Skyline, which just opened this weekend, is currently getting almost universally terrible reviews from the nation’s mainstream critics. The consensus seems to be that the film features impressive special effects but that can’t make up for the predictable storyline, cardboard characters, and bad dialogue.
(Oddly enough, this is being said by the same critics who, last year around this time, were raving about Avatar. It’s as if these critics are trying to make up for essentially giving James Cameron a free pass by now nitpicking every single effect-driven movie to death.)
Well, to be honest, a lot of what they’re saying about Skyline is true. The characters are pretty thinly drawn, the script is pretty basic, and the plot is derivative. But you could have guessed that just from watching the movie’s trailer. Skyline is a fun and enjoyable little movie, the type that you’re already forgetting about as you walk out of the theater.
Plotwise, a bunch of rich people get together in L.A. They party, they drink, and they do things that would make their mother’s cry. The next morning, Earth is invaded by brain-sucking aliens and our hung-over protagonists, trapped in a luxury hotel, attempt to survive the next three days. And that’s pretty much it.
The cast is pretty much made up of people you’re used to seeing on TV and most of them give TV-movie-style performances. They struggle not to be overwhelmed by the special effects but, to be honest, this actually makes the film more effective. The cast’s struggle to keep up with the special effects neatly parallels humanity’s losing battle against the aliens. However, for the most part, the cast does what is required of them and they do it well enough. It is a little bit distracting that a key supporting role is played by Scubs’ Donald Faison because every time I saw him, I kept expecting to hear a Zach Braff inner monologue.
The film’s nominal lead is played by Eric Balfour, who is actually probably about as appealing as he’s ever been in his role here. In the past, I’ve always been vocal about “not getting” Eric Balfour but, lately, I’ve been starting to see his appeal. (And no, my sudden appreciation of Balfour has nothing to do with the fact that I had a kinda fun conversation with him on twitter once — well, okay, maybe a little.) I think in the past Balfour has been cast in parts where his facial hair was expected to carry the dramatic weight of the role. In this film, Balfour is actually allowed to play a sort of “everyman” type role and he’s actually very appealing in the role. Plus, I never noticed this before but Eric Balfour has like literally got the sexiest biceps ever. They’re at least in the top ten as far as sexy biceps are concerned. Also in the cast is David Zayas (you’ll recognize him from Dexter) who doesn’t have sexy biceps but is still a totally hot badass in his own mysterious way. Here he plays a concierge who shows up out-of-nowhere and quickly becomes the coolest character in the film. He gets to deliver the film’s best one-liner as well.
Ultimately, Skyline is a movie about special effects and it is here that the film triumphs. Working with a relatively low budget, the filmmakers have managed to create aliens that are not only believable and occasionally scary but kinda fun as well. These are the type of old-fashioned aliens that have come to Earth with only one purpose in mind and the special effects — the ominous mother ship floating over L.A. and the various things (they appear to be some sort of cross between animal and machine) that patrol the city in search of fresh victims — all have a retro feel to them that is undeniably appealing.
For all the criticism that Skyline has been getting, the really only inexcusable flaw is that the film is basically is 10 minutes too long. If the final ten minutes (or “Day 3″ as the film puts it) had been cut out of the final film, Skyline would probably be getting much less slammed by the reviewers, the majority of whom would probably then be able to see the movie for the silly, campy, and enjoyable little b-movie that it really is. However, that ending — well, a bad ending can ruin an otherwise decent movie and if you need proof, here it is. In fact, I suggest that anyone who goes to see Skyline should leave as soon as that title — Day 3 — appears on the screen. Just stand up and walk out of the theater and allow the end of Day 2 to be the end of the movie. Trust me, you’ll have much fonder memories of the experience afterward.