Sunday, December 12, 2010

War of the Worst

Skyline (2010)

Many, if not most, artists get their start by copying the work of professionals. Cartoonists trace comic books and comic strips before trying their hand at creating their own characters and settings. Young filmmakers using Super 8 film or the family camcorder re-create scenes from their favorites movies in their backyards, i.e. the Raiders of the Lost Ark truck chase, but with Indy on a bike riding up to Dad’s old Toyota pick up.

Skyline, directed by visual effects supervisors “The Brothers Strauss,” is stuck squarely, and amateurishly, in the “recreate scenes from favorite movies” mode.

The story, if you want to call it that, concerns a group of Pretty (mostly) Young Things who are stuck in a fancy Marina Del Rey, California high-rise condo when aliens attack the earth over a three day period. Two of the young things - Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson)- are from out of town. They party one night with Jarrod’s bud, Turk from Scrubs (Donald Faison, playing Terry), and his shrill gf played by Brittany Daniel, and wake up the next morning to the alien invasion. And you thought YOUR hangovers were bad.

There are two huge problems with this movie. One, none of the characters is very likable, especially Balfour, who just comes across as distant the whole film, even when he should be intimate with his pregnant girlfriend. Seriously, there is no one in the cast we care about or root for. Two - and it’s a big one - there is no story here. None. Aliens attack and our cast spends most of the time in the condo opening and closing the blinds, wondering what to do. I kid you not, they do this so much that the blinds manufacturer should have received a co-producer credit.

In the Spielberg/Cruise War of the Worlds remake, Cruise’s character Ray is trying to reconcile with his kids when the aliens attack. They go on the run with Ray doing whatever it takes to protect his family. In Skyline, Jarrod and Terry have the bright idea to leave their girlfriends and the relative safety of the condo to explore the roof’s helipad. Why? There’s no rescue or escape via that route. They do this stupid move simply so that the movie can show the giant alien ships in the distance and, later, a giant alien monster thing clambering up to the top for a silly action beat. Characters do things so they can get to the next effects shot; nothing is ever done to advance any sort of story or plot point.

It’s like the whole movie was put together from a visual effects “sizzle reel” where there were a bunch of “cool” shots, but when they tried to shoehorn in those shots to make a logical story, the thing falls apart.

The movies that Skyline rips off are blatantly obvious, from Independence Day, to War of the Worlds, to The Matrix, without adding one single spin or fresh idea to any of them. The whole point of this movie was simply to set things up for a sequel at the end.

Skyline is so bad, so inept I predict it will sweep the annual Razzie Awards for Worst Movie next year.

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