Review: Skyline

Eric Balfour and girlfriend Scottie Thompson (Really? That’s a girl’s name now?) are in LA for a party held by their friend-turned-success Donald Faison (Yes, the guy from “Scrubs”). In the early hours of the next morning, however, they are awoken by great beams of light shining out of the sky. After staring too long, Balfour starts to go all zombie-like, before being pulled away just in time. Apparently there has been an alien invasion, as giant ships hover the sky, and bodies are being sucked up into the sky. Our central couple, Faison, and several others from around the apartment building (including roles for TV actors David Zayas and Brittany Daniel) have to stick together and formulate a plan as now alien robot thingies start hunting for more bodies.

This 2010 alien invasion flick from The Brothers Strause (whose “Alien vs. Predator: Requiem” wasn’t terrible) has gotten an absolute caning from critics. Maybe I’ve lost my touch, but I actually kinda liked it. Sure, the FX are clearly of a 1996 standard (i.e. Not bad, but not good enough), but pretty much everything else worked for me here. In fact, this film does right what “Monsters” attempted to do and failed (Then again, critics loved that one whilst I was indifferent to it, so perhaps it is just me). Certainly it’s “Cloverfield” done right. It’s not on the level of Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds”, but it’s a decent B-movie that really only suffers from a bit too much ambition. It tries for “ID4” spectacle, but despite $10 million spent on FX, the stealth bombers etc. just aren’t up to snuff. Some smoke and dark cinematography occasionally come close to hiding the mediocre FX, but not quite. That’s a shame, because it otherwise works rather well on smaller-scale scenes (It has a fast pace for starters). It would be an even better film if its aims and budget were similar. Mind you unlike “Monsters” and “Cloverfield”, at least this one gives us plenty of aliens. I appreciated the aliens in this, because not only did there look to be different species amongst them, but for the most part they are a mixture of animal and robot yet not in any clearly identifiable way. They don’t really look like anything. It always pisses me off about alien movies, when you can see a clear influence. Why should aliens be made to look so recognisable to things that exist on our planet? Obviously, it’s hard not to given our limited imaginations, but still, I appreciate the effort here. Rob Bottin’s work in “The Thing” for me is the yardstick (despite being a mediocre film), because although they worked out that it was replicating humans and animals, in its purest form (when that guy’s chest explodes) it was indescribable and unrelated to anything on Earth.

I also think the characters, stock or not, are more interesting than in either of those aforementioned films (which is good given this is almost a one-set film with lots of characters talking away, rather than predominantly action and spectacle). The weird thing is, most critics of this film like the FX more than anything else in the film. They must be blind. When you add the mediocre FX to what are essentially a bunch of mostly TV actors, it does make one think that this could easily be found on the small screen (Even Spielberg has “Falling Skies” on his résumé).

I also would like to rake cinematographer Michael Watson over the coals. He does his best in hiding the rough FX, but why is the sky green at times here? Because Watson is a dick, that’s why. It looks alien before the aliens even turn up. And yes, if filmmakers keep doing it, I’ll keep complaining about it. It’s unnatural and stupid.

But overall I liked this, so sue me. What more were people expecting from this film? It’s perfectly OK if you ask me (much better than the highly-touted and stupid “District 9”), especially considering the filmmakers had no major studio help at all (By design. They cited studio interference as a problem on “AvP: Requiem”).

The screenplay by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, has earned some ire for cribbing from every sci-fi film under the sun, but I honestly only noticed a couple of steals, and so what? It’s an alien invasion movie, the only real room for ingenuity is if they actually film the story the way it would really happen. That is, we’d all be dead in a millisecond (No, Team America will not save the day, nor will The Fresh Prince and that guy Meg Ryan didn’t want to marry). And that would make for a short film, unfortunately.

Rating: B-


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