Skyline: A Real Alien Invasion Couldn’t Possibly Be This Boring
In Skyline, the aliens are complex creatures who require human brains to function. Science fiction as a genre is a complex creature that requires a human brain to function. Sadly, Skyline is completely lacking in brains, as special effects wander aimlessly looking for something resembling intelligent design. From the stupid characters to the stupidly staged action sequences to the stupid logic the creators of Skyline employed, everything about the film is dumb enough to be obnoxious but not crazy enough to make it amusing. I would have preferred an actual alien invasion to watching Skyline. An actual alien invasion would have had the decency to end my misery more quickly.
The beginning of the film is promising enough. We see Los Angeles having beams of blue light shot into the streets from the sky. Elaine (Scottie Thompson) wakes up with her boyfriend Jarrod (Eric Balfour) to the ground shaking and light peeking in the windows. There’s a scream in the other room, and Jarrod goes out. He looks into the light, and his eyes turn to cataracts and his veins begins popping out of his skin on his face. So far, so good. Then, we flashback to before the invasion to get to know the characters, which turns out to be the first huge mistake the film makes. Jarrod and Elaine are on a plane to visit Jarrod’s old friend Terry for his birthday. Jarrod helps a lady put her bag into the overhead compartment– this is the only character development we are given for Jarrod, that he is not above helping women on planes.
They meet Terry (Donald Faison), who takes them to his luxurious condo. It turns out he makes special effects for films, which is how he got filthy rich, and all sorts of women want to sleep with him. The Brothers Strause, the directors of this film, made their living in special effects and their real condo serves as Terry’s condo for the film. If you don’t see something strangely egocentric in writing the main heroes in an alien invasion film as two men of your age and your occupation living in your real condo, then you’re not looking closely enough. Maybe this wouldn’t seem as odious to me if the main two quasi-autobiographical characters weren’t douchebags. They throw a big party with lots of free drinks, women in bathing suits, and limousines. Terry cheats on his girlfriend, and when Elaine informs Jarrod she’s pregnant, he freaks out and says he doesn’t want it. Maybe he should have used protection like any other mildly intelligent human being who doesn’t want a baby.
Then, we go back to where we began, now liking the characters far less and caring far less what happens to them. I hypothesize the movie would have actually been more interesting if we knew nothing about them, as our basic human desire to watch our species survive might have given the Brothers Strause a shot at having characters we would root for. Instead, they stay in the condo, until they realize the aliens can enter their building. A couple of people die. Then, they try to go outside, where the aliens are. More people die. Then, they go back inside to try to wait it out… until they decide again to try going outside. More people die. They think they see a way to be saved– then aliens destroy it. They think they see another way to be saved– the aliens destroy it. It sounds like a lot is happening, but in actuality, these events take a hundred minutes to transpire, and the level of intrigue never goes past, “I wonder if something cool will finally happen.”
For the aliens themselves: their attack strategy is beyond poor. They have this light that serves as a tractor beam which emanates both from their ship and from themselves. How does this type of light evolve in organic beings? And how do they recreate that same kind of light from a ship? But never mind that. They use the light very sparsely, which strikes me as odd. That’d be like Mike Tyson throwing two jabs maximum per round in the ring– if you have this weapon which is obviously superior to anything the enemies have, why not use it more frequently? But never mind that. The aliens and ships also have the ability to reconstruct themselves, levitating the broken pieces of themselves back into place and magically welding themselves back together. Is this also a product of evolution? Does the light have something to do with this? But never mind that. Human beings try to blow up their ship, and in a twist that literally everyone will see coming, these attempts fail. Didn’t the military watch Independence Day?
There are multiple types of aliens too– aliens that look exactly like the alien from Alien, aliens that look exactly like the alien from Independence Day, and aliens that look exactly like the trolls in Lord of the Rings. They also walk around in walking devices that look exactly like the walking ships in War of the Worlds. Is the point I’m making too subtle? Here’s the real kicker: the aliens seem to have invaded Earth because they are looking for human brains. They attach a suction device to the skull, and pull out the brain whole, undamaged, with the brain stem attached. Pretty nifty technology! Are they looking to eat human brains? No, their plan is far more urgent. If you would like to avoid the spoilers on what is potentially the dumbest ending to a film in recent memory, please avoid the two paragraphs to follow.
Up in the alien ships, they are pulling out human brains from the massive quantity of humans sucked in by the light. They shoot the brain up this pipe, where then they put it into the limp body of an alien drone, which springs to life when the brain is installed in its head. That’s why they need the brains whole– they are literally human brains running the alien drones, which then are immediately used to serve the nefarious purpose of taking over the world. How an alien race evolved the trait of using another species’ brain is a mindboggling feat. How these aliens then immediately know what their task is continues to boggle minds. But most mindbogglingly of all, our heroes are sucked into the ship, making out as they are pulled into the sky by the light (potentially the most unintentionally funny scene of 2010), and Jarrod gets his brain removed. Downer ending, right? It’s not over.
The aliens prepare to remove Elaine’s unborn baby from her while she’s still alive. Why they want the baby is unexplained– perhaps there is an unborn baby alien which requires an unborn baby-sized brain to function. I digress. As this is happening, we watch Jarrod’s brain sucked into a series of transparent tubes in the ship. We know it’s Jarrod’s brain because– and this is not a joke– it glows a different color than the other brains. It’s put into an alien body, and then the alien begins beating up the other aliens, and it saves Elaine. When Elaine wonders what happened, the alien brushes her face in the same way Jarrod had done all film long. She says, “Jarrod?”, and the alien strikes a pose, ready to attack other aliens in the ship. Roll credits. So the movie with Cloverfield’s setting, the aliens from Alien, Independence Day, and War of the Worlds, also steal their ending twist– the human becomes an alien yet retains his love for his girlfriend– from District 9.
SPOILERS OVER. All of the stealing from other films wouldn’t be nearly as offensive if they had been executed even close to as well as they were executed in the original films. Instead, the movie waters down these ideas to the point where they retain none of their effectiveness. The film is boring, the characters are unlikable, the writing is unintelligent, and the ending is laughably atrocious. It has surprisingly good special effects considering its very meager budget, but I wish the movie had bad special effects too– maybe then the movie would have been so bad that it was enjoyable. Instead, it’s worse. It’s just bad. I’m a man who loves alien invasion flicks and I’m prepared to make excuses for entertaining entries into the genre, but any film this uninteresting deserves no justification for its existence. How can so much destruction be so impossibly dull? Perhaps that’s how Skyline is distinctive: it’s the most boring alien apocalypse film of all time.