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22nd Nov 10
Couple go to stay with their Hip Hop mate in L.A. and aliens invade. Go Figure.
There have been alien invasion flicks since the 50s, there's also been post apocalyptic flicks since around the same time, along with giant monster flicks, radiation poisoning flicks, you name it. Back in the 50s you often had a small cast of protagonists who'd be combatting whatever the menace was, and that group would consist of a hero, a love interest, a scientist, a general who'd make lots of phone calls, that kind of thing, generally people trying to save the day. Roll forward a few years and you come to Night of the Living Dead, and the main difference in terms of narrative is that, rather than the main protagonists trying to combat the monster or monsters, this time they're just trying to survive. And survival horror took off, with many incarnations and permutations, with many people realising if you just tell the story of a bunch of people (with optional fleshed out back stories) surviving, your movie is going to be much cheaper - you don't need scores of army soldiers shooting hordes of zombies/the giant radioactive beast, etc, you just need some believeable resistance, a bit of screaming, hiding and/or running away and you've got yourself a movie. Signs, by M Night Shyamalan, is a good example of the Night of the Living Dead survival horror applied to an alien invasion concept, Cloverfield is similar but with a giant monster as the horror and it involves a lot more running and less hiding. But what if you get low a budget survival horror bunch of characters, add an Independence Day style alien invasion and mix in a couple of Cloverfield style monsters running about? You get Skyline, that's what you get.
The story starts with Jarrod and his girlfriend Elaine being woken up by blinding lights searing through the window at 4am while staying at his mate Terry's L.A. holiday apartment. Looking in to the light causes your veins to go black and forces you to walk towards this all consuming light. What's happening? Flashback time - the story quickly jumps back to the day before, and we get 20 minutes of backstory. Jarrod and Terry were apparently hip-hop buddies before Terry became a successful artist, and Jarrod's flown in to catch up, introduce his new girlfriend and go to a party at Terry's pad that evening. It's all going well, except Elaine keeps puking (obviously pregnant) and Terry's frisky assistant Denise keeps coming on to Terry much to his girlfriend Candice's disgust, until a record exec hits Jarrod with 'when are you joining the crew?', much to Jarrod's surprise and Elaine's shock. Before you know it the melodrama of the 'I'm pregnant' speech is seeping from the screen, with Jarrod and Elaine arguing, doors slamming, and everyone goes to bed unsettled.
Then, like I say, they wake up to blinding lights and the sight of an alien invasion. There are giant motherships floating around the skyline blasting those big shining lights around sucking people up to the mothership. The record exec wakes first, walks straight in to the light coming through the window and is sucked in to the air. Jarrod is next, and is only saved by being tackled to the ground by Terry. So the blinds are closed and everyone begins to argue about what to do next. And soon it all becomes very survival horror, with dodgy plan after dodgy plan surfacing, with characters one by one buying it on failed attempts to either make a break for it or stay hidden.
If you do research in to Skyline on the internet you'lll soon discover it was made for approximately $10,000,000. To say it shows is a really unfair way to judge this movie. The problem with this movie is that the drama played out between the main characters is very cliched and a bit groany at times. Of course Jarrod's girlfriend is pregnant, of course Terry gets off with his assistant, of course they all have big fights about it. When the aliens arrive, of course half the group want to run, while half want to hide, although to be fair it's interesting that Elaine and Jarrod disagree so strongly on that one. And then they do look out of the window, or actually step outside, and the film goes in to CG overdrive.
It has to be said, and particularly relating to the budget, that the CG effects in this movie are very good indeed. Sure it's CG, but it's getting very realistic these days, possibly due to the extra subtle effects you get on the shading of CG metal these days (and the heat blurring making it all the more believeable - you can thank Transformers for that). Okay, the flying aliens look like those squid like flying hunters in The Matrix, the running around on all fours monsters look like they've stepped off the set of Cloverfield, and the big aerial battle is not dissimilar to the one in Independence Day, but at least these scenes are here, and when they are here they're a lot of fun.
And that's all there is to it with Skyline, it's an average recent survival horror with some very impressive special effects dragging it up from average to pretty darn good. Sure, this movie is going to have it's critics, especially those expectnig another Independence Day or Cloverfield because this is neither of those movies, but it is fun to watch and, if you can stomach the cheesy dialogue and mostly wooden performances, you should have a lot of fun.
Oh, and if you're wondering, Jarrod was in 24 and Six Feet Under, Terry was in Clueless all those years ago and Scrubs, and Candice was in Dawson's Creek back in the day and the massively underrated Club Dread. Go figure.
31st Jan 05 Peter Cushing appears to have modestly declined from participating in any of this kung fu nonsense although there is a charming battle later on when he gets a little carried away with a big flaming branch...