Skyline Review

One of Skyline’s many extravagant effects sequences has our luxury apartment occupants running from an alien being, a creature with some tremendous girth and sticky tongues. They run about, dodging and avoiding like all good Hollywood characters do, and barely escape indoors… where nothing happens.

Here is this massive creature, tearing away chunks of this complex, and once inside, everything goes quiet. It’s completely disconnected with what audiences came to see, and far too much of Skyline is like that.

The embarrassing, rather illogically plotted opening introduces us to a couple sleeping when bright lights begin dropping on Los Angeles. We briefly see the light’s effects on humans, and cut back to the previous day where the human element comes into play. For whatever reason, the film recounts the first shots of the lights dropping again, begging the question as to why we didn’t just start on the previous day in the first place.

Somewhere, there’s a great movie here, but it’s never found. There are number of extravagant action sequences, all of them rich with masterpieces of low-budget computer generated imagery, but there is little connection to the viewer. An all-out military assault, beginning with some small ground warfare before turning into a full-scale sky brawl, is intense. With no connection to any central hero character involved in that skirmish, it’s hollow.

Most of the film takes place in a single apartment room, our central characters looking out at the city as it is slowly emptied of its populace, humans moving towards the bright blue lights like moths to a bug zapper. Why is anyone’s guess, TV stations are off the air (although oddly broadcasting empty news desks and weather radars) and no cliché scientists involved in any of these proceedings.

That wouldn’t be such an issue, and it shouldn’t be as films like Cloverfield have proven, but Skyline relies on drastic, far out there events for its finale. This is not just an alien invasion, but an utterly bizarre insight into what the aliens are doing, and the only people who know are the ones who penned the script. You didn’t need to know why the Cloverfield monster was killing people; you need to know why the Skyline aliens harvest brains, why they need them in the first place, and why our lead character Jarrod (Eric Balfour) is turning into Superman. These are central to the narrative, and sequel set-up ending.

If that sequel does follow, there are few means to generate a legitimate plot, the best part already taken care of here. The world is decimated, and the central human (sort of) characters left are not enough to carry this story forward. The positive part of a sequel? David Zayas’ laughably bad performance should be excised, along with his character. At least these aliens do something right.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

If Skyline were meant to be a showcase for the Red One digital camera, it fails miserably. This is an ugly, flat, dull looking movie, devoid of depth, dimensionality, and detail. It looked like that theatrically too via digital projection, so make of it what you will.

This one is impossibly soft, even the rampant visual effects lacking refinement and clearly defined texture. Close-ups of the alien ships (or the aliens themselves which look a lot like the ships) carry little discernible features, this aside from the brightly glowing eyes. All of their mechanical bodies are no part  of this source material. Facial detail on the human characters is roughly nill, the shots in darkened rooms completely lost to the lighting, and those outside in broad daylight never faring much better beyond somewhat brighter color.

Skyline is certainly muted, the only rich color surrounding the lights on the aliens. Flesh tones are peaked, and the city aerials muted for effect. Black levels don’t exist here, settling in and sitting on a murky gray. The closest this one makes it to black is, again, the aliens themselves with their electronic hides. They still don’t leap off the screen with any hi-def intensity.

Plenty of digital artifacts dance around the screen, from vertical banding to general low light noise. Compression seems to be more of a source fault since the AVC encode maintains a high standard in terms of bitrate. Walls tend to be dotted with visible artifacts in the limited light. Skyline was meant to be cheap, although the Red is certainly capable of better.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

This DTS-HD audio mix is sufficient, but not the awesomely aggressive power effort it should be. A comparison to Cloverfield as one of the massive aliens assaults the small band of survivors carries some weight, footsteps quite powerful in terms of low-end use. However, it’s not spectacular, muted much like the video. It doesn’t carry that extra oomph needed to truly generate the impact.

Things shake, especially as jets fly overhead, things explode, or ships drop to Earth in the beginning to suck up their prey. The highlight is an aerial battle at the hour mark as the military makes their move, aircraft passing through every speaker as they get closer to their goal. Even without action, the surrounds are well engaged, helicopters outside passing by, or alien drones whirring as they near the apartment windows in the proper channel.

Skyline ends inside one of the motherships, a detailed audio presentation as things begin to grab, snatch, and pull on the humans trapped inside. By comparison, the opening pre-invasion scene features an airport filled with busy travelers and PA systems. Skyline should please most listeners overall; it’s certainly not holding back in terms of general action. It’s the low-end quotient where things simply don’t deliver on the level they should, at least in terms of the scale being shown visually.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Two commentaries are featured, the first from the co-directors the Brothers Strause. The second brings in the writing team, co-writers Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes. Seven deleted scenes offer an optional commentary, totaling out to six-and-a-half minutes. An additional two alternate takes are separated, also with a commentary at around two-and-a-half minutes. Pre-vis is featured (and yes, with optional commentary), two scenes for 10-minutes. D-Box and general BD-Live support are here too.

Extras ★★☆☆☆