Posts Tagged ‘Eric Balfour’

A while ago I had the unique pleasure of watching a Korean-made movie entitled Dragon Wars – well, pleasure’s probably putting it a bit strongly. In some ways the plot resembled that of The Terminator, except that that classic movie did not feature long sequences in unsubtitled Korean and a two-hundred-foot long snake as the bad guy. As you may have surmised, Dragon Wars is a fairly awful movie, but what gave me pause for thought was that while the script and performances were all enthusiastically dreadful, the actual special effects were superb – there’s a sequence where the US military takes on an army of flying lizards in downtown L.A. which is simply jaw-droppingly spectacular.
Quite simply, eyecatching and convincing CGI has become relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, while writing a half-decent script remains as demanding as it ever was. I was reminded of this, and Dragon Wars, while watching Skyline, a movie from the Strause brothers.

The movie opens with glowing balls of blue light descending upon L.A. and proceeding to drag in anyone foolish enough to look at them, to the consternation of some people living in a luxury tower block. We then jump back in time to be properly introduced to the people so perturbed in the first scene. They are basically a bunch of very upwardly mobile and slightly decadent Los Angelinos, along with some friends of theirs visiting from the East Coast. None of them are terribly interesting or likeable, if we’re honest, with the possible exception of Elaine (Scottie Thompson) – all we really learn about her is that she’s pregnant, but luckily enough that’s the only thing that’s actually important about her.

Well, anyway, eventually we catch up with where we came in, and blue lights sucking off hapless citizens (so to speak; this isn’t that kind of movie). As the sun rises, vast alien vessels descend from the sky and offload a variety of nasty biomechanical beasties, all intent on hoovering up anyone who crosses their path. Can Elaine and her friends get out of the tower block alive? If they do, where can they find safety? And why exactly is this movie called Skyline?

The short answer to the last is that if you call a movie something like Invasion of the Brain Harvesters you get laughed at before the audience even goes into the theatre. Calling Skyline Skyline is an attempt to make sure people view it as a credible SF drama rather than a high-concept B-movie, but I doubt this will succeed (the fact that the most famous person in it is Eric Balfour, whose name even I couldn’t recall though I knew his face from a couple of places, is a bit of a giveaway).

Skyline‘s main image is straight from the Big Book of SF Icons: immense starships hanging over contemporary cities is something that’s been with us since Childhood’s End, and also appears in V, Independence Day, and District 9. The rest of the movie’s aesthetic is a bit of a grab-bag of things from different places – some of the films mentioned above, but especially The Matrix too. The movie doesn’t quite manage to surpass its influences and find its own visual style.

The shock of an alien invasion caused some people to overdo the eyeshadow a bit.

Despite all this, the main influence on Skyline seemed to me to be Cloverfield, in its almost documentary approach to one group’s response to an unfolding and unearthly catastrophe. Crucially, it doesn’t have the shakycam gimmick (that would probably make the steal a little too obvious), but at least this allows the directors to pull back for some old-school effects battle sequences in a couple of places. In the past I’ve described Cloverfield as vacuous in terms of its narrative, and the same applies here – it looks competent enough, but the characters and narrative aren’t really engaging enough to make this movie more than a curiosity. (The climax is irritating and absurd, possibly because a series of sequels is planned.) The cast do a reasonable job – as well as Thompson, David Zayas as the block concierge probably makes the biggest impression – but this film isn’t about the actors. Unfortunately, the visuals and direction aren’t special enough to make Skyline anything more than, at best, competent.


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