Saturday, November 13, 2010
Action Weekend, Part I - Skyline
After a slow, poorly acted, poorly written beginning in which a 20-somethings couple, Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson), visit their high-rolling friend Terry (Donald Faison) and his chippies in a swanky crib in a high-rise apartment building in Venice, California, tension mounts as bolts of light shoot down from the sky, like in War of the Worlds (2005), and huge alien spacecraft that look like sculptures of metallic refuse, as in Independence Day and District 9 hover over the city, and if you look at the alien light for too long, you get all veiny and blotchy and turn sort of alien, as in District 9.
As squid-like mechanical drones (The Matrix) with probing tentacles (War of the Worlds) patrol the city, and after the huge aliencraft do alien-abduction on an industrial scale by vacuuming up the populace of L.A., the big dilemma for the dudes and dudettes hanging around Terry’s pad is should they stay put or make a break for it, and even the line, “I hate L.A.” falls flat.
The bickering slows things down even more, but then the U.S. Air Force arrives and we get dogfights as massive as something out of Independence Day and as cheesy as Dragon Wars.
Though the over-exposed, smoggy look of the film makes the opening scenes murky and like they’re out of focus – which is a daring thing to do for a low-budget movie that should at least offer in-focus images as an asset – that smoky look pays off in a nice aerial sweep over the vacuumed city as well as in the film’s signature shot in which Jarrod and Terry stand on the roof and see the awesome alien invasion panorama.
Thankfully, the film finally says to hell with dialogue and character development, which isn’t working out very well anyway, and goes for non-stop action, and we get a nifty battle in the basement garage, with some shocking surprises, and a fun chase around the building’s grounds, as well as a lengthy pursuit of Jarrod and Elaine on the roof. It’s a wild, bizarre ride that throws in every sci-fi device ever imagined, including the removal of human brains to feed the aliens or fuel their ships, evocative of The Matix and War of the Worlds, a wild ride I rather enjoyed.
But when the movie takes a bold twist into the belly of the beast to leave us with a rather interesting cliffhanger of an ending, I was disappointed they hadn’t snipped off the whole first half of the movie, made this ending the middle, and continued the story along this more interesting line. Actually, the movie starts in the middle and I thought, “This is great! Boom! Aliens arrive!” Then we get a flashback taking us through the film’s slow introduction of characters. What a mistake!