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Skyline

November 14, 2010

Skyline

I walked into Skyline knowing it wouldn’t be a good movie, but there’s plenty of room in the world for popcorn movies. Even if it was bad, it could be so-bad-it’s-good, or at least the special effects eye-candy could be entertaining. At every turn, I found myself disappointed.

Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) have flown from New York to Los Angeles to attend a birthday party for Jarrod’s old friend Terry (Donald Faison), who’s now a big movie.. producer? director? something like that. After most of the guests leave it’s down to the three of em, along with Terry’s girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel) and assistant (Crystal Reed), all crashing for the night. Around four in the morning, though, an alien invasion begins.

Full disclosure: I had to look up the characters’ names, because they’re utterly forgettable. Pretty much everything else about them is as well. All you really need to know is this: blue lights are falling from the sky, mesmerizing anyone who looks at them; said mesmerized people are vacuumed up into the alien ship hanging in the sky; there are giant alien monsters rampaging through Los Angeles; and there are five unreasonably attractive people who — along with the building’s concierge Oliver (David Zayas) — are trying to stay alive in the middle of everything.

I appreciate the general idea of a small band of normal people trying to survive, but this is territory that has been done before, and better (Cloverfield). The only thing this movie brings to the table is setting the action in Los Angeles instead of New York, so from a tall building you can look over hundreds of square miles out to the skyline. And that seems to be the genesis of the title, since nothing else seems to have anything to do with it.

The acting is just terrible. Zayas is the only one who doesn’t completely degenerate to the level of unreasonably-good-looking-person-looking-pained. He doesn’t have all that much to work with, though, because the screenplay is just as awful. It starts with a completely pointless framing that resolves itself in about fifteen minutes, and the last fifteen minutes is completely tacked-on and ridiculous. What comes between isn’t all that great either, running our band through the building and slowly picking them off.

It seems at times like there’s some sort of metaphorical point to be made — maybe something about the mediated experience or about geopolitics — but the script can never stick with anything long enough to make that point stick. In fact, the only consistent message is that (giant, spacefaring) vaginas are evil and will seduce and destroy everyone who comes in contact with them and must be physically beaten down by strong men.

Said interstellar pudenda are cheap rubber when seen up close, though shaky camerawork tries to hide it. All of the budget has gone into enormous CGI dogfights between aliens and predator drones, or bodies falling upwards like some sort of time-reversed footage of World Trade Center jumpers.

But even here, the production looks slipshod; someone at hy*drau”lx found the button to render horizontal camera flares and went to town. If they were actually filming bright light sources these would be show up as artifacts of the recording medium, but they could be avoided entirely in rendering. That they show up and overwhelm the rest of the frame just serves to remind the audience of the constructed nature of the image. Great for jump cuts in nouvelle-vague films; terrible for thriller-vérité.

There’s nothing believable, or even interesting here. There’s no reason to cheer for any of the characters, or to feel particularly upset over the destruction. There isn’t a moment where the movie doesn’t scream out “this is a movie!” The closest Skyline comes to anything lifelike is that it’s full of sound and fury, and signifies absolutely nothing.

Worth it: in no way whatsoever, unless you’re a teenage boy who’s secretly terrified of vaginas.
Bechdel test: fail. There are three female characters, but they never really talk to each other. Even if we’re generous about that point, it’s only ever about one of the men.

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