Yeah, that's right... Greg Strause and Colin Strause, the dynastic duo that brought us Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem have returned to diversify their resume greatly, getting the hell away from those monstrous Aliens who want to hunt and dismember us all and take over the planet with... Skyline a film that features a bunch of hunting, dismembering Aliens who... oh, you get the idea, damn it!!!
Here's the thing, though... The siblings with the lofty stage name are not best known for a lesser sequel to Alien and Predator. Not around Hollywood, anyway. Actually, these guys are known as incredible special effects creators, famed for working on many of your favorite films from Titanic to The X-Files: Fight the Future to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Avatar to Iron Man 2 and many, many more!
NOW how much would you pay?
Well, as stated above, the answer is ten million... mostly of their own money! The light-bulb-over-the-head idea being that if they can contribute to other people's films and help make them leave footprints on the asses of the public, a film of their own might leave their boots firmly stuck somewhere in the audience's digestive tracts! Fox may have given them their directorial shot, but not the suit-free budget or lack of attached strings to really make it all happen in any truly great way. Now... gaze upon the Skyline!
Sadly, while Skyline is, most often, a treat for the eyes, it's not much in the brains category... which is ironic, considering the fact that this alien invasion thriller puts great focus on human brains... arguably more than even Return of the Living Dead does.
Eschewing the whole "Found Footage", shaky camera style, the Strauses give us a third-person view that follows a core group of young people who are pawns in a struggle between Earth and its Alien Invaders. Young couple Jarrod (likeable Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are on their way from New York to Los Angeles to visit Jarrod's movie industry success story Best Buddy Terry (buff Donald Faison) in Los Angeles for his birthday. He's got a very hot lady love in Candice (Brittany Daniel) and an even hotter assistant in Denise (Crystal Reed) and he's got sights on bringing Jarrod out to California so that he can become (wait for it, wait for it, wait for it) a Special Effects Designer!
Yeah, those Strause brothers are breaking molds ALL OVER the gosh darned place! Did I mention that writers Liam O'Donnell and Joshua Cordes are also both Visual Effects technicians? Well now I have.
So a night of partying ensues (meaning for our main characters, not our writers and directors, though who knows) and everything goes swimmingly (except for a noise complaint delivered by David Zayas' security guard Oliver). Then, as if on cue, a bunch of Alien Invaders show up in Los Angeles early the next morning, sucking human beings into their mother ships and basically ruining their whole weeks, man! I tell you, if I had a nickel for every massive party I've been to that has been screwed up by UFOs, man, I could make my OWN movie. At least... I think they were Aliens all those times.
Interestingly, these Alien Jerks have this special hypnotic light that humans are attracted to, like some interstellar mosquito lamp. Once the human prey gets a good look, they undergo some mental and physiological changes that seem to make them WANT to be abducted by aliens. What else it does to them... we don't really know for sure.
Herein lies one of the bigger complaints about Skyline. Some plot elements are very well set up within the first act so that once they come to fruition later on they make perfect sense. Other elements pop up with the same wink and nudge from the filmmakers, but simply don't add up. It's possible they honestly meant to set more up for us but just forgot, or its possible that these writers and directors were too close to their production to recognize the obscurity of a lot of these parts.
Many who are lambasting this film will tell you that it simply doesn't make sense because it's a stupid, stupid movie. To be fair, there is a lot about this film that is well thought out, even though a great many parts fail to fully flesh-out. Are there stupid parts? Sure there are. There are also moments of poor acting and slip shod directing here and there! However, it's not markedly worse than most of the Hollywood "Spectacular" flicks that are churned out with much more in the way of special effects and action than plot or intelligence! Hell, it's a butt-load better than a lot of the big-ass blockbusters that both suck dollars from the box office and... just plain suck.
Like those big blockbusters, many of which Strause, O'Donnell, Cordes and Strause (sounds like a law firm) actually worked on, Skyline looks fantastic. The special effects and CGI are fantastic, from the truly frightening cyborg aliens to the aerial dog fights to the battle sequences, it's all amazing to look at. A certain airplane explosion, while ridiculous and impossible, is particularly awesome from an eyes-open, brain-off standpoint.
That's obviously the main issue here, though... like any of these "apologize-to-your-brain blockbusters that look great, they just aren't smart enough to maintain the full experience. Does the fact that this film was made by aspiring filmmakers with their own money, effects and script (in Greg Strause's apartment) mean it should be graded on a curve? Well, it's certainly noteworthy, but the shortcomings are still the shortcomings.
The cool parts are still cool, however, and it's nice to see Donald Faison in a more dramatic role for a change. It's just too bad the stabs at developing his character (and others) in this short time come off as incomplete and uninspired. While the writers and directors try hard to explore what the human experience of going through something like this would be, this never truly comes across and instead feels more like an experiment in seeing just how much WORSE things can get, scene by scene to the point that it's almost comical. This might all have been saved by the ending, but the cliffhanger (yes, it sets up a sequel) feels a lot like more of the same. It's bleak and dark with fantastic effects but no real sympathy or endearment.
Still, it's impressive that these guys did it themselves and made it look as good as it does. With the right care and elaboration, this could have been a very good film. As it is, if you lower your expectations and go in for the spectacle, Skyline can be exciting to watch, if ultimately bleak and emotionally muted. On the whole it's worth somewhere between Two and one half Stars and Three Stars out of Five. I'm feeling generous and because I walked out of the theatre feeling satisfied enough, I'm going with the three. By NO means is this one of the year's best films. Many may continue to deride the film and pick it apart, possibly more harshly because these guys made Skyline outside of the usual, normal studio system. It's not great... but, again, looking at the big-budget Sci-Fi thrillers with the massive special effects and absolutely no brains whatsoever, it's surprising that this one is getting the shellacking it is when so many others are the subject of champagne toasts at pretentious bars. Ah... such balance! Ah, screw it. Alien Abduction indeed! See you survivors in the next reel, I guess!
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