Wednesday, 17 November 2010


Skyline is borderline dull and further proof - as if it were needed - that comic book aficionados and special effects whizz kids shouldn't be allowed to helm a piece of narrative drama. As a case in point, Avatar, for all its flaws, held together as an ambitious, brilliantly realised epic because James Cameron is a far more shrewd narrative technician then he is given credit for. In Skyline, directorial siblings Greg and Colin Strause (laughably monikered The Brothers Strause) have instead made the fatal mistake of formulating a movie around the effects, not vice versa. For all its technical wizardry, that *never* happened in Terminator 2.

In fact, it's more an entrepreneurial success than an artistic one, funded entirely by the brothers themselves, and shot on their own equipment. It's also been made for peanuts: anywhere between 10 and 15 million dollars (reportedly), which should have aspiring sci-fi filmmakers everywhere punching the air in satisfaction. But then the penny drops, and one realises the chilling prospect that the people who directed the abhorrent Alien vs Predator: Requiem have got their mitts on their own project. For once, studio interference would have been welcome.

Pitting itself as a trendy, post Cloverfield, alien spectacular, Skyline loses a lot of extraterrestrial bite early on by ignoring the docu-cam approach that made the former such a vital experience, in spite of its cliches. Now, in their straight-up cinematic delivery, those same cliches, combined with atrocious dialogue and tedious performances, make Skyline as appealing as French kissing with E.T.

It's derivative nature is quite brazenly obnoxious, lifting - nee, stealing - not just the ideas but actual camera moves and set pieces from its more illustrious forebears. So we get the stealth fighter assault on the mother ship (sorry, the unnamed floating, ominous ship) from Independence Day; a fleshy/mechanical variation on the squids from The Matrix; and, most shockingly, an almost identi-kit re-staging of the tentacle chase from Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds. That said, the creature designs and effects are superb in a repulsive, reptilian kind of way; if anything, Alien 3 supremos Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. are the real heroes of the film.

Elsewhere though, it's a complete vacuum. It's less in space no-one can hear you scream than in cinemas, no-one can hear you yawn, the cast (largely consisting of American TV faces) washed up helplessly with a rote script. It's enough to make one yearn for the big light in the sky to arrive ... But there is a glimmer of hope out there that has nothing to do with the film. It manifests itself in the shape of Christopher Nolan, a man who's proved that a $200 million budget doesn't mean you compromise on brains. And brains, in spite of the limited production costs, are exactly what Skyline is lacking (mega ironic for those who've watched it).

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