REVIEWED: SKYLINE

Skyline

The visuals are as good as it gets.

The best and worst thing that can be said about new sci-fi flick Skyline is that it is directed by The Brothers Strause; good, because it ensures that expectations (following their ultraviolent-yet-somehow-still-dreadful Aliens vs Predator: Requiem) remain ostensibly low, and bad because their shoddy work contributes to making Skyline perhaps the worst theatrically-released science fiction film since the Razzie Award-winning Battlefield Earth.

The plot is so one note it is scarcely worth talking about, but here we go anyway; the protagonists are a couple, Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson), visiting Los Angeles for the birthday party of Jarrod’s best mate, Terry (Donald Faison). However, after a hard night of partying, they awaken to find a mysterious alien race have descended on Earth to steal and presumably harvest the humans, using their vast array of weaponry to do so. Together with any survivors they come across, they must try to flee to safety…wherever that may be.

From almost minute one, Skyline is an infuriating film. The already overused “in media res” storytelling technique – in which we are shown a mid-narrative scene at the start of the film, which will then be repeated later with added context – is abused to nonsensical ends, as the film opens with an abduction scene, cuts to several hours earlier, only to then promptly cut back to the aforementioned abduction scene no more than ten minutes later, while providing not a scrap of added context. In even greater terms than their first outing, Skyline is proof that the The Brothers Strause skipped a few classes of Filmmaking 101.

Only so much criticism can be sent their way, though; scribes Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell are at least as much to blame for the empty shell of a script, which gladly litters the screen with every imaginable science fiction and disaster film cliché and contrivance. What makes Skyline inevitably worse than being simply generic or by-the-book, however, is how achingly boring the whole experience is. Shockingly, despite some admittedly top-notch visual effects, the film is – aside from one briefly exhilarating dogfight between a drone and an alien ship – possibly the most boring mainstream sci-fi pic ever made. With much of the film spent running up and down a hotel complex, while not engaging intimately with the aliens until the final two minutes, Skyline quickly becomes a tiresome exercise. At least Battlefield Earth was hilarious; Skyline’s litany of tropes might raise a smile, but barely even that.

The real shame is that talented actor Eric Balfour (who has impressed on two hit shows – 24 and, more noticeably, Six Feet Under), is absolutely wasted in a role that reduces him to a mumbling airhead, as it does also to the less talented thesps around him (Faison should be ashamed – with a hit show like Scrubs, does he really need to plumb these depths?). David Zayas fares slightly better as a hotel concierge who essentially takes up the “LL Cool J in Deep Blue Sea” mantle, providing some light (very light) comic relief, and being by far the film’s most likeable character.

To wake you from your cynical stupor is a surprising – though laughable – left turn in the film’s third act; teasing the prospect of a daringly downbeat ending yet quickly steamrolling this with an incredibly silly one, Skyline goes even one further and cuts the film off just as something actually exciting begins to happen, no matter how hare-brained it is. Fear not, though; the subsequent action is detailed in still images throughout the credits, as though the Brothers ran out of money while preparing for their final showdown and had to settle for a few measly screen caps…

Skyline, aside from some impressively rendered effects given the budget (reportedly $10-20m), does pretty much everything wrong a sci-fi film can; boring, charmless, featuring only one even remotely likeable character, lacking enigma or particularly interesting-looking extraterrestrials, this is the year’s worst blockbuster-type outing, and makes the maligned work of Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay look virtuosic by contrast.

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