STARRING: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson,
Brittany Daniel, Crystal Reed, Neil Hopkins
2010, 100 Minutes, Directed by:
Colin Strause, Greg Strause
invasion movies don’t need an excessive amount of encouragement to succeed . . .
Sure, the finest features put
in the time and effort to give audiences a rowdy ride of chills and spills, but
as long as aliens furiously attack and some screamy humans are dutifully riled
up, basic genre requirements are taken care of.
Skyline seeks to prove
that theory wrong, taking an enthusiastic premise of intergalactic war and
reducing it to glimpses of chintzy CGI-laden chaos sandwiched between lengthy
stretches of tedious, amateurish dramatic filler.
Arriving in Los Angeles to
visit old friend/hip-hop partner Terry (Donald Faison), Jarrod (Eric Balfour)
and girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are immediately impressed with his
swank high-rise digs. After a night of heavy partying, resulting in a job offer
for photographer Jarrod and a pregnancy concern for Elaine, the group awakens
the next morning facing a full-scale alien invasion.
Armed with enormous ships and a
fleet of smaller scouting machines, the invaders use a blue energy force to coax
their victims out into the daylight. From the confines of the apartment, Jarrod
and the gang watch in horror as the city is attacked, spending the next two days
looking for a way to escape the building and head for safety.
Skyline is a riff on the
Cloverfield experience, only without the found
footage approach and chained to a smaller budget to keep the money shots within
reason. It’s basically the same premise: uncharismatic twentysomethings with
insipid soap opera problems are faced with extraordinarily destructive
extraterrestrial visitation, forced into escape attempts and survival mode while
military forces assemble their pathetic efforts. Toss in ingredients pilfered
from numerous alien invasion features of similar hysteria, and Skyline is one
derivative motion picture.
The frightening twist here is
found behind the camera, as Skyline marks the return of Greg and Colin
Strause to the directorial arena, a few years after their disastrous turn at the
helm of the Aliens vs. Predator franchise with the
loathsome 2007 picture, Requiem. A major force in the special effects
industry, the Brothers Strause decided to play to their strengths for a
follow-up, shunning Hollywood to make a low-budget creature feature on their
own, allowing them to slash costs and dictate tone without studio suits
shadowing their every move. It’s a laudable idea, yet the siblings fail to make
a compelling ruckus with this would-be franchise starter pistol.
"Uncharismatic twentysomethings with insipid soap opera problems . .
Feebly scripted by Joshua
Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, Skyline attempts to subvert expectations by
keeping the action contained within the building, with alien activity monitored
through windows or via telescope. While it cuts down on budgetary needs, it
leaves much of the picture in the hands of the cast, and this is not the most
inspiring ensemble to cheer on.
Balfour’s a bland hero with no
discernable range, while Faison simply looks confused with the whole endeavor.
Female roles are dishearteningly chirpy and nonessential, creating an even
greater divide between the digital highlights and the human lowlights, with the
performances no better than similar efforts found in a backyard YouTube
productions. The Brothers Strause have no sense of visual tension, trusting
ineffective actors to communicate end-of-days panic. This group can barely spit
out their lines clearly.
I suppose alien business is key
here, with colossal motherships vacuuming up humans from the city streets like
specks of dirt, and the vaguely vaginal-looking scout ships darting through the
sky on the hunt for leftovers. Nothing’s particularly understood about the
visitors outside of their technology and hunger for human brains, making their
status as superior beings a little suspect if they came all the way to Earth
just to Dyson up some gray matter. However, digging into the mystery here isn’t
The siblings seek to amaze with
their budget bonanza, staging flaccid action as the aliens chase the humans
around the complex every 15 minutes or so, offering cheap thrills sans
excitement. The CG elements are satisfying in a SyFy Channel sort of way, but
the pursuit is drab, again requiring these unappealing actors to sell the
enormity of the effects. A sense of grand scale just isn’t there, and for a film
like Skyline, reminding the viewer they’re watching a second-rate product isn’t
the brightest idea.
A sequel is promised in the
suspiciously gratuitous ending (looking as though it was tacked on to the film
within the last week), which appears to be all the Brothers Strause were looking
for with this cheapie, painfully uneventful snoozer in the first place: a quick
meal ticket in an undemanding genre. Mission accomplished, boys. Now let someone
else direct a new cast in the next one.
- Brain Orndorf