In the first scene of Skyline, our young heroine Elaine rolls out of bed, stumbles into the bathroom, and vomits into the toilet. The movie does not improve much from there.
Skyline is a low-budget alien invasion flick from the the pretentiously named Brothers Strause, Colin and Greg, who’ve made a name for themselves in the film industry as masters of visual effects. You’ve seen their CGI wizardry in such dazzling giants as Avatar, 300, Iron Man, The Day After Tomorrow, and 2012, but Skyline is only their second try behind the helm as director. Their previous sci-fi outing, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem was panned into submission by a bloodthristy horde of critics and moviegoers. Now the Brothers Strause have taken up the camera again with an idea all their own, and the result is a failure of cosmic proportions.
Skyline follows a group of friends who, after a night of binge drinking and revelry, discover that octopus-like aliens are sucking them into the sky and harvesting their brains. Sounds like someone here had a few too many. The movie actually makes more sense as a bad trip, where the gaping plot holes and lack of set changes could easily be attributed to one stoned party-goer spaced out on the couch. It might also explain the pale blue light the invaders flash, which entrances the cast and makes eyeballs bulge before the aliens whisk our stupefied humans into the sky. Dude.
But no, Skyline takes itself seriously, a fact that the poorly written characters constantly remind us of. The script is co-written by a BU alum, Liam O’Donnell, who graduated in 2004 with a major in political science. Hopefully his take on foreign policy is more interesting than his take on human beings, though if Skyline is any indication, he won’t be getting my vote.
“Oh God!” the characters dully scream, “I can’t believe this!” They pull conveniently located firearms from drawers. They drive sleek sports cars in an obligatory chase scene that lasts under a minute before our intrepid heroes high tail it back into the hotel parking garage. They sob at the right moments, fight at the right moments, and of course, they go outside to get a better look. This isn’t a horror movie, so the utter stupidity of this bunch is inexcusable. When aliens are pouring from the heavens, the last place you should go is up to the roof to take pictures.
The movie’s script was clearly tailored to the locations available. The characters, a group of vain LA socialites, spend most of the movie sitting in the penthouse room, or peaking out of the drawn curtains to catch a glimpse of the monsters floating by the window. Or urinating in the backed-up toilet. There seems to be a juvenile fascination with bodily fluids in this flick, from an overused pregnancy subplot to the black slime that the aliens eject onto their victims, to a disturbing scene of voyeurism where the drunk party goers watch a gay male across the hotel receive fellatio. Why are we supposed to like these people again? Fifteen minutes in and I couldn’t wait for the aliens to float down and slurp on some undernourished brain stems.
The two heroes of Skyline are Jarrod, a square-chinned Brooklyn resident visiting a friend, and his girlfriend, the aforementioned Elaine, and both are space cadets from the start. Elaine, played by the oval-eyed Scottie Thompson, does little more than sob, weep, and sob some more during the film, playing the concerned damsel in distress. It’s an ironic role at best, since the whole cast is equally screwed. Thompson was last seen in Star Trek where she once again did an expert job of looking concerned during her five seconds as a cameo of the evil-doer’s dead wife. At least in Star Trek they had the common courtesy to kill her character off quickly in a hologram; here, she is forced to mope and cry and scream in horror for the entire movie.
But Elaine’s general uselessness is nothing compared to the macho meat-head that stands dutifully by her side. Jarrod is over-acted by Eric Balfour, who gives the meager dialogue his all. It’s easy to criticize Balfour for hamming it up, but when working with lines such as “We’ve got- [dramatic pause] we’ve got to try,” there’s not much one can do. If this is the best humanity has to offer during the end of times, then sign me up for Team E.T.
It’s really the aliens who are the stars of this flick, with their slick black tentacles, bulging claws, and clicking groans. The Brothers Strause earn their wages making beasts like these come alive for other, far superior, movies and they bring no less craftsmanship here. But despite the prettiness of their work, there seems to be no basic physiology among the aliens. Some are flying squids, others are four-legged leviathans, while others just resemble a ticked off gorilla that ran through a tar pit. It’s as though these creatures have been floating in the Brothers’ collective minds, percolating until just the right time to be born into an altogether terrible movie. Save these beasts for Pandora, where James Cameron can grandstand about environmentalism and imperialism while making audiences ooh and ahh. In Skyline, good ideas for these monsters are thrown together under the same banner of “aliens” and wasted. No expense is spared on the other special effects either. Even the title slides drift across the screen with an ethereal blue dust. A shame the budget was spent on pretty iterations of “Day 1” instead of using more than four sets.
I refuse to even acknowledge the ending of this film, except to say that it is among the most illogical and pointless I have seen. We’re not the in the 1980s anymore, so any film that ends on a freeze frame should be covered in acid, burned, then buried in the Mojave desert and forgotten.
Part of what shocks me about Skyline is that such utter trash could exist in today’s Hollywood. One would assume that a studio executive saw an advance screening of this before green-lighting it for distribution. The marketing machine was notched into overdrive for this little-sci-fi-movie-that-could. But did they really think they could pass a low-budget movie off as an indie revelation? Has Universal Pictures lost its brain to the alien menace, or does the distributor really think they can sneak such an atrocious movie under our collective noses for a quick buck? If the box office is any indication, it seems to be the latter. Skyline has the dubious distinction of being the only film this year to lose money from Friday to Saturday on its opening weekend.
But word is a sequel has already been approved. Forget invading aliens; if this movie warrants a sequel, God help us all.
Just do yourself a favor. Stay light years away from this terrible sci-fi flick: D