This week I went to see Skyline because a) I love science fiction movies and b) I love science fiction movies. What I got was a surprise. At different times, I felt I was in the theatre watching Cloverfield, First Contact, Independence Day and War of the Worlds. At any moment, I expected to see Will Smith and Tom Cruise run in front of a handheld camera while evading the Borg Queen with her wriggling, body-free spinal chord and dodging monstrous and gigantic beasts that stomped their way around a metropolis – LA in this instance.
The plot: Jarrod and Elaine arrive in LA to celebrate the birthday of best friend and successful businessman Terry and his girlfriend (and ‘assistant’) in his penthouse LA apartment. After a night of raucous partying, everyone wakes up with a stonking hangover only to find themselves under attack from beautiful bright lights that have crash landed in the streets like numerous little spaceships. Unfortunately, the lights zap anyone who looks at them. Before you know it, there are mass-tentacled aliens on every street corner and disgustingly ugly giants that climb the buildings and crash through the streets and suck humans into their obscene orifices. And then there’s the spaceships.
Surprisingly, the hungover party-goers believe they are safe at sea. Why they think this is never explained. It’s certainly not validated in anyway. So, with the help of a concierge, and with more luck than sense, our young tequila-sozzled heroes wage war on the brain-suckers.
The directors of Skyline, ‘The Brothers Strause’, were responsible for the special effects in 300 and The Day After Tomorrow and directed Aliens Vs Predator: Requiem. They clearly love their aliens and monsters and this does show. The budget for Skyline is rumoured to have been ‘between $9 million and $20 million’. To give the brothers credit, you would not guess that the budget was so low. They carefully manipulate what we see, so that the focus is not on a destroyed city or the decimated populations (something that Roland Emmerich would have had a lot of fun with), but on the metallic and organic multi-tentacled space craft and the mammoth, indestructible monsters that scale buildings. All of which need the human brain for survival.
There is much here that is ludicrous – a matter that is not helped by the clichéd characters and the disregard for anyone else in the world outside the building – but there is also stuff that frightens. The monsters are indeed terrifying at times and there are moments of shock and real horror (and disgust). The focus of the budget was on the special effects and they are indeed attention grabbing.
How to rate Skyline…? I don’t regret seeing it but much of the enjoyment of the film is robbed by the absolutely ridiculously ludicrous ending. Be warned. If you can keep your tongue firmly in your cheek then there are worse ways to spend a wet winter’s evening. Mind you, I can also think of better.