At The Movies: Skyline
(Long Island, N.Y.) Movies are funny in the sense that, while a below-average flick can be somewhat redeemed by a great ending, an otherwise solid outing can be dragged right straight down into the toilet by a bad ending. No matter if it's a happy "Hollywood style" conclusion, a tragic death scene, or anything in-between, going out strong is paramount when it comes to movies. You've just gotta do it.
That brings me to Skyline, a new alien invasion movie directed by the Brothers Strause, the duo responsible for 2007's so-so Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem. As a sci-fi fan, I had been looking forward to Skyline based on the really cool-looking trailers. But since it had been getting a lot of horrible press from my fellow film critics, I felt it was best to brace myself for some real physical pain, just in case.
The lights dimmed, the trailers ran, and then the movie began. And, lo and behold, Skyline was actually shaping up to be a really decent, action-packed experience.
It's about a group of twenty-somethings in Los Angles who, after a night of partying, wake up to find alien spaceships floating outside of their high-rise, sucking up people like a giant vacuum cleaner. The kids all decide to stay in the apartment building, except one, who insists that they'd be safer on a boat for some stupid reason. It doesn't work out well when the others try out his dumb suggestion, and they all end up back in the apartment, waiting to see what happens next.
The movie remains from their perspective the entire time, giving an "everyman" view to the proceedings (ala Cloverfield, minus the annoying hand-held camcorder), instead of doing cool stuff like showing the military fighting the aliens (although this does happen a tiny bit later in the film). I guess they're the big-time Army vs. Alien action up to the next upcoming alien invasion movie, 2011's Battle: Los Angles (why are they all attacking California?). Sure, there's hardly any plot, the characters are paper-thin and interchangeable, and precious little is explained about who the aliens are (or anything else, for that matter), but Skyline combats those shortcomings by being fast-paced, well-shot, and generally exciting to watch.
The alien design in Skyline borrows greatly from films like Independence Day and the Matrix, but whatever. It works here. Also, as a "low budget" film made for a "mere" $10 million, Skyline looks like a million bucks. Um, wait...that doesn't make any sense. Damn clichés. Here, let me try again: I've seen films made for $100 million that don't look half as good as Skyline (that's more like it!). Say what you want about the infamous Brothers Strause, but these guys get the most out of every dime they get their hands on. It helps, of course, when you own the effects company that's doing the CG for your movie. Nonetheless, visually, Skyline delivers big-time.
Plus, the aliens in Skyline are here to EAT OUR BRAINS. Well, not exactly...they sort of run on brains like they were batteries, so there's multiple scenes where the aliens are shown ripping out the grey matter of helpless human beings and replacing their old "worn-out" brain for the spiffy new one (by the way, you can tell it's a nice, fresh brain if it glows blue). I LOVE cheesy 1950's-style sci-fi kitsch like that.
All was going well, but then...that ending. Whoa.
To say that Skyline has one of the most mentally-challenged endings ever committed to a digital recording medium would be saying...well, the truth. I'm not about to spoil anything, but DAMN, was it beyond stupid, and, you guessed it, all the good feelings Skyline had been generating within me during its runtime were flushed out like I had just ingested a shot of liquid Draino. It was just SO exquisitely stupid.
So, if things had remained on course, I probably would have dished out a 2 and-a-half star rating for Skyline. But for that dingle berry of an ending, I really have to penalize it a full star. But, if you walk out of the theater about 10 minutes early, say right after the scene where the one dude lays into an alien with a cinderblock, not only will you have had a far more enjoyable experience than I did, but you can feel free to add that star back on as well. It's win-win.
Otherwise, only bother seeing this is you're a super die-hard sci-fi geek who's hard-up for his or her next monster movie fix.
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