Unreal Movie Review: Skyline

I have to admit it, I’m a sucker for sci-fi movies. In real life, I’m fascinated with the premise that aliens are out there. Now, I’m not one of those die hards who think they’ve been here already and built the pyramids and pissed off the government in New Mexico. Rather, I just subscribe to the belief that aliens are out there in the universe somewhere, because if not, as they say in Contact, it would be an awful waste of space.

So therefore, knowing that it’s exceptionally unlikely I’ll get to see any proof of this before I die, I’m always game for any movie based around the premise that aliens exist. This has led me to some exceptional films and some pretty awful ones, with Skyline unfortunately leaning toward the latter. As it turns out, it’s not simply enough to have aliens in your movie, you actually need things like a plot and script and all the other pieces good films have. Skyline skipped all that, and just dumped its entire budget into special effects, leaving the script and the casting to presumably a random passerby they pulled off the street.

Never before have I been able to sum up a film so succinctly. Aliens invade.They’re mean. It sucks. Yes, there are human beings in this movie, but they mainly serve to get in the way of the CGI, and don’t contribute much other than poorly scripted lines and worse decision making.

Don’t worry, I’m going to try to punch it to death.

Jarrod (Eric Balfour) is visiting his old friend Terry (Donald Faison) who made it big as an actor in LA. He drives a Ferrari and lives in a penthouse suite, yet feels the need to wear $30 Express track jackets. Jarrod brings his newly pregnant girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) along for the ride, and there’s a big party and an excuse for the film to show hot girls in bikinis and such. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say this was the intro to some sort of slasher film, but by the time the night winds down, it’s aliens that are wrecking havoc instead.

The film has a somewhat interesting take on the tractor beam that I appreciated for its originality. Yes, humans are hoovered up left and right, but the aliens use blue light beacons to force people to come to them, and once you look it takes hold of you in a way that makes your veins run black and your eyes white out. Jarrod is subjected to a full dose of light therapy early on, but is tackled by Terry before he goes flying out the window like so many others. This event gives him superpowers later on for reasons that are never explained.


And then what? Well, the film doesn’t really know, and that’s abundantly clear from the way the plot is structured. Day One involves the group in the apartment trying to escape their own building, but failing to do so when they run into the infantry forces that have ejected from the mothership. There are really only two types of creatures in this film, a flying monstrosity with tentacles that is exceptionally reminiscent of the squid-like robo-pursuers from The Matrix, and another kind that lumbers around on the ground which resembles a cross between a Star Wars Rancor and the Cloverfield monster.

The Cloverfield vibe really kicks in during Day Two when the military finally decides to get off their asses and show up. The film is shot like Cloverfield in the sense that it’s people running away constantly from a giant thing trying to snatch them up, but that film’s handicam style and realistic character reactions make it leagues better than Skyline. Who actually tries to start up a conversation about infidelity when aliens have just landed and are scooping up everyone in sight?

The film simply doesn’t go anywhere. Literally. The entire duration is spent inside, underneath or on top of the luxury apartment complex, as the aliens make it impossible to even run 50 feet to a nearby marina, which for some reason everyone seems to think is the final salvation for mankind. It’s reminiscent of The Mist‘s claustrophobia, except there is no mist and you can clearly see all the monsters lurking outside the windows. Cloverfield used a similar tactic to shield the monster from view until the last possible moment, but there’s no mystery here. These guys are masters of small budget CGI, and they’ll be damned if you’re not going to look at it constantly!


There is a cool scene or two scattered throughout, like one where they nuke the alien mothership amidst an air war between human jets and aliens ships. Or at least it was cool until I remembered pretty much the exact same scene was in Independence Day, or when I realized that if the people inside the apartment are watching a 400 foot mushroom cloud rise up in front of them, most of their skin should be melting off within minutes. As you can see, Skyline draws from a number of different movies, but suffers from being worse than all of them in a big way.

The “why” of it all is hinted at early on when a Matrix squid alien rips out a human’s brain and slides it into his back. Yes, the aliens are powered by brains, because I guess they figured if it worked for zombies, it can work for them. The film actually makes interesting use of this plot device at the beginning of Day Three, but as it turns out, the start of Day Three is the end of the movie, and just when things get mildly interesting, the credits roll. The directors of the film say if the film exceeds its small budget, they’ll make sequel, but I think I’d rather have my brain sucked out by aliens then watch it.

1.5 out of 5 stars

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  1. The sad thing is that this movie could very well win an Oscar. The movie itself sucked, no doubt about it. But the Brothers Strause continue to prove their CG mastery. The visuals in Skyline were almost as impressive as Avatar. There is no doubt in my mind that it will be between Skyline, Tron, and possibly Harry Potter for the Visual Effects Oscar in February.

  2. If the movie was the lead up to a videogame, it might be halfway interesting, except for the horrible script.

    Incidently, the writers are both first timers, both of whom have a number of movie credits in Visual Effects departments.

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