When I first saw the initial trailers for Skyline, I was not overly impressed. Once again, here was a film that appeared to offer a great deal of spectacle but was there any substance? Would there be a good script, engaging performances, likeable characters? Call me old fashioned but I do consider these to be important attributes to any film. Well I finally caught up with Skyline, in the comfort of my own lounge, an environment that is often more forgiving that the cinema itself. As I suspected, Skyline turned out exactly as I predicted and once again I was left thinking "so what?" It’s an all too common refrain these days.
Skyline is technically well made. The film opens with a startling event, then lapses into flashback to introduce the characters and set the scene. The story exposition is executed efficiently and within fifteen minutes the film moves on to the action. The cast, drawn mainly from a TV background are competent. These include Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson and Donald Faisson. The story follows a traditional arc climaxing in what the writers obviously consider a twist. The ending leaves the door firmly open for a sequel should the need arise (Alleged a second movie is being considered starring Iko Uwais). The visual effects are very high quality but they did constitute over 90% of the films overall budget.
Despite all the above, Skyline is derivative, clichéd, predictable and utterly disposable. It is not dull but conversely it is not especially engaging. You can happily watch it whilst performing another task such as gaming, reading or plucking a chicken. The characters are not unlikeable as they were in Cloverfield but they are not sufficiently developed to merit any serious emotional investment. For instance, David Zayas plays an intriguing concierge who seems to be the only practical member of the group. Yet his back story is never explored and apart from a pithy "kiss off" line, his role doesn't really go anywhere.
Directors of Skyline, The Brothers Strause, have a technical background in the industry and own the visual FX studio Hydraulx. Their pedigree in this field speaks for itself. Yet ninety minutes of CGI does not a good film make. Frankly, the proliferation of visual effects in films, TV and advertising these days has somewhat jaded the public's attitude to them. Although they are an expected facet of any production, they are paradoxically diminishing as a major point of interest. How many times have we seen a major US city demolished. In the seventies, this was a rare event but now days it’s as common as politicians lies. Apart from Mad Max: Fury Road, I cannot think of any recent film that got by mainly because of its visuals.
In many respects Skyline is like a fifties B film. It tries very hard to follow the path of larger budget predecessors. You only have to look at the imagery that is used, such as the spaceships over Los Angeles or the squid like harvesting drones. The familiarity of these visuals reflects a sort of cinematic fast food culture. Sadly, it has the same overall results. After an innocuous viewing experience akin to a drive-thru meal, the audience soon forgets the inherently bland movie experience they’ve just partaken off. Without the substance of a genuinely good script or an original idea, alleged big spectacles, such as Skyline, become no more than a hollow one.