Aliens want to kidnap a bunch of morons ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Friday, November 19, 2010

Aliens want to kidnap a bunch of morons

My rating:

I liked Cloverfield. The most common criticism I've heard against it is that the characters were annoying and unsympathetic, but I disagree. I liked them. I thought they were real and human. And I felt for the guy who ventured through a monster-invaded city to rescue his lady love, even though they broke up after spending just one day together and they never resolved their issues and he was about to fly off abroad and I could relate to that. I mention all this because Skyline is not dissimilar to Cloverfield; it tells of a similarly massive SFnal event through the perspective of a group of ordinary folks, instead of the heroic scientists/soldiers/President whose job it is to deal with the situation.

Now I know what everyone who hated Cloverfield felt.

Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) have just arrived in Los Angeles to celebrate Jarrod's best friend Terry's (Donald Faison) birthday; having made it big in L.A., Terry shows off his swanky penthouse to Jarrod and Elaine, accompanied by his girlfriend Candice (Brittany Daniel) and personal assistant Denise (Crystal Reed). But the morning after the party, strange blue lights descend from the sky - lights that have mysterious hypnotic effects. Soon, giant alien spaceships descend over the city, whose purpose appear to be abducting humans en masse. Later joined by apartment building concierge Oliver (David Zayas), the group must fight to survive against various alien creatures bent on capturing them all.

The Brothers Strause - Greg and Colin - who directed this movie, also directed Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which is widely regarded as the absolute lowest point that both the Alien and Predator franchises could sink. (I haven't watched it, and have no particular inclination to.) By no means do they redeem themselves here - far from it - but before we get to them I would like to discuss the work of one Joshua Cordes and one Liam O'Donnell. They are the co-screenwriters of Skyline. They created these characters. They wrote their dialogue. They crafted the plot. And they suck.

Actually, my title for this post is a bit of a misnomer. Yes, the characters are incredibly, infuriatingly dumb. They argue over whether to stay in the apartment building or make a run for it to the coast, but instead of intelligently deliberating each option, all they do is bicker. Terry is cheating on Candice with Denise, and they bicker over this. Elaine is pregnant, and because Jarrod is less than thrilled by this, she frequently goes off in a snit. Due to his prolonged exposure, the blue light appears to have lingering effects on Jarrod, but instead of telling everyone, he just snaps at his girlfriend. All this has the same effect on me that Cuti-Cuti Cinta did: these aren't people to me anymore, they're characters playing out a very lousy screenplay. They aren't the morons; Cordes and O'Donnell are.

Seriously, this is the most inept screenplay I've seen filmed since The Last Airbender. The plot is equally dumb; these folks run helter skelter while big alien beasties chase them, but never go anywhere. They end up right back at Terry's apartment every time, for seemingly no other reason than to keep the budget small by shooting in one location. But it is in the dialogue and characterization - or lack thereof - that Skyline truly stands out. None of these people display any intelligence nor have any discernible personality, whether in the script or in the performances. I'm usually quite kind to actors working with bad material, but not this time; this bunch of C-list TV guest-star regulars are exactly as painfully dull as their unknown status would indicate.

And the directors don't fare any better either. The Strauses started out as FX artists, so the effects look pretty polished at the very least - and at a relatively tiny $10 million budget, you might even call it an accomplishment. But the action scenes are uninspired, largely because they're all cribbed from other movies that did them better. There's a giant monster bit from Godzilla, a hiding-from-alien-tentacle bit from War of the Worlds, an aerial battle from Independence Day, and a nuking-the-mothership bit from, again, Independence Day. Even the supposedly-shocking death of a main character early on, and a suicidal last stand of another near the end, have a been-there-done-that feel. The one original thing the movie had were the (admittedly impressive, at the time) scenes in the trailers of hundreds of people being vacuumed up into the ships...

...and this stupid movie can't even pay that off satisfyingly. I spent the whole time waiting for an explanation why the aliens were abducting people instead of just killing them, and the one I got at the end was barely even an explanation. In fact, it's barely even an ending. I don't mind films that end on sequel hooks, but Skyline's ending renders the entire story pointless. Ninety minutes of a bunch of vapid, shallow, stupid people running around, and it's only in the last 5 that something finally happens - but if you want more, you'll have to catch the sequel. I strongly advise you not to bother, nor with any other movie the Brothers Strause ever make. Go watch Cloverfield instead.

Expectations: let me watch the original first


Ken Wooi said...

okay.. i wont watch it.. haha :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

don't watch the original first! it'd be great to see what you think of the american version without being influenced by the original - because i couldn't stop comparing let me in to its predecessor when i was watching it.

Teh Tarik Drinker said...

fair enough. wont watch it!

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