24 July 2011

Movies: Skyline

Skyline (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1564585/

Scifi thriller about aliens invading Los Angeles.

Jarrod and his girlfriend Elaine travel to LA on Jarrod's old friend Terry's dime. During the party that night Terry springs the idea of Jarrod moving to LA to work for him. Elaine isn't too enthusiastic, especially because she's pregnant and needs some stability. Everyone crashes, then are awakened at 4:30 am or so when super bright lights start dropping out of the sky onto the city. Anyone who looks into the light gets covered in black squiggly lines, their eyes go grey, they are compelled to go outside and disappear. While watching a second wave of lights hitting the city later in the day they see that thousands of people are being sucked up into giant space ships.

Sound sortof like every space alien invasion flick you've seen before? Sure, slight differences, but the same thing. Aliens show up, people are sucked into ships or killed or whatnot, the folks the cameras are on from the beginning run around trying to not get grabbed too. People yell at each other. Arguments about what to do. Military shows up to fight the aliens, seems the nuclear explosion might have - oh wait - nevermind.

Yeah - the $500,000 filming budget and $10million special CG effects budget is really apparent in this film. Cast with a couple of top B-list supporting actors Eric Balfour, Donald Faison and David Zoyas, plus a bunch of lesser knowns. To be honest, those major cast members did fine in their roles. You can't blame them for the script or dialog.
The camera work has some really weird shots at times, like using wide-angle lenses outside to show people get out of their car then pan up to show the condo building - it's weird looking, especially the parallax around the edges of the frame during the pan. The CG effects look like they were all done with Adobe After Effects.

I suppose if no other "aliens attack city and grab people" films existed this thing would be jaw-dropping.  If this was the first film of its type after the cheapy effects from 50's era space films it would be awesome. But it isn't. Unfortunately for Skyline, other films do exist. Films that did the story first, films that had better dialog and scripting, films with better effects. There's not near enough in the film to make up for the unlikable and shallow characters and bad dialog. Watching one of the major characters get smashed by a giant alien foot didn't disturb me one bit. His character had done nothing to make him likable.

One thing that really stood out was the awful opening sequence. I saw awful because they show us a bit just as the invasion starts, show a title card, start 15 hours earlier, then lead back into what you just watched at the opening of the film. Why show us twice? They could have started on the airplane ride in to the city and been fine.  The end sequence is rather crazy too. Felt tacked on as an afterthought. Probably wasn't. I would think it's more a matter of directorial inexperience - but I see this was directed by the guys that directed Alien vs Predator Requiem. And those guys have shittons of visual effects experience going into this too. Probably why they could pull off the effects they do on a $10mil effects budget. Yeah - the low budget shows, but they do make the most of it.

Not really a great use of an hour and a half of film watching time, to be honest. So many other films have done similar stories better. I know - they tried. They didn't set out to make a bad film. It isn't terrible, it just isn't especially good either. If you're picking films on a limited viewing budget (budget of time or $) you can spend that hour and a half on something better. If you aren't concerned about that, go for it. It's an okay film for the budget they had, it just didn't do anything for me.

That said, I'm fully prepared to put myself through this again by watching Battle: Los Angeles. I'm expecting pretty much more of the same, just with bigger stars and a bigger budget. Or it could surprise me.

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