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Skyline is Curiously, Strangely Awful

Directed by Colin Strause and Greg Strause
Written by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell
Universal, 2010

Now, that headline doesn’t mean I expected Skyline to be good, but the awfulness of this movie comes from a strange place.  It borders on the kind of awful that you get from a midnight viewing of The Room or Birdemic, where there are so many things that don’t make sense, and so many off-the-wall ludicrous plot points, and so many things that are just downright dumb, it is right for you to question whether actual human beings, people cut from the same cloth and you and I, were actually in control of this.  I always go back to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Ed Wood, when he seems gleefully oblivious to anything sucking, but has a passion unrivaled by the best of filmmakers.

The Brothers Strause have one other feature under their belt, and that was the abysmal Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.  If you read my review of that movie, you’ll notice many of the same problems I have with that movie show up in Skyline.  Now, if checking out the writers’ credits is any indication, you have to believe that the Brothers Strause, long visual effects guys who really wanted to direct, have a hard-on for giving visual effects guys a shot at creating their own movie on the page: Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes are themselves visual effects guys, and both worked on AVP: Requiem.  I guess they thought they could make an Independence Day-style alien invasion flick on their own.  I mean, how hard could it be?  They certainly rip off quite a bit from it.  And although Independence Day has its detractors, you can say a great deal of effort went into that to make an exciting action adventure sci-fi epic.  Whereas this seems slapped together from the first minute.

The story is this: aliens come and start dropping these blue rays of energy down to the ground.  Pity the fool who looks at these balls of energy, because they will get swooped up into a ship for God-knows-what kind of travesty.  The people we’re supposed to care about have nothing going for them, except of course the “main” couple played by Eric Balfour and Scottie (The Hottie) Thompson (at least that’s what I’m sure she was called in high school), where it is discovered that she’s pregnant.  So with the cheap baby drama, we’re supposed to care about those two.  Not sure what to make of Scrubs’ Donald Faison and his girlfriend Brittany Daniel and his not-so-secret lover Crystal Reed.  They all look expendable from the moment they get on screen.  Throw in Dexter’s David Zayas as a hotel manager and now we’re ready to root for the humans.

The alien attack doesn’t make much sense: they send these blue lights down and suck people up, and despite getting hundreds of thousands of people (and likely millions, because Los Angeles isn’t the only town in the world), they still send different scouts, one huge, another small, and there might be another couple of different kinds…it doesn’t matter, to round up whomever they might have missed.  These aliens all have different abilities according to whatever seems to be cool at the very moment you think they might get defeated.  It should come as no surprise to anyone what happens when one of the ships gets hit with a nuclear weapon.  I always think of that scene in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut when people try to shoot the already dead, clearly-teamed-with-Satan Saddam Hussein, and after absorbing the bullets Hussein laughs, “What a dumbass!”

There are actual moments in the film where our “heroes” think that getting to a boat will be the safest place to be, even though there’s absolutely no proof anywhere that this might be the case.  I mean, the aliens are fucking everywhere, is this supposed to be Signs where aliens have a bad disposition towards water?  No one knows, but the whole “let’s get to a boat” idea is pitched twice before finally someone says, “Holy fuck, that sounds really stupid…the fuck were we thinking?” except not nearly as cool as that because it’s PG-13 and the filmmakers are mindless.  There’s also a moment, after the first “let’s get to a boat” expedition fails, where it is decided that the safest place to be is as high as possible in the hotel, without any explanation as to why.  The scene where we see little Johnny in his fourth grade homeroom class watching the video, “What to do When Aliens Attack” and he becomes the unwitting hero of the story must be somewhere on the cutting room floor.  Paul Verhoeven would have made such a scene.  Why isn’t Paul Verhoeven directing this?

But that doesn’t prepare you for the ending!  The ending, which looks like it’s heading in a ballsy direction that would at least, in small part, salvage whatever wreck is left, goes in a direction that is both stupid and completely mystifying.  It just doesn’t make any sense.  We’re supposed to know, and we think we know, why this ending happens, but when we think about what we’ve seen in the movie, that direction is unsatisfying, like someone’s bastard five-year-old just told you a story off the top of his head, and the ending of which makes sense to him because it seems so cool inside his goofy child’s mind, but leaves you searching for ways to pretend to be entertained by it, because you don’t want to hurt the kid’s feelings.  But these guys aren’t kids.  They’re my age.  They should know better.  And you must come to the conclusion that after this and AVP: Requiem, the Brothers Strause should neither be seen nor heard.  Not in this business.

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