Warning: this is going to be super-spoilery. There’s just no way round it, so if you want to be… *surprised* by its eccentricities, then you might want to sit this one out. As blogs go, it’s also a bit long.
Make no bones about it, Skyline is not a good film. It’s not. I’m not even going to try and pretend it is… and yet, as I watched it, I found I rather liked it. I just don’t know why.
It’s hugely, hopelessly, massively flawed and there are several aspects of it which are just downright awful… and yet.
(If the trailer won’t load, by the way, you can watch it directly on Youtube here.)
We open with blue lights streaming down from the sky into Los Angeles. In a bedroom, a couple are asleep; disturbed by the lights, they wake up, she rushes to the bathroom to throw up (the first of the film’s subtle nods at character: have you guessed that she’s pregnant?) and off we go. There’s screaming from the next room as Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost steps into the light, gets a bit sort of burned and then vanishes…
Our protagonist, Jarrod (who is genuinely the only character I can remember the name of, and that’s largely down to the fact I spent much of the film admiring variously his hair, his necklace or his tattoo, and that he’s Jesse from Buffy…) decides that yes, the clever thing is to step into the light too, at which point he also starts doing the weird burny-thing… and suddenly we cut to a tedious flashback of 15 hours ago.
The only purpose of this seems to be to establish that everyone in this film is pretty much a failure as a human being – with the exception of Jarrod, who’s really too bland to count as anything, and who has a habit of stroking his girlfriend’s nose to show his affection. (Remember that: we’ll be needing it later). Girlfriend is prone to bursting into tears and being a bit, well, beige.
Jarrod’s friend, who they’re in town to see, is supposedly a huge success (and lives in a penthouse which somehow later turns into an apartment on a floor of many…) but we never know quite what he does – however, it’s clearly enough to get him a Ferrari and an assistant with whom he’s cheating on his girlfriend. He’s also played by Turk-From-Scrubs. Assistant’s only purpose seems to be to give away the infidelity, and to scream a bit. Not-Turk’s Girlfriend is given a wasted kick-the-cat moment (“Get me a drink!” she snaps. And that’s it) and then sulks and pouts a bit. She smokes, too, which is clearly Hollywood modern-speak for A Bad Person.
Random helicopters fly overhead. “Homeland Security,” says Not-Turk. How the hell does he know? Why is no-one bothered by this? There’s a party. There’s a telescope hooked up to the television in the apartment, which is used to spy on the gay neighbours who are shocking because, y’know, gay, right? Charlie’s-Brother-From-Lost ponces about a bit; passes out. And then we need to meet the building manager-slash-concierge who comes to complain about the noise. The blinds covering the windows are electric. And everyone goes to bed. So. Got that? Awful people, tedious flashback, blah blah blah.
Back to the blue lights.
These are, of course, aliens. They use the light to lure people in, before hoovering them up for… something. People who look at the light get an odd look on their faces, have their eyes go a bit funny and develop red & black patches spreading across their skin like an infection. Which, if they’re pulled out of the light (as seems to happen regularly here) all go away. As Jarrod so succinctly puts it (I’m paraphrasing): “The light takes you over, and you feel powerful.”
People get hoovered up. The aliens appear to be either Squiddies from The Matrix (who sound like the Predator) or something from Resident Evil 2. Or possibly both at the same time because, really, why settle for just one look? Characters make stupid choices (apparently, the water is safe. There’s a marina across the street. They decide to drive there – Jarrod, Girlfriend & Not-Turk’s Girlfriend in an SUV, Not-Turk & Assistant in a convertible Ferrari. A noisy one. I know it’s LA, but come *on*)
Are we seeing the flaw in this plan yet?
Quite apart from the mind-bogglingly stupid decisions piling up, if we know our horror-movie tropes, we know what happens to (a) cheaters and (b) male POC characters. And yes. It does.
We see that the aliens are actually here for a purpose: they’re harvesting brains & spinal cords. Which is nice.
Jarrod develops a superpower: he’s suddenly able to make himself go back to the burny-weird eye-look-into-the-light state, which makes him incredibly strong For No Apparent Reason. He gets to have an Alpha-Male moment which is also nice because it’s about the only thing he’s been given to do.
There’s some Marines. More people die. They use the telescope to keep an eye on what’s happening. More pesky aliens. Stuff blows up. The electric blinds go up and down For No Apparent Reason. The electric blinds fall down For No Apparent Reason. The water to the building is cut off For No Apparent Reason.
There’s a nuke. The alien ship rebuilds itself. Jarrod gets to say “They’re not dead. They’re just really pissed off.”
