Skyline – Review


Destroying L.A on a budget

The thing with disaster films is that usually they come with a massive budget. It’s easy to blow up landmarks, etc, but unfortunately it comes with a high price tag. It’s why filmmakers never go into the genre trying to make a quiet, contemplative film about end times. With a large budget comes large expectations and as such things tend to get dumbed down for mass appeal. You don’t go about making a film like 2012 for $200 million with the expectation of making it closer in spirit to The American as opposed to The Core. Which is why Skyline is a bit of a shocker in the “end of the world” market; at times it tries to be a contemplative piece about end times. The key word here is “tries” because it actually ends up being an absolute mess of a film on nearly every level leading up to one of the most mind-numbingly bad finales in recent history.

The film has a rather innocuous setup. Aliens have invaded Los Angeles, eating people and causing general mayhem, and we end up in a posh Los Angeles condo with a group of survivors. As they witness L.A being destroyed, and the eventual fight back from the military, we get their perspective in the same manner that Cloverfield brought to the monster movie. Shot more traditionally, as opposed to the popular “found footage” style currently en vogue, the film follows the first three days in what it is set up as a franchise. And it feels like about three different films meshed into one low budget mess.

With a relatively small budget for the genre, estimated between $10-20 million (a pittance for the genre), it certainly doesn’t look or feel like a low budget film. The one thing Greg and Colin Strause, who direct under the name the Brothers Strause, have done is taken their work behind the scenes as effects artists and use it on a minimally budgeted film with a number of relatively unknown actors. David Faison of Scrubs fame and Latino character actor David Zayas (most notably from Dexter) are as high profile as the film gets, culling the bulk of its cast from lesser known actors. And that’s part of the problem; this isn’t a high profile cast but it also isn’t a very good one either.

Part of the problem perhaps might come from the script, which doesn’t give a whole lot to work with, but it’s a matter of perspective. Zayas looks like a young Pacino next to most of this cast in the same way Jeremy Piven does opposite Adrian Grenier, et al, in Entourage. He’s a first rate actor opposite a number of those nowhere near his talent level and just looks so much better on screen because of it. It’s not that he’s any way exceptionally brilliant, he’s slightly above good for the genre, and everyone else is just so bad that he looks brilliant by association. But it’s also because the film has no clue what it’s trying to be.

Skyline feels a combination of a couple films. It has the effects of a massively budgeted end of the world piece, shown from a new perspective, but also is trying to be a smaller contemplative film. Most of the film transpires in a condo, using window views and a telescope to see the outside world. The film is at its most interesting point here, as well, because everyone deals with what is happening on a smaller level and with one another. People handle crisis differently and a film about how these people deal with it would be much more interesting if done for the film’s length, as opposed to in small spurts. And with just this Skyline wouldn’t be an awful film, just merely a bad one, but it does one thing that is mind-numbing: its finale.

There are a handful of ways you could’ve ended this film but the way it does end is perhaps the most bizarre way you could do it. It comes completely out of nowhere and has absolutely nothing to do with where the film has been heading all along. It’s completely out of nowhere and incredibly bizarre, completely ruining the entire film in the process. Skyline wasn’t that good to begin with but at least was almost mediocre; the final 10 minutes of the film descend into such unbelievable camp that it’s mind-numbing.

It’s been alleged that Colin and Greg Strause made this film after working on the effects for Battle: Los Angeles, taking significant elements from that film for this one in order to make a quick buck. One really that isn’t the case because this is one of, if not the, worst films of the year.

Director: The Brothers Strause
Notable Cast: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Donald Faison, David Zayas, Brittany Daniel
Writer(s): Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell