Even special effects can’t save ‘Skyline’

By Michael Potts

Los Angeles is the target location where Skyline begins to invade. The movie details what the world would become if alien-like motherships arrived on Earth.

Imagine, if you will, a candle-lit evening, two champagne glasses and Barry White music. On the couch, District 9 softly caresses the slimy tentacle of War of the Worlds. Nine months later, the fruit of their union is spawned. They name him Skyline.

Directed by the Brothers Strause, famous for their special effects work on 300, X-Men: The Last Stand and The Day After Tomorrow and their direction of AVP: Requiem, Skyline tells the story of Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson).

Jarrod and Elaine are awoken in the dark hours of the morning by a strange and powerful blue light shining through their window. A scream is heard from the next room and Jarrod stumbles in to find the blue light seeping through the uncovered windows. As he stares into the light, the skin around his eyes begins to burn and blacken, and he is drawn toward the window.

This opening sequence, much like its blue light, is extremely effective at drawing in the viewer. This effect works to the movie’s benefit, because it is at this moment the movie begins to sputter. It flashes back to the couple traveling from New York to L.A. to visit Jarrod’s old friend Terry (Donald Faison, Scrubs). Terry is an extremely successful businessman and is throwing a birthday party for himself, which continues into the early hours of the morning.

We now return to the opening, with Terry tackling Jarrod out of the window, saving him from the moth-to-flame trance that held him. Immediately the remaining party-goers try to discern the cause of the lights, and discover that they serve as scouts for a massive alien invasion. Flying squid monsters descend from the sky and snatch people from their homes as motherships use huge tractor-beams to pull thousands into their glowing underbellies. All the while, the threat of the light remains, and characters continue to catch glimpses of it whenever the opportunity arises, resulting in a mad dash by the others to free those afflicted before they are consumed.

The film is shot in a way reminiscent of Cloverfield, with most shots taken freehand or without the use of a tripod. For this reason, many are shaky and disorienting, giving viewers the feeling they too are there with the characters. Unfortunately, this movie shares another distinct trait of its cousin Cloverfield: the viewer only knows as much as the other characters, which is nothing.

It is revealed that the monsters are all but invincible, and that they are on the planet harvesting human brains for their consumption. Yes, brains. Beyond that, no reasoning or explanation is given into, well, anything. We watch as the world is slowly destroyed, and just as the helpless humans on screen, we can do nothing about it.

Having come this far, Skyline is still a decent action movie with some spectacular special effects sequences. The most exciting moments come during the massive air battle between the U.S. armed forces and alien squid ships.

Unfortunately, special effects are not enough to pull Skyline out from the mountain of clichés it falls prey to. But, if sci-fi thrillers and supernatural mysteries are your type of movies, you’ll surely enjoy what Skyline has to offer.

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