There’s some stuff on a rooftop. Girlfriend sticks an axe in an alien’s head (yes, there’s an axe). Jarrod goes all superpowered again, beats an alien with a breezeblock, then rips out its brain with his bare hands. Personally, I preferred it when he wasn’t being given anything to do. Girlfriend is scared. “I’m still me,” he says. Again with the nose-stroking.
A helicopter blows up. Not-Turk’s Girlfriend and Concierge bite it, but only after Concierge has done the heroic “turn the gas on and light a cigarette” last stand. A jet crashes into something, and Jarrod & Girlfriend cower as the burning fuselage cartwheels overhead and rains down around them. Oh yes.
And then they get hoovered up by the alien ship, clinging to each other because They’re A Family, Dammit. We have a couple of establishing shots which suddenly remember the rest of the world, also alien-invaded, and then the camera “looks” into the light and we fade out.
Right. This is the point where the film should have ended. If it had, I could have quite happily gone to bed thinking that yes, that was silly and not very good, but Jarrod’s tattoo was quite interesting, he had nice hair and actually, I’m a sucker for a film where a passing-pretty angst-ridden dude pins someone to a wall a foot or so in the air and says he’s not leaving without his family and there’s nothing you can do to stop him. Dammit.
But then. Oh god.
Girlfriend wakes up, inside the alien ship. There’s bodies everywhere and more Squiddies randomly grabbing people, ripping out their brains and tossing the bodies down a rubbish chute. The brains go in a Big Plastic Tube. The brains are glowing blue. Girlfriend starts slithering (there’s goo) her way towards Jarrod – who promptly has his brain ripped out. She screams. His brain goes in the tube. His brain is red. This is clearly Important.
The brains are dropped into alien monster-heads. Alien-monsters wake up and trundle off. Except for alien-monster who gets Jarrod’s *red* brain, who starts screaming and generally bashing himself on the head. Meanwhile, Alien Probes have discovered that Girlfriend is pregnant and there’s some Sirens and some Flashing Lights and some Screaming…
And just as the probe is closing in in a Menacing Fashion, an alien-monster lands right in front of her, growls… and strokes her nose! Yes! It’s Alien-Monster Jarrod: here to save Girlfriend and generally Smash All the Things! Because No-One Hurts His Family. Dammit.
And that was Skyline.
Now, I can’t explain what it was about this film I liked. I feel vaguely dirty knowing I liked it – never mind admitting it in public. I found that somehow, I’d managed to invest in Jarrod. I liked the superpower thing, and I liked the fact that at one point he’s clearly afraid of what’s happening to him as a result. OK, yes, the going all alien-eyed and pinning Concierge to the wall made me invest a *lot* (see my previous comment) and, if they’d given him – instead of Not-Turk – a gun, it wouldn’t have gone amiss, because I’m that kind of girl and I know what I like.
Maybe the only reason I invested in him at all is because there’s no-one else we could even possibly be interested in, never mind empathise with. The script is… weak. The dialogue is shocking. Visuals are borrowed from every SF movie you’ve ever seen (although the effects are quite nice). Things don’t – on any level – make sense. If Jarrod’s brain is still *him*, then what about everyone else? Are all the other alien-monster brains still those people? Why aren’t they Smashing All The Things? And if it’s just Jarrod, then why? Is it force of personality (because god knows he’s been allowed precious little of that up to this point) or is it because he’s A Special Snowflake? (And if that’s the case, why hasn’t someone – *anyone* – demonstrated this through speech, mime, shadow puppetry or the medium of expressive dance?! Is it to do with the “I looked into the light, see my superpowers!” thing? Because other people- including Girlfriend – did that and they don’t go all Alpha-Male Hulk-Smash. Besides, if the aliens are just going to zap everyone up with their giant intergalactic Dustbusters, what’s the point of the shiny blue light, anyway?)
It. Makes. No. Sense.
It’s a bad film.
But I still liked it. From what I’d heard, I was expecting unwatchable-bad. It’s not unwatchable-bad, so it was better than I was expecting, which is about as much as I can say. It was made with no major studio funding, and self-financed – and I admire the moxy of that. There were some quite nifty bits which suffered for being either glossed over or by allowing people to… I don’t know, *speak*. I quite liked the air strike on the big alien ship, and Jarrod’s hair was nice.
I think it’s going to go down on my list of films I have no reason to like, but still do. There’s a few of them: not many, so it’s a pretty select group. Skyline should consider itself honoured.
Go into it with that level of expectation and you might at least be entertained – even if it’s not for the right reasons.
Just don’t watch to the end…