Sunday, November 14, 2010

Skyline - Theatrical Review

Somehow that release date got flipped, hmmmm....

Release Date: November 12, 2010

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Edwards Corona Crossings Stadium 18
Time: 2:30 pm November 12, 2010
Screen Type: 35mm Film

Loves: Invasion movies
Likes: No hope scenarios, the absolutely absurd
Neutral: The Brothers Strause
Hates:  Films that are just too damned absurd, bad acting

This has to be one of the strangest films I have seen all year. And not strange like "This is so unreal" but more like a sense of how nothing felt quite right. I got the feeling as I watched Skyline, the new film from the Brothers Strause, that there were a lot of ideas floating around in their heads with no clear story or plot to attach those ideas to. I had the strangest reaction to the film when it was all over where I knew something didn't mesh or was out of place. All the prerequisites were there for an alien invasion flick, dazzling effects, some clever yet derivative creature designs and an appropriately epic nature to all the proceedings but it all still felt empty. It wasn't until hours later I finally was able to put into words exactly what it was that didn't click. But I'm getting ahead of myself, lets discuss what the film is about first...

The film opens with a quick glimpse of the beginning of the alien invasion we have all seen in the trailer but we are soon transported to 15 hours previously where we meet Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) who are in mid-flight heading into Los Angeles. Awaiting their arrival is Jarrod's old friend Terry (Donald Faison) whom we are supposed to understand is some sort of Hollywood big shot. They all meet up at Terry's high rise apartment for a huge party later that night where we are quickly introduced to some other peripheral characters as the night goes on such as Terry's wife/girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel), his assistant Denise (Crystal Reed), a security officer named Oliver (David Zayas) and finally the main character of the film...their trusty telescope. read that right.

The standard look of awe when watching aliens invade your planet.
OK, I will get back to the telescope in a second but first lets talk a little bit about this invasion going on here. As you saw in the films trailer there are these bright blue plasma looking lights that land all throughout the city. We are shown early on that what follows those lights are what can only be described as alien ships hovering over the city that begin to suck the city's populace up by the hundreds into their bowels. We see this through the eyes of Jarrod, Terry, and everyone else that was left over at the party from their supposedly safe little apartment which happens to have a great view of the entire cityscape and the ensuing chaos.

And I hope you like that apartment because you will be seeing a lot of it. One thing all the ads for the film have done is cleverly disguise this as some sort of Independence Day special effects extravaganza. It looks as though you will see some epic battles and all sorts of mayhem as we follow some random people running for their lives...well, I guess you do get to see people run...sort of. You see, this entire movie takes place in that apartment building. You get all those things promised in the ads but not in the way you probably think. And this is where the telescope comes into play.

Yeah, they leave the apartment go to roof.
It is so darn clever how they integrate this seemingly everyday device into the main tool used by our heroes to interact with (sense the sarcasm there). We first see it during that party where it is used to spy on some people in the a-joining apartment towers, little did I know how important it would become. Yes, you do get to see some epic battles...through the telescope. Yes, you do get to see a bunch of mayhem...through the telescope. And yes, you do get to see the entire city under attack...through the telescope. It is funny how the more that telescope was used the more I liked the movie. I think it would make a good drinking game, each time somebody gets up to look through it, take a shot.

There does come a point in the film where our little band of, I mean heroes attempt to leave the building to look for a way out of the city. I will be honest here, I was pretty lukewarm on everything up till this point but the sequence in the garage actually gave me a little hope. Some of the films best moments (as few as they may be) were in that garage. They encounter one of the smaller aliens down there (which resembles a Matrix squid) as well as a larger one that likes to play with toy cars it seems. This scene actually had some genuine tension to it and was so deliciously wacky that I kind of loved it. Of course they end up running right back to that telescope though. But that garage scene also led into one of the many major flaws of the film.

This is what happens when you look into those pretty blue lights.
This film juggles its characters like a juggler with one hand and no depth perception. People die out of nowhere and then we get some new people, some of which die immediately and others that were given one line of dialogue earlier that have now become a major character while the previous major characters just sit and mope. The upside to this I guess is that you are always wondering who is gonna bite it next, but that is countered by the major downside which is we never get to know these people so who the hell cares if they die or not. The other (superior) alien invasion film this fall, Monsters, gave us two people who we grow to care about, here we are just given these people standing around waiting to become alien food.

