"If a Cliche Goes Unused, the Aliens Will Win"
Amateur night, pure and simple-minded.
A "nice, young couple" is awakened in a guest-room of a plush L.A. penthouse suite by an incandescent blue light that creeps through the louvre blinds. The guy goes out to investigate and staring into the high-wattage illumination source, his skin begins to burn from the inside, his eyes milking over, compelling him to move towards the light, where he will be sucked into the waiting maw of...
We don't find out, as we're zapped back 15 hours to the start of this bucolic vacation where the "nice, young couple" (Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson) are flying to L.A. to birthday par-tay with male half of NYC's old homey (Donald Faison), who works in the L.A. film industry. Male-half NYC is a visual effects maker and homey wants him to join up. Already you think that the scripters haven't strayed too far from what they know, the directors, the Brothers Strause, being FX techs, with only the egregious Aliens vs. Predators: Requiem, being their only previous feature.
This film was made on a relative shoe-string—production costs being half a mil' and the post-production making up 9.5 of the $10 million budget, but the ledger sheet is the botton-line of what's wrong with this picture: Skyline boasts sophisticated special effects...and that's about it. Kudos to the film-makers for their cost-cutting measures—they filmed around one of the directors' own penthouse and building complex (and you never get beyond the no-doubt locked security gate around the place), with the result of an audience disconnect—it's hard to feel sympathy for your protagonist when he lives better than you do. Plus, there's a self-congratulatory tone that feels a bit like "Mars Attacks MTV Cribs."*
Would that the Brothers had spent a bit more money developing a script, polishing the dialog (which is all of the "What is it?" "I dunno. We should check it out" variety**), or even figuring out what their movie is about besides lighting, burning and floating, and Geiger-esque spacecraft, and gooey brain-sucking "Id-monster" aliens.
Cynically, I think the Brothers Strause*** saw the success of Paranormal Activity (low budget movie+minimal crew+no stars=low-threshold boffo box office) and decided to make an alien invasion version, rather than a possessed household one. But, where Oren Peli's film truly was low-budget—not only did he utilize his own house, but, given the nature of the film, the actors were the cinematographers, ultimately costing $15,000****—and largely improvised, as well, it also had the germ of an idea of how to use it's limited budget to maximum advantage.
In other words, Oren Peli is a gifted film-maker; The Brothers Strause make films.
Skyline is a film that directors cut up so they can put it on their "reel," strictly for demonstration purposes only. It is a shallow, inept, nihilistic crap-fest that dares to not even come to a conclusion in the hopes that some poor slob will clamor for a sequel.
Doubtful that will happen. There was enough brain-sucking in this movie.
Skyline is a complete and utter Waste of Time.
* Maybe it's all a bitter resentment statement by the film-makers attacking slothful materialism and greed in our society and in the L.A. film industry in particular, but I think it's more like "let's use my place, so I can fix it up real cool, charge it to the studio and use it as a tax dodge."
** "I dunno. We should check it out?"
"What do you think those things are?" "It doesn't matter."
"Is that what I think it is?"
"They took Walt." "What do you mean, they took Walt?"
For all the valuable information that is being disseminated in the dialog—there are no convenient scientists in lab-coats living in the high-end condo complex to explain everything, I guess—this could easily have been a silent movie. The gist is that these people don't know what's going on, are confused, and making it up as they go along. But, there is so much false drama being milked out of the situation that you start to wish that everybody in the cast gets taken, just to shut them up. And the film-makers are such "bad-ass-street-cred-bad-boys" that they are only too willing to accomodate.
*** If you follow this link to the Brothers Strause official web-site, you will find that it doesn't work at the time of the writing. Some bad HTML code.
**** And it made Paramount/Dreamworks $194,000,000.00. Nice return on investment!
Saturday, November 20, 2010