Sometimes I really hate being labeled a “movie reviewer” and being lumped in with other douche-tards who write reviews. My loyal followers pretty much know my “style” of reviewing. I’m brutally honest, I don’t pull any punches, and I examine those aspects of movies that the “every day” person cares about. On occasion I’ll talk about the cinematography or the more technical aspects of a film, but for the most part I look at the acting, the plot, the special f/x, and the overall enjoyment of a film. That’s why I started getting so pissed off reading reviews out there of the new alien invasion flick SKYLINE. Let me tell you something: Ignore the negative reviews on SKYLINE from the so-called “respectable” horror websites out there (you know; the ones who make a ton of cash through advertising). With all it’s flaws (and there are a few) SKYLINE is a really fun and kick ass alien invasion flick!!
SKYLINE is directed by the Strause Brothers (Colin and Greg), the two responsible for the dreadful ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM train wreck. But to be fair, the brothers were railroaded by the studio in REQUIEM who essentially came in and made a lot of last minute script changes. The brothers, as a result, had a bad taste in their mouth with big studios and decided at that moment that their next feature was gonna go back to the basics. Well SKYLINE is that project and they certainly stayed true to their promise. With an estimated budget of ten million dollars (yeah I know that sounds like a lot, but compared to the big studio releases 10 mil is a drop in the bucket), a shooting crew of 20 (TWENTY) people, and a single shooting location, Colin and Greg pull off one helluva fun flick that manages to give us some bad ass looking aliens, great action sequences, and some absolutely amazing visual f/x. But best of all it even manages to add a kind of unique element to the genre.
The action in SKYLINE starts off at 200 miles per hour with the glowing blue lights (you know the ones … from the trailers) descending all over Los Angeles. After our main character Jarrod (Eric Balfour) almost succumbs to the light we then skip back 15 hours earlier and get some back stories on our group of main characters. Jarrod and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are flying in to L.A. for Jarrod’s long time buddy Terry’s (Donald Faison) birthday. I liked all the characters the Strause brothers introduce and enjoyed the fact that they are all very human in their backstories. Jarrod and Elaine love each other but they also have their problems; Terry and his wife Candice (Brittany Daniel) also have a very realistic relationship (especially for L.A. I would imagine). The other people at Terry’s birthday party are Denise (Crystal Reed), Terry’s personal assistant; Ray (Neil Hopkins), another of Terry’s Hollywood buddies; and Oliver (David Zayas), the manager of the upscale apartment complex where Terry lives. All the characters stay consistent through their actions as the movie progresses and the acting was strong from everyone involved.
After their heavy night of partying the group is woken up by the bright blue lights. When Jarrod and Terry decide to go to the roof to see what the hell is happening, they find there are blue lights all over the city sucking up humans by the thousands like gigantic vacuum cleaners. The culprits are huge spaceships. At this point SKYLINE is in full gear and doesn’t let up until the end. The characters involved give the right balance of sheer panic and the desire to survive as they first barricade themselves in Terry’s huge apartment while they try and decide the best course of action. The group’s indecision is valid here because we don’t know anything more about the invading aliens than the group does. This isn’t like INDEPENDENCE DAY where we get the perspectives of the military and even have the aliens explaining to us why they are invading (gay). The viewer is in the dark as much as the characters.
One part I did find that dragged on a bit was watching the group trying to decide what to do. This scene took a little too long, especially since we all knew they were gonna leave the apartment (how else was the story gonna progress?). But once they finally decided to get out of the city, no matter what they did or where they went (to the streets, the roof top, the stairwell), the alien menace was waiting for them everywhere. I liked this; this gave a sense of hopelessness and futility to their actions and it also had me thinking about what I’d do if I was in their shoes.
So what about the aliens? I thought the aliens looked fantastic. Yes the one type of alien that was flying around searching the various buildings did look a lot like the alien in THE MATRIX flicks, but it was still a bad ass looking design. And the bigger aliens are almost beyond description. They seem to be using human beings to synthesize brains that the aliens put inside themselves and use almost like batteries. But trust me, this description doesn’t do the end scene inside the spaceship justice … ya gotta see it to believe it. And the overall visual f/x are really mouth dropping, but this shouldn’t come as any surprise being that the brothers worked on such film like TITANIC, THE X FILES, TERMINATOR 3, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, AVATAR, and IRONMAN 2.
More than anything, the ending will divide audiences. The brothers take the film in a very strange direction. One of the characters who got “infected” by the blue lights in the beginning, experiences some kind of change. The blue light somehow alters their body and mind. I don’t wanna give away too much here, but if you realize that the brothers got the green light to go ahead with SKYLINE 2 even before SKYLINE 1 came out, then the ending makes a little more sense. Yes it leaves us with a bit of a cliff hanger but overall I was satisfied with the ending.
Do yourself a favor and don’t listen to the critics out there dissecting and tearing apart this film. SKYLINE is more fun than INDEPENDENCE DAY and will have you alreay eagerly waiting for SKYLINE 2. The Strause Brothers have really developed a great new alien race that I’ll be looking forward to learning more about in the (hopefully near) future. Check out this hugely entertaining film.
Directors: Colin and Greg Strause (also producers and visual f/x supervisors)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls (although there’s a lot of alien violence)
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer