Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Review: Skyline

Skyline is a film of many firsts. The first alien movie to induce humour (unintentionally). The first time 95 % of the cast actually got a role in a 'real' production. The first time aliens who couldn't be tamed by nuclear missiles are forced to succumb to punches (the lead actor is actually seen throwing fists at one ET, 25 times his size in one scene). And hopefully the last time the talented VFX experts Brothers Strause (that's how Greg and Colin Strause are referred to) occupy the director's chair.
The film's plot is like a dozen other alien movies produced every year in Hollywood. Most of them only manage a DVD release. The basic premise is: aliens decide to invade earth, giant spaceships that resemble floating garbage dumps (emitting blue lazer lights) descend on Los Angeles to cause mayhem. This is when our instinctively-challenged cast decides that the safest place to take cover is by heading out on the streets (what is the collective IQ of the scriptwriters?). The lead cast deserves special mention here (since it's probably their first and last screen appearance). Like most classic strugglers, each of them has been styled to look like famous stars. So the main lead Jarrod (Eric Balfour) makes for a poor man's Adrien Brody and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) is trying to pass off as Elen Pompeo from Grey's Anatomy.
If you care for the storyline, it has Jarrod and Elaine visiting their LA friend Terry (Donald Faison), who believes in living it up in LA (Cosmos by the pool etc) without any trace of an occupation. Makes you wonder who's paying for the penthouse, flowing alcohol and all-day parties. The producers of this film perhaps? Anyway, so after a night of heavy drinking as the group crawls into corners of Terry's humungous duplex, something unimaginable happens. Blue lazers shoot down from the sky, across the city. What follows is too bright for words (literally). As you stare out of the window, all you see is this unbearably bright light beaming out at you. This puts the person in a hypnotic state, develops a henna tattoo on their face and turns their pupils into white or blue (or whatever freaks you out the most). The person then does a zombie-like walk towards the light and is soon sucked into it. After the light gobbles up some of the cast members and the script of Skyline, the rest decide on a clever plan: "Let's go up to the roof to see what's happening." This is followed by a string of pointless dialogues like, "You can't go up. You don't know what's out there." (Phew).
Eventually, Terry (armed with a gun) and Jarod (with his SLR) head up to the roof. What they see is a work of art. Could be the directors' favourite scene and the reason why they made this film. The skyline is transformed into a VFX fantasy with floating spaceships intermittently visible behind passing clouds. Could make an interesting screensaver?
Now, when you walk into a movie about aliens, you know little of what to expect. This is because creatures from outer space differ from film to film. But in Skyline, no two aliens look the same either. Some have tentacles, while almost all have many giant flood lights carelessly placed in different parts of the body. Their spaceships look like giant chunks of garbage and as they float about in the sky, you think if this could be the future of waste management.
Anyway, back to the story (even though you're don't care). Our cliched duo (one white and the other African American) rush back to their apartment to tell the others about the wonders of outer space that have invaded their city. Boo! Hoo! The group panics and decides to zip out of their apartment. But as they try to, one of the cars is flattened into a metallic sheet by a giant alien foot. They rush back to the apartment, losing some of the cast members and welcoming some new ones.
Various disgusting alien encounters follow. The best one being, the scene when someone slices open an alien, a human is splashed out covered in mysterious black sludge but in one piece and alive. Perhaps the alien's mum didn't teach him to chew his food properly. Soon, the Air force arrives with some fighter jets that mostly ram into each other or are blown down by the aliens. Since this part results in brilliant explosions it could wake you up if you've dozed off.
If you've survived the film till this point, you just want the incompetent aliens to get their act together and shred this group of non-actors as they get more insufferable with every passing scene. You overhear loud whispers across the move hall, "What's the runtime of this film again?" Your prayers are answered as this 92-minute-disaster draws to an end. Predictably, Jarrod and Elaine are the last to go. As they're flown up to the light, they passionately kiss each other and you hope it's the last you would see of them. But then the filmmakers have another reel left. So cut to, the inside of the alien spaceship where our loving couple is lying unconscious in a black sludge along with many others. An organised assembly line of aliens is tentacle-picking each human body, removing the brain and fitting it into a metallic chimp body. An unnecessary detail is that Elaine was pregnant at the time when they were abducted, so her body is flushed to another department for 'alien-ification'. But no! Jarrod, in his new alien chimp body comes to the rescue and the film ends on the horrific note that we should expect a sequel. Let's just hope the sky falls down on Brothers Stause and we're don't have to digest another installment of this horrendous adventure.

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