Skyline is an alien invasion movie that my friend described as War Of The Worlds meets Cloverfield. That’s a pretty solid description of the film. It opens with these strange lights descending from the clouds in the middle of the night. The lights settle on the ground and people are drawn to the beauty and mystery of them. And I mean drawn to them in a serious way – this is what happens:
It soon becomes apparent that the lights are not beautiful but quite malevolent. Once everyone is pretty much mesmerised, massive spaceships descend and suck everyone up inside. At first we have no idea why, but it can’t be good, right?
The story for us is from the point of view of a collection of rich young things living in a tower block penthouse. Here’s one of the problems with the film for me – the characters are not really very likeable. It’s hard to know exactly what they do, but one of them is filthy rich (he owns a sweet Ferrari as well as the cool penthouse) but he’s cheating on his girlfriend and is a bit of a two dimensional “rock star” character. There’s more to like about his mate, who has come to visit along with his girlfriend, only Mr Rock Star is secretly planning to co-opt his friend’s help. It’s not very complicated and, more importantly, is completely fucking irrelevant. I can’t be bothered trying to explain any more. This is not a character driven film. It’s a spectacular “what if” movie. It would have been nice if the characters were more likeable, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.
Once the alien invasion is in full swing our team of unsavoury heroes decide to escape the tower block and head for Mr Rock Star’s boat, just two minutes away at the marina. It’s not really clear what they planned to do then, but I think the general idea was to simply get away as all the alien carnage appeared to be happening on land. They soon learn that getting to the boat is pretty impossible. Which is just as well, as later in the film we see some major carnage out on the water too.
There’s not an enormous amount of story in this film, but the thing that makes it good is that it doesn’t shy away from the horror of what an alien invasion would actually be like. People are pretty much ants under a giant galactic heel. The ships and the technology are very cool, the alien brawn are brilliant creatures which may or may not appeal to H P Lovecraft fans. Personally I really enjoyed the Cthulhu-esque nature of them.
Another strong point of this film is its consistent point of view. We know everything from the perspective of the small band of survivors and that means there are loads of questions unanswered, as there should be. Where did the aliens come from? What are they after exactly (more on that later)? What are the military powers of the world doing about it? We do get to see one awesome sequence where the military come striding in, but it doesn’t go exactly as planned.
The team of plucky humans battle on against the invading aliens, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. So, can they survive? SPOILERS after the next pic, so don’t read on if you haven’t seen the film yet and don’t want it spoiled. Suffice to say that this film is short on story and character, but big on effects and ideas. It’s well worth a watch as long as you don’t expect to be cerebrally challenged to any great degree.
No. They can’t survive. And that’s just how it should be. Apart from the awesome effects, the best thing about this movie is how useless the humans are in the face of such an attack. No matter how much we pride ourselves on our ability to survive, if an entire race of aliens with the technology to reach our planet actually did so, we’d be fucked. And that was held true by this movie.
The very end sees a strange hint of things to come, with the aliens for some reason sparing a pregnant