November 23, 2010

Movie Review: Skyline (2010)

skyline1_largeFrankly, I am quite surprised by the hate that has been directed at this movie. Sure, the film is not terribly original and is certainly flawed, but it is fun and far from deserving of this vitriolic reaction. My exposure to the bubbling distaste started before I even got to see the film. One of the ushers at my theater of choice said it was terrible and one of the worst movies he'd ever seen. Granted, this type of hyperbolic speech is nothing new to this individual, it did make me curious about the experience I was about to have. It also seemed to somewhat fall in line with the buzz I saw online (in the usual places like Twitter and IMDB).

Well, I really don't know what they were watching. What I saw was a fun matinee-style alien invasion movie that did not aspire for greatness. It was more in line with simply trying to provide a fun time. In this, they succeeded. I liked what I saw and I wouldn't mind seeing more of it.

Sure, Skyline plays a little like an alien invasion greatest hits with a mixture of flavors mixed with a couple of new seasonings creating a nice meal that goes down easy without too much of that pesky thinking. No, it is not completely dumb, bit it is not exactly a thinking man's movie, unless you want to nitpick it to death.


It is true, I am not going to defend this as a good movie, but you have to recognize that not every movie is out to change the world, examine some deep truth, push the boundaries of storytelling, or target Oscar gold. Some movies merely want to have fun or entertain. This is something that seems to have gotten lost in the current movie climate. Just look at decades past and the thriving low-budget arena, the grindhouse era, and some entire companies (just look at Full Moon Pictures!). Skyline falls in line with those movies just with a bigger budget and a bigger stage.

Skyline, directed by the Brothers Strause (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem), feels a little bit like Doomsday and the Kill Bill movies. No, not in quality, but in how they blatantly incorporate a lot of recognizable bits from other movies, likely ones that the creators like or were inspired by. In the case of this film I am sure you will find War of the Worlds, V, Independence Day, District 9, The Matrix, and probably a few others that are escaping me. They add in some more comic book style influences (particularly in the conclusion) and some fun ideas like the initial attack of the human vacuums and they are off and running.

What is the movie about? Simple enough, an alien invasion. We don't get any insight into what the aliens want or why they are doing what they are doing. Likewise, we are not thrown into any war rooms and are not privy to any political or military wranglings. We are on the ground with a few people trying to survive anyway they can.


Set in Los Angeles, we begin with a couple, Jarrod and Elaine (Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson), as they arrive in the city to meet up with their successful friend Terry (Donald Faison). They party, expose themselves as pretty shallow people, a few issues are hinted at (pregnancy, infidelity) and then the world falls apart. Giant ships appear over the city and begin sucking people up into their bellies. They do this with a blue light that infects and enraptures people somehow.

Jarrod is caught in its effect, but the others are able to break him free. What follows is a series of bickering arguments, the arrival of new people to their small number, the subtraction of others. Collectively they make some bad decisions, always leading to a fun special effects sequence.

Speaking of which, the effects are executed quite well. The purpose of the occurrences within the movie do not always make sense but they always look good. I guess it helps that the director brothers come from a visual effects background.

I like the setup, the effects, the point of view, and the overall fun of the movie. What brings it down is a poor screenplay that is filled with groan-inducing lines delivered by performers who are not exactly adept at infusing bad lines with the appearance of quality. The end result is a movie I like told in a way that I don't like.

I would also like to mention the weird ending. It is my understanding that a lot of people don't care for it. I, do like it. It was unexpected and a little bizarre. Nothing wrong with that.

Bottomline. I like this movie, it is far from perfect but it is filled with energy and a lot of fun. I think the idea behind the execution is sound and better execution could have taken it to the next level, but I am not going to hold that against it. It's not worth it. I find there is plenty to enjoy as is.


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