Film: Skyline **
Release Date: 21st March 2011
Director: Colin Strause & Greg Strause
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, David Zayas, Donald Faison
Reviewer: Adam Wing
You have to credit Colin and Greg Strause with guts and determination, after destroying an already bad idea with sci-fi sequel AvP: Requiem (2007), they’ve opted to take several good ideas and turn them into a bad idea of their own. Stealing key elements from War of the Worlds, The Matrix, Cloverfield and Independence Day, the brothers Strause have created a brain-sucking sci-fi spectacular, with a cast of TV regulars, including Eric Balfour (24), David Zayas (Dexter) and Donald Faison (Scrubs).
The residents of Los Angeles are awakened in the dead of night by an eerie blue light beaming through the window. Like moths to a flame, they are drawn in before vanishing into thin air. They soon discover an otherworldly alien force swallowing the entire population, though to be completely honest, ‘hoovering up’ is probably a better way to describe the events that unfold.
Now our band of B-list actors - make that survivors - must fight for their lives as their world unravels around them. Who or what are these extraterrestrials, and more importantly, will Greg and Colin Strause actually attempt to answer any of the questions they present us with, or will they just drown their movie in attractive visuals and bombastic attacks on the senses? At the very least, you have to credit Colin and Greg Strause with barefaced cheek.
If you’re looking for well-written characters, you’re better off renting Batteries Not Included. Erik Balfour’s Jarrod gets the lion’s share of screen time, the rest of the cast are called upon to make dumb decisions and expose themselves to certain death. If you’re trying to avoid entanglements with unknown alien invaders, who you’ve already established can’t see or hear you when you hide, would you really consider getting into a car and escaping by boat? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge admirer of grit and determination, and I’m guessing the whole ‘hiding in the closet until it all goes away’ thing doesn’t make for great television, but in hindsight, the ‘escape by car’ thing doesn’t work out too great either – talk about drawing attention to yourselves.
David Zayas has the best line; playing the part of a building supervisor he comes out with the immortal line “all the way to the top is the safest place I can think of”. Quite how trapping yourself in the penthouse of an apartment complex with flying aliens is considered to be safest place beggars belief, but follow him they do, presumable because he’s wearing a shirt and tie and speaks with conviction.
The majority of the cast can be considered alien fodder at best, picked off one by one, devoid of personality and anything approaching charm. The only other character worthy of note is Elaine (Scotty Thompson), Jarrod’s girlfriend and soon-to-be mother of child. Worthy because of the part she plays in a muddled and baffling conclusion, not to mention one of the most cringe-worthy screen kisses ever to grace the big screen.
It’s not all bad, and if you can rely upon the brothers Strause for two things, it’s arresting imagery and inventive special effects. The opening act is at a push, intriguing, but the rest of the movie opens itself up to alien invasion, airborne attacks and Starship Trooper style brain stealing. It’s big and dumb but occasionally fun, hitting the right notes when it comes to action spectacle and screen thumping kick-ass.
Entire scenes continue to jar - like Elaine’s decision to follow her alien infused boyfriend just because he caresses her face – but thankfully they’re followed by explosive CGI and pulsating face-offs. If you can ignore the ridiculous conclusion you might find yourself having some fun, Skyline will never be considered high art but it’s a whole lot better than most critics will have you believe.
AvP: Requiem put the boot in to a dying franchise, and Greg and Colin Strause should be applauded for that - not ridiculed. Skyline is a massive step-up, borrowing heavily from vastly superior offerings, but retaining a sense of independence thanks to some accomplished visuals and fast paced set pieces.
It won’t be remembered in years to come, but for lightweight, dumb ass escapism, you could certainly do far worse. Now if anyone could explain to me the apocalyptic ending (should that be appalling?), I’m all ears.