SKYLINE – (2010) – IS IT EPIC SCI-FI OR EPIC SCI-FAIL?
I was really looking forward to seeing Skyline, based almost entirely on the two minute and twenty second trailer that appeared online just two weeks prior to the film’s release. I am very selective about what films I see at the theater and I always do some research online before seeing them. The only solid reason that I had to hope that Skyline might be a first-rate sf film was that I had enjoyed the co-directors previous film Alien vs. Predators: Requiem. That and of course the previously mentioned awesome trailer.
Skyline plain and simple is an alien invasion movie. The difference between this film and almost every other sf film alien invasion movie is that it all takes place from the point of view of one small group of characters; all of whom have no professional background in science or any other field that would help them – and hence… the audience – understand what is happening outside of the apartment building that they have found themselves trapped in. The film is broken up into three acts: Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.
Day 1 of Skyline deals with a small group of friends, who awake early in the morning in an alcoholic post-party haze, when they see streams of bright light beaming down from the sky. This gazing out of the windows of the penthouse apartment goes on for some time, until with the help of a telescope, they see that actual human bodies are being drawn up by the light and taken into some type of alien space craft. The beams of light begin to penetrate the windows of the apartment and they seem to have a mesmerizing effect on the person that it shims on. After one of the group is taken, the rest cover the windows with blankets in an attempt to hide.
Day 2 begins with smaller ships, which look more like flying squids, attacking the apartment and trying to pull the people out of the building. Their numbers dwindling, the group forms an escape plan. They take two vehicles from the garage – a sports car and an SUV – and the smaller car upon exiting is immediately stepped on by some sort of alien bi-peddle tank like creature. With only three of the group remaining, they retreat to the penthouse apartment, feeling entrapped and hopeless.
Day 3 finds the trio of survivors awoken by the thundering of jet planes. They peek out through the draped windows to find the sky full of air force jets of all types, dog-fighting with the smaller alien craft and firing air-to-air missiles at the larger ships. As the battle continues, it becomes apparent that the human forces are losing the immediate battle. In one desperate move, a stealth fighter fires a small nuclear device at one of the larger ships and it hits. The ship explodes in a burst of fire and begins falling from the sky. This gives hope to the remaining survivors, but the hope is short lived.
I have intentionally avoided describing any of the characters in the film, because none of them are fully realized. Even the male and female leads, who are the viewpoint characters, and who I assume we are supposed to sympathize with, aren’t given more than the briefest of backstory. The actors playing these characters are fine, so I don’t blame them that I didn’t find them particularly likable or sympathetic. This is a real weakness for Skyline, because the entire film takes place from their point of view. Telling the story this way was a risky move on the part of the filmmakers, because it places all of the emotional gravitas on just two characters. The second problem this causes is that all the crucial plot information comes from characters who are completely unaware (unlike the sci-fi fans in the audience) of what is happening to them. It seems to take them far too much time for them to understand the tremendous scale of the danger that they are in. I can understand their initial shock, but you would think by the end of the first day, they would be at least be trying to find a means of escape.
Even with these faults, there are still moments of Skyline that were interesting and exciting. Unfortunately, most of these moments take place on Day 3 and in sporadic fashion at that. If you are patient, this segment of Skyline does reward you with some genuinely scary and exciting action that finally affects the two lead characters. I think the film would have been better served if the first two acts were combined into one and reduced by half. The problem with this is that the film would run to about 60 minutes, instead of its already short 92 minute running time. This brings me to the final problem with Skyline: It ends on a cliffhanger! I don’t want to ruin the film for those brave enough to watch Skyline despite all the negative reviews (of which this one would most likely qualify), by revealing what happens in the last ten minutes of the film. You’ll just have to take my word for it that Skyline would have had to have been a 3 hour film to complete the new plot line that is begun in those last 10 minutes! I left the theater at the end of Skyline feeling like I had watched the first half of an above –average TV mini-series. I do hope that despite the poor reviews and the lackluster first weekend grosses that the makers of Skyline will be able to finish the story that they began with this film.
I also hope that that Colin and Greg Strause (the directors) are able to finish the story that they began in Skyline with a sequel, because it may enable them to correct some of the mistakes they made in the first film. I honestly don’t think that Skyline is a good film, but I do think it was a good attempt and had it been executed better, may have even been a great film.
There have been so few truly SCIENCE fiction films, that I like to support even imperfect attempts at it. I think even a failed attempt like Skyline deserves to have both the positive and negative aspects of the film as a whole pointed out, so that we as fans can hopefully encourage film makers to continue to make not only good sf films, but excellent ones.