One of the best in a movie full of inspiring visual FX shots.

I know this review is a bit late but I was in Vancouver and had little internet access/time for blogging. I wish I could have thought of something a bit bigger for my hiatus comeback but this is it. I’ve seen a few movies lately, actually, including Paranormal Activity 2 and Conviction but this is the only one that I feel like reviewing right now so here goes.

Oh, and be aware that I will be spoiling this movie. Because fuck this movie, it isn’t worth caring about spoilers, believe me. In fact, knowing what happens at the end might make you want to see it more and may be the only thing (besides the pretty graphics) worth seeing it for.

The first thing you’ll notice if you were born before 1990 and have seen a couple of movies is that Skyline is a mish-mash of imagery and concepts from other, better science fiction movies. The major, most noticable ones are Independance Day, Cloverfield, The Matrix, and War of the Worlds. Most reviews out there will talk about this in varying degrees and most of them will probably consider it a mark against this one. I’m a bit more on the fence, just on general principle. I don’t think it’s a problem if an artist, be they a novelist or filmmaker, borrows from influential predecessors as long as they bother to try and make their execution fresh or otherwise co-opt the initial concept in an interesting way.

That said, Skyline doesn’t really accomplish this. If it isn’t lifting straight from War of the Worlds, it’s reminding of us of other films through creature designs and behaviors which should be vaguely familiar, not “oh, that’s just like x”. If even an idiot can spot all your “source material” and the thin way you’ve chosen to veil it, it’s bad form for you.

The Strause Brothers aren’t known for their filmic rigor, however. These are the guys who made Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem which is by all accounts a piece of shit (I haven’t seen it). But you can see that these guys are visually gifted, and no wonder because they come from a VFX background and seem to have leveraged that into enough FX shots to drive George Lucas insane. Plus there’s the fact that one of the characters is an up and comer VFX supervisor who Hollywoods on the phone about a “giant robot fight” and tries to recruit his buddy, Jarrod (Eric Balfour), into the game. Draw from life, right guys?

A lot of time is spent setting these people up. They are douches, kind of, which reminds one of Cloverfield. But I think the reason people hate characterizations of this kind is because they are so unreservedly everyday. These people all feel like real people but another movie would use their foibles and virtues to make statements or derive comedy or something. That way, they seem three dimensional. In Skyline, like Cloverfield, “characterization” isn’t foisted onto the shoulders of people we’re hanging out with for a day or two. I kind of like this approach, I just wish that the actors they got for either movie were more memorable/talented. I am starting to like Eric Balfour but everyone else in this movie is completely forgettable if not annoying. Even Battista from Dexter, who gets the big cliche self-sacrifice (which has no point here) scene, is lame.

So basically we have a pretty movie with some great shots and a couple of good sequences featuring giant biomechanical aliens. Can’t be all bad, even though there’s barely a plot and the characters are thin and dull… right?

Well, kind of. See, the interesting part of Skyline is that whatever the light does to people sort of got interrupted in Jarrod’s case but this event has not left him unmarked. Over the course of the film, Jarrod is slowly mutating and I wish we would have gotten to explore this more. At times, Skyline felt like a superhero origin story. Or maybe the origin of the way in which humans would fight back by using the aliens’ own tech against them. It kind of goes there, but in a way that is only exciting if you’re 14 but still so audacious that it’s worthy of note.

Basically, the aliens (nothing about whom is ever directly explained) need human brains and seem to use them to facilitate their function. I imagine they’re a species of creatures that go around the universe harvesting sufficiently advanced brains to keep their civilization going. Who the fuck knows.

Anyway, the best sequence in the film is when Jarrod and his girlfriend are finally sucked up into a ship and the aliens steal Jarrod’s brain. Unlike the others, Jarrod-bot’s eyes do not glow blue or whatever. They glow red, fuck his brain even glows red just to make sure we know it’s different. Waking up in the new form, he immediately goes on a rampage to save his pregnant girlfriend. He gets to her, rips some brains out, and gets baby-mama to recognize him. Then the movie ends and we get a few stills over the credits of Jarrod-bot smashing various aliens and tearing their brains out like King Kong or something. It’s kind of awesome, really.

But it’s also too little, too late and a huge tease. We know there’s going to be a sequel but will it feature Jarrod-bot battling the forces of brain-theft? Probably not. That would be too awesome. I hope the Strause Brothers have the balls and make enough money from Skyline to fund it.

As subpar as this flick was, I like the idea that you can make a few million in the biz and turn it around to finance your own stupid movie. A Hollywood studio would never fund a movie about a hulking alien with a human brain who must battle other aliens in a post-apocalyptic world with only his girlfriend for company. That is just way too awesome.

I should also mention that, though I’ve talked about it plenty, the ending wasn’t my favorite part of the movie. My favorite part of the movie is that when the army finally gets around to fighting back, they fucking nuke Los Angeles straight away. Although we are not privy to any deliberation over this tactic, as we were with Independance Day, the way it’s handled like a foregone conclusion is kinda great.

Plus: pretty explosion. Part of me wishes I was reviewing the DVD so I could screen-capture images of both Jarrod-bot and his glowing brain. And the epic explosions.

Maybe Vagina-hand, too. If you want to know wtf Vagina-hand is, see the movie I guess.