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'Skyline' (2010) is a Horrible Mess [Review]

Skyline is a deeply-flawed movie made worse by its wasted potential. It's a movie with a solid cast, extraordinary special effects, and a unique alien invasion that proceeds to make all of them boring.

The movie is about a handful of people, mostly a group of partying young people, who end up trapped in a high-rise condo during an alien invasion. Eric Balfour plays a New York artist lured by his best friend Donald Faison to L.A. for a birthday party, and a chance to work in the movie business. After a wild party, the two (and their significant others) are plunged into chaos when a mysterious blue light begins pulling people out of the building. It turns out that alien ships have invaded Earth, and the group struggle to survive.

While the alien attack is meant to drive the film, this movie is really a bottle story. Most of the movie is set inside the best friend's condo, which in real life is the home of the co-director Greg Strause. Seriously. And that's the biggest problem with this movie. What you need to know and was most hyped is that the co-writers and co-directors Greg Strause and Colin Strause run their own SFX company, and it shows. All the effort was spent on the special effects, and everything else was rushed and on the cheap. That's not my opinion - it's a matter of record that they spent about a million on the actual filming, and ten million on the special effects. Unfortunately, what the Strause brothers didn't realize is that movies are about more than special effects.

The alien-invasion story is depressingly thin. Other than the fact that the aliens use a blue light to coax people out of hiding for their capture, there's not much to make them feel unique. We don't find out anything about them, such as why they would travel across space just for human brains, why they want to suck out human brains, and how their society functions besides brain-sucking. Also, the aliens look like swirling masses of tentacles and blue lights, so you never get a sense of what they're like.

In a story like this, it's all about the characters. You need characters that are likeable, so that you want them to escape and fear for their safety. The characters need to be in conflict so there's enough tension between them to provide another layer to the story. The characters are the biggest failure of Skyline. The opening where we first meet them makes them look like a bunch of party-obsessed losers. Not much else in the movie takes that impression away. As a result, I didn't care what happened to them, and was kind of glad when some of them got killed.

Skyline is a classic "idiot plot," where the characters act like idiots, because if they didn't the story wouldn't work. Most of the movie is spent with the characters arguing over whether they should leave the safety of the condo. Some say they should try to escape, others say they should hold out in the condo. Frankly, the characters really have no good reason to leave the condo, except "We have to try." There is a vague goal of wanting to get onto the ocean, because they believe the aliens won't follow them there. No real reason given for why they believe this so strongly, so it doesn't feel like a goal at all. So most of the movie is spent with the characters running out of the condo, getting attacked and occasionally killed, and running back into the condo again. Rinse and repeat.

That's not to say the movie is useless. The special effects are really good, and occasionally incredible. You have the usual scenes of alien motherships hovering over the city, and jet fighters fighting the aliens. But we also see floating alien probes, humans being sucked into the alien ships, alien gorilla-like monsters, and an entire scene set inside the slimy, creepy, Gieger-esque alien mothership. The problem is these scenes often have little to do with the actual characters. They spend more time looking out of the window at the alien attack than they do actually involved in the attacks. That gives the whole invasion a distance that made me wish we followed someone else who got to do something besides whine.

Really, that's the worst part about Skyline. It's not that it's a terrible movie all the way through. It's that there are moments when you really enjoy the movie, followed by other moments when you're bored silly, followed by moments that make you want to grind your teeth, followed by another moment when you find yourself enjoying it. The result of bad decisions, laziness, and a lack of focus turn a great movie into an awful one. In the end, it just wasn't worth the effort to sit through it.


Did you see Skyline? What did you think? If you haven't seen it, would you watch it? Let us know in the comments.
[Image Source: scificool]

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  1. I thought the last third was better - once the humans' best attempts fail and this is no longer a war movie, it gets more interesting. The ending (unlike many other aspects of the film) was original.

  2. Oh yeah, big disappointment! Awful film. Shame was this and Monsters came out at the same time, but since Skyline had giant alien ships and battles, the studio put money behind its release. Monsters was a far better film. I can't wait to see what Gareth Edwards does with Godzilla.

  3. That movie was God awful. Terrible. The best part was the last four minutes of the film.

  4. As someone who loves "Buckaroo Banzai," I respect your opinion. As I said in the review, I thought there were enjoyable parts, but it didn't balance out for me.

  5. I have to agree. The ending was pretty good. I wish they had started there, and made the movie from that point on. But from what I understand, the ending wasn't in the script. The movie originally ended with


    them being pulled into the spaceship, but test audiences thought it was too bleak, and they kept adding bits to it until it ended up with the final sequence.


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