’t go in expecting District 9 Part 2 because sadly that’s not what you’ll get.
(Postscript: leading man Eric Balfour’s (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) simply ridiculous pencil moustache and goatee is worth the price of admission alone.)
– Al White.