The trailers for Skyline depicted humans being abducted into the sky by blue lights and spaceships. Based on these trailers, audiences can expect aliens, violence and plenty of high-end special effects. The actual movie provides very little else.
The special effects are flashy (quite literally in some cases), but they clearly dominated the budget. Very little budget seems to have been spent on the actors. Most of the characters are poorly developed, given just enough personality to distinguish them from each other.
As individuals the characters matter so little that they hardly evoke any sympathy when the script demands that they get killed off for “dramatic effect.” Even the main characters Jarrod and Elaine, played by Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson, feel like bland stock protagonists. Their romantic relationship is underplayed and unconvincing, but they do kiss a couple times to try to remind the audience that they love each other.
Even Donald Faison, who some might recognize from Scrubs, didn’t bring much to the movie. His character Terry adds very little beyond the flashback sequence, a flashback sequence that presumably was intended to develop characters but really only served to delay the inevitable, and more compelling, action of the second half of the movie. Arbitrary loud music frequently blares for the flashback portion of the film, possibly as an attempt to hide the fact that the camera is not showing anything interesting.
Furthermore, after the film’s shoddy efforts to establish characters through the flashback, it suddenly replaces half of them with a new character who has no back-story or development at all. At this point, the cast of characters loses any remaining credibility it may have had, simply becoming tools for the violence of the rest of the film.
Perhaps the core issue with Skyline is its choice of perspective. As a nigh-cataclysmic event ravages Los Angeles, the story follows a few ordinary people as they attempt to survive. Given this premise most of the clichés that audiences have come to expect dominate the formula of the plot that follows. The problem is that in this case the “everyman” perspective is not that interesting.
While the heroes hide in an apartment building, army soldiers do all the work fighting the aliens outside. There is one scene in which the protagonists use a telescope to watch a distant battle unfold. Such forced removal from the interesting action of the movie only raises the question: why didn’t the film tell that story?
Skyline doesn’t seem to understand what kind of a story it wants to tell. It throws away most of its potential for dramatic tension by revealing the aliens far too early in the movie, perhaps to showcase the beautiful special effects and distract audiences from the bad writing.
Next, the movie tries to be an action-adventure flick, but none of the protagonists are adequately equipped to deliver any action, so instead the movie watches them watching other people doing action. Finally Skyline tries to be a vaguely depressing apocalyptic tale, but the final sequence puts a spin on the story that shoots down that theme as well. In fact, the final moments of the movie introduce the first truly compelling plot twist, establishing a premise that actually has potential to be interesting. Unfortunately, this is when Skyline suddenly ends, right around the point where a good movie might have begun.
Skyline falls short in every aspect of good storytelling in filmmaking. It is almost worth watching to make fun of, but the special effects are too good and the movie takes itself too seriously. High production values give Skyline the illusion of quality, saving it from what might have become a cheesy cult classic. Instead, it is just a bad movie.