By: Addison Wylie
When a genre film is released that has been deemed as “bad” or “underwhelming”, I’ll usually stick with my go-to rule of thumb. That rule is that if the director’s heart and passion is in the right place and an audience can see that integrity on the big screen, the film can be redeemed in some areas. Skyline, a sci-fi film directed by the Brothers Strause, seems to fall into this category for me. It’s a cheap looking film that utilizes a script with broken logic, however, that passion for the project can be sensed. No matter how the film looks or how the lines sound coming, unenthusiastically, out of the actors’ mouths, the Strause’s desperately want to make a fantastical piece that would rival District 9. That bar though is very high and Skyline doesn’t come close to matching how inventive a movie of that calibre is.
After a wild party descends from its outrageousness, blue lights shoot down from the clouds and strike Los Angeles early in the morning. Pedestrians are entranced by the rich, visceral site and feel themselves being sucked in towards it. Suddenly, they are snatched up from the ground and taken into, what appears to be, an alien mothership. The loud noises wake up Jarrod, played by Eric Balfour, and his girlfriend Elaine, played by Scottie Thompson. In the next room, Jarrod’s lifelong friend Terry, played by Donald Faison, and his partner Candice, played by Brittany Daniel, are woken up as well by the tremors shaking the building and the pure light peeking in between the window blinds. Soon after finding out that they’re other friend has been sucked up by the light, the friends ponder what’s attacking the city and if they should leave the building or not and head towards a nearby marina.
The Strause Brothers’ main talent is creating special effects. It’s no surprise that the effects are the strongest element of Skyline. For the budget the duo had, the effects are exceptional. The scenes where people are caught by the light and begin to generate black veins all over their body as well as the scenes where innocent bystanders are jolted into the sky by the light were, by far, the stand-out effects. On that note though, it appears all the thought went into the look of the film to mask the fact that the script is overflowing with unoriginality and cliched lines. Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell have penned a script that lacks any original thought which is accompanied by broken logic. The decisions characters carry out don’t make any sense making it difficult for an audience to connect with their protagonists. Cordes and O’Donnell also lift essential plot details as well as character designs and environments from other movies. The movie’s story is a reminder of Cloverfield and the film’s look is reminiscent of that 2009 monster flick. Also, the aliens look like clones of the machines found in the Matrix universe. Once the movie reaches its last 10 minutes, the writing team grasp a bizarre, original thought and are able to make it visually and intellectually stimulating, but alas, the film ends abruptly and the screenwriters are a day late and a dollar short.
However, the fault I bring up about how outrageously unoriginal the designs are may not be all resting on Cordes and O’Donnell. Part of the blame can be aimed towards production designer Drew Dalton for not knowing better and perhaps the chastising should also be aimed towards Chad Bell and Kino Scialabba who were involved within the art department. As much as these careless crew members may take some of the blame, a lot of the blame can certainly be shovelled onto the Brothers Strause and moreso onto the team of producers.
Both Strause brothers have wide imaginations and their passion for filmmaking is apparent. Coming from a reviewer who hasn’t seen their addition to the Alien Vs. Predator series, I believe these two directors can achieve greatness. That said, in order for them to reach their goals, they need to have a strict team above them to let them know when they’re hovering towards cinematic familiarity; even though the directors may have a producers credit too. The moment the movie was starting to seem like it was ripping off Cloverfield or The Matrix, the other producers should’ve immediately brought the issue up to both the directors and, if it was a case where something had to be re-written, the producers must get the writers involved as well. Having a focused, professional group of producers who are familiar with the intentions of both the directors and the writers who can also keep in mind what will sell successfully to a mainstream audience helps a film enormously. In addition to this, it helps if the producers are familiar with films from the past that float around that particular genre. This way, they can watch out for potential plagiarism and perhaps offer stronger, refreshing ideas.
With all this filmmaking hullabaloo out of the way, the film still managed to entertain me; either in an intentional or unintentional sort of way. I wasn’t blown away and my eyes didn’t light up as much as they could’ve but the film isn’t anywhere near dull. It’s entertaining enough to make the film move at a painless, great pace. The Brothers Strause are able to indulge their audience with their goofy film by utilizing flashy visuals. Hopefully with future work, the directors will be able to find a team of competent producers to keep the reigns on them, as well as allow the directing duo to express their visually gifted minds with ease.