Yes, there are a couple characters that stick around for the majority of the film but the actors are so dam one note that they could have easily just been killed off like any of the other random people. Take Jarrod for instance, all we learned about him at the party scene earlier is that he is OK with computers and his girlfriend is pregnant...and that's it. No information we learned about him comes into play which means we didn't need to know any of that. I have felt more connected to people on Jeopardy than I did any of these people. He ends up going through some other emotional states as well but nothing as far as character development goes. It doesn't help that most of the acting here is pretty bottom of the barrel. Everyone is acting so serious, which given the circumstances seems appropriate, but it goes a bit too far with some of the badly written dialogue that you can't take any of what is on screen seriously.

Looks pretty cool right?...Just wait until you see it through a telescope baby.
I suppose I should mention those little alien buggers running around the film too, since they take up so much of the screen time that is. Anyone upset about how you almost never see any of the aliens in Monsters will probably overdose on alien sightings here. This film is a lot of things but one of them isn't cheap on the effects. I mentioned that there are different types of aliens you see, well they are different only in their shapes and sizes. They all have one singular purpose to fulfill and that is to...STEAL YOUR BRAIN! That's right boys and girls, these aliens want our do what with I have no idea. But I do know they like their brains blue because whenever they take/ingest one it glows all blue after vaporizing the persons head.

As if you haven't been able to tell yet, this movie is absurd. But it can be absurd in a really fun campy way sometimes. Let's just say this next part is a spoiler section of that garage scene I talked about a little bit ago. This random guy gets hypnotized by that fancy blue light one of the smaller squid aliens uses and is placed inside it for a late night snack. Well soon after, that same alien is rammed by a car and appears to be killed when the wife of that random guy goes running over to it to pull her husband out. As she pulls her tar covered husband out all seems fine until the alien awakens, grabs the guy by his head, holds him up, vaporizes his head and puts his blue brain in its side pocket for later. That whole scene was just so bizarre that I actually kind of liked it for its oddness.

These are the same expressions I had while watching the movie, the middle one was when I remembered I paid for it.
This may seem like I am beating a dead horse by this point but I gotta talk about some of the inconsistencies going on here, or should I say logic holes. These aliens are here to turn our brains blue and consume them right? how were they living before this invasion? Do they have other means of living and human brains was like the new restaurant that opened up on the other side of the galaxy that they just heard about. To alien 1, "Hey man, I heard that Earth has got some good eats", to alien 2 "Sounds good, let's call up some of the boys and head on over...get it?...head...huh (shoulder jab)....yeah you know it". Yeah, then you have some great military tactics as well. After dropping a nuke on one and seeing it had little to no effect their next plan of attack is to station three lone soldiers on the top of a building with sniper rifles...what?

And that feeling I talked about at the very beginning, well what I realized is that this film has no real point. There is really nothing that happens, we see all this stuff happen around the apartment complex, we see random people die or get rescued and then die, but nothing is ever truly accomplished. Imagine something like Cloverfield where instead they stayed inside their apartment after the first attack and just watched everything from there as opposed to moving through the city so we can see what the hell is happening. Here, every time they venture out of the apartment they end up running right back to it and it starts to become incredibly frustrating. Maybe if we had those characters to care about it would be different but with no characters, no momentum to the story and no real reason for anybody to be doing what they are doing it all feels completely pointless.

If you put your blue mind to it, you can fly this alien spaceship.

I have to admit though that not all is bad here, as mentioned the effects are above par and for a PG-13 movie it can get pretty intense. You can see shades of a much better film here, there are these small individual moments that stand out, such as the aforementioned garage scene, an aerial battle (seen through a telescope), and blue brains...I mean come on now, their friggin brains are blue!  It all has this really bad B movie vibe to it that almost reaches into the C movie category. Oh yeah, and you get to see that money shot from the trailer that probably sold a lot of people on going out to see it (myself included) with all those people flying up into those spaceships. Man, do I feel like an idiot.

That's OK though because now I can warn other people about it now. I will never see this film ever again, yet I can't bring myself to totally say avoid it because there are just some things here that have to be seen to be believed. The entire last 10 minutes of the film is a total "what the f**k!" moment after the film has brought you to the point of expecting it to end one way and then flip flopping with some really crazy shit that makes absolutely no sense what so ever. I would have to say if you are even the tiniest bit curious about it that when it becomes available on blu ray (if they make a blue brain version I will buy it just for that though) that you should probably hold out and...



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