It arguably started with Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, which was followed by District 9 and the yet-to-be-released Monsters. Now, with Skyline I think it’s safe to say that alien invasion movies are back in fashion.

Borrowing liberally from the likes of The Matrix and Independence Day, Skyline is a film that is unashamedly popcorny.Skyline Special effects gurus turned directors, the Strause Brothers clearly want nothing more than to entertain in a very shallow fashion. And it works, for the most part.

Basically, a bunch of alien ships have descended from the heavens and started abducting millions of people. We’re not given any reason why, and like Cloverfield, this is a disaster movie that leaves behind the multi-narrative genre traditions from the 70s, 80s and 90s, and instead focuses on a single group of people stuck in the penthouse of an L.A. apartment. Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) have come to stay with Candice (Brittany Daniel) and Terry (Donald Faison). We get even less of an introduction than we received in Cloverfield, and barely ten minutes go by before L.A. is under attack by colossal spaceships and their alien pilots.

It is obvious from the outset that this is a movie made by special effects gurus. Whilst clearly on a limited budget (of ten million, apparently), the special effects shots are fantastic, and the action is very well orchestrated. They may be a little too in love with the slow-motion button, but there’s enough sci-fi eye candy here to keep you satisfied.

However, there’s another reason why you know this is made by special effects gurus, and that’s because everything else is rather flawed. The performances are so-so, but it’s the writing that leaves a lot to be desired. The film also goes out of its way to populate the set with the least likeable bunch of peeps we’ve seen in ages. Most of them have no redeeming features, whilst the ones that might be nice enough aren’t given anything to work with. To make matters worse, the choices these people make are pretty lame (even accepting that they’re under a fair amount of otherworldly pressure). Logic certainly isn’t their strong point, nor indeed the most prominent trait of the film.

All that being said, it is enjoyable. People said that about Independence Day, but I for one didn’t appreciate Emmerich’s film at all (except for maybe the SuperDog moment.) Thus, my reaction to Skyline is similar to the critical reaction that earlier iconic piece of special effects – basically, this is big dumb fun. The Strause Brothers were always going to have to work super hard for atone for the sin of helming Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, and I can’t say that they have completely succeeded. Skyline does have a few surprises up its sleeve, however, and can be seen as a break from the more highbrow science fiction that’s been gracing our screens of late.

Rating: 3 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 20th November 2010
Hoopla Factor: 3.5 stars

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