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Theatrical Review: SKYLINE

J.C. De Leon

by: J.C. De Leon
November 15th, 2010

Rating: 2.5/5

Writers: Joshua Cordes, Liam O'Donnell
Directors: Colin Strause, Greg Strause
Cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, Donald Faison
Studio: Universal Pictures

Can there ever be truly too much of a good thing? The genre of alien and alien invasion movies is certainly a saturated market and, at this point, there may not be a whole lot of originality left. Whether or not that sentiment is actually true, you'll certainly feel that way after watching the Strause brothers' (Colin and Greg) latest effort, SKYLINE. What starts out as promising genre flick quickly jumps to ridiculous dialogue, back to incredibly creative effects, and back to ridiculous plot resolutions.

SKYLINE begins with a shot of Los Angeles at 4:30 AM, where all seems quiet - until mysterious blue lights shoot straight down from the sky, illuminating the immediate vicinity of where they land. We then cut to the inside of a bedroom where our main characters are sleeping and are suddenly woken up by these strange blue lights. Jarrod (Eric Balfour) goes to the living room to investigate and looks directly into the light, his eyes go white, veins start popping out like they're going to jump out of his skin, and then we get our title card. That incredibly solid opening is then followed by a 15 hour jump back in the story where our main characters are just landing on a flight from New York.

After some very weak character introductions (with no development) and some unimportant exposition, we find out that our main characters, Jarrod and Elaine, are in LA to visit Jarrod's highly successful childhood friend Terry (Donald Faison). We spend time with these characters, yet still learn very little about them, including why we should (if we even should at all) care about them. We are then immediately placed back at the beginning of the story where the action finally ramps up. From that point, we witness as this group of people are stuck in a skyhigh penthouse, watching the destruction from afar as they get more and more restless. The story kind of plays out as if you were watching a group of survivors while the events from INDEPENDENCE DAY were going on, and they are oblivious to anything else going on in the world besides their own attempt at survival.

The biggest problem with the film is its script. Written by Joshua Cordes and Liam O'Donnell, this script is littered with predictable dialogue, particularly in a scene where one woman tells her boyfriend that she's pregnant. It's almost unbearable to hear. The decisions the characters make don't often make a lot of sense until you realize that only did it so that the filmmakers would have an opportunity to kill off a character. A prime example of this is a shot in the trailer where a giant alien steps on a Ferrari. Well, before that, all of the characters decided to drive to a marina, since there weren't any alien ships over the water. Makes sense, right? Well, when they get down to the cars, they immediately take two, when all of them could easily fit into one car. None of that makes sense until you see the Ferrari get crushed - though it's not even as if that was the only opportunity to kill the particular character who gets it in a scene that, at best, just looks cool in the trailer.

The problems with the script aside, the effects of SKYLINE are actually really good. Kind of excellent, in fact, when you consider the relatively minuscule effects budget the film was created with. What happens to people once they look at the blue light looks fantastic, and the alien machines (the ones that look a little too much like The Sentinels from the MATRIX franchise) look great, as well. A firefight between the military and their jets had some cool moments, even though many shots of that scene will most certainly make viewers think of scenes from INDEPENDENCE DAY.

The performances are about what you'd expect from a pair of directors who aren't the most adept at performance direction when their speciality is visual effects. SKYLINE has a cast of some seasoned actors who have proven more than capable, and have some decent chops to their credit, but in this movie can't seem to pull together to bring a good performance. Eric Balfour was obviously more interested in positions that best allowed sustained viewing of his tattoos. Donald Faison was only at his best here when he was being funny, and there weren't may opportunities for that. Brittany Daniel, who is better suited for comedic roles, didn't seem to be a good fit for this role. David Zayas (of Dexter fame), was the only one who seemed to be putting forth the effort, but if script problems had the worst effect on anyone, it was his overly cautious, irrational character.

The Strause brothers put together a fairly competent effects movie, one that I'm sure general audiences will enjoy, but overall, it's simply too much of a mixture of things we've seen - INDEPEDENCE DAY, WAR OF THE WORLDS, THE MATRIX, really any other sci-fi/alien movie you can think of - creating too much of a good thing. Too much of a good thing without any substance. There may be a place some day for a story like this when helmed by a more seasoned director and a stronger writer, but the Strause brothers are not the guys who should bring it to us. SKYLINE is fairly entertaining, but overall too flawed to be considered worthy among mention when compared to some of the greats in its genre.

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