Monday, 13 February 2012

Skyline (2010)




My goodness, where to start? I think when the Strause brothers had the idea to blend War of the Worlds and Independence Day, they probably thought that they couldn’t go wrong. This surely is the only reason that they forgot to add a plot and interesting characters. But I’m getting ahead of myself, I should give a brief synopsis first shouldn’t I?

Big alien spaceships descend on Earth, and shine blue lights at people. The blue light seems to mesmerise whoever sees it, but at the same time sucks the life out of them or something (think becoming a Sith when playing Knights of the Old Republic). Soon however, the alien ships start hoovering people up. Our “heroes” try and escape; they don’t. Erm, that’s about it.

The good
It really is quite hard to find anything good in this film, but here goes. I think I liked the steely blue light that the aliens emit, it gives the film a specific feel and identity. Barrel? Bottom? Scraping? The other thing I thought was interesting (perhaps not good), was that early in the film during scenes involving characters sitting and talking, the camera would often be moving. This gave these scenes more of a documentary feel; perhaps trying to emulate the Cloverfield approach. I guess the design of some of the aliens was quite cool as well, though there were far too many that just looked like the sentinels from The Matrix.

The Bad
Everything else really. The first thing noticeable is how wooden the cast is; they really are just planks. Eric Balfour (Milo from 24) has absolutely no personality (he wasn’t that bad in 24 was he?), who knows what his girlfriend (Scottie Thompson) sees in him; though she is equally vacuous. The fact that she is pregnant is the only recognisable bit of character she has; this speaks volumes for our “heroes” story arc; erm, there isn’t one. Even Turk (Donald Faison) from Scrubs couldn’t save this film, though I did laugh (*Spoiler*) when he got squished; it was a very Samuel L Jackson in Deep Blue Sea moment: “recognisable actor, perhaps he isn’t actually dead? Oh, right, now he’s definitely dead!” There are a couple of other characters, including the hotel lobby concierge, all of whom we equally don’t care about.

Then there’s the sequence of random scenes plot. Aliens appear out of the sky; two of the characters go outside to have a look. Shit! Aliens! They go back inside. They try to drive to the marina because the aliens aren’t over the water, so they’ll be safe. ? Yes, the big huge massive inter-galactic aliens that are flying around cannot fly over the water? Turk gets squished, they all go back inside, until at the end there are only two of them left so they go up on the roof and are captured. That it. I’m all for a short snappy plot that makes sense, but Skyline really doesn’t seem to be going in any direction. I realise that having an over-complicated story opens up the possibilities for gaping plot holes (Skyline still manages a couple though), and you could end up with something as over bloated as the Transformers sequels, but for a film where aliens attack the earth everything feels very sedentary! Tellingly there is a deleted scene on the DVD of “hotel concierge’s backstory”; this deleted scene contains NO backstory whatsoever! I therefore conclude that the Strause brothers have no idea what a story is, never mind a backstory.

You just need to look at a recent film in a very similar vein to see how this genre should be done well. Attack the Block actually has a shorter run time than Skyline (just), yet there are characters that we feel invested in, and despite the siege situation, the characters aren’t baggage to the film, they are driving the film forwards; and the main couple of characters even get some development! Where the script in Attack the Block is razor sharp, in Skyline it is about as sharp as a balloon.

The Ugly
You would expect the film to end when our “heroes” are beamed up to one of the alien ships. No. We see inside the ship, and it seems that the blue light that the aliens have been shining around has been filling the humans’ brains with light, which the aliens then assimilate for energy.... or something...(?) Eric Balfour’s head is pulled off and his brain put into some creature... which then has power/energy whatever to do... whatever. Scottie Thompson however, predictably has her pregnancy detected and is spared for something else; but not before the alien boyfriend brain thing recognises her, beats up some other aliens and then caresses her. And she recognises him! *Headdesk!* The film should have ended 5 minutes ago!

The Strause brothers are visual effects guys, so why they suddenly decided they should direct feature films is a mystery. I did actually find AVP Requiem very entertaining, but I think this is because there is a Predator fighting Aliens rather than anything else. Actually there is very much a siege scenario in AVP Requiem as well; is this the only kind of story these guys know?

Bad acting, no real story, a re-hash of previous ideas, there is really nothing to recommend this film at all. Except some blue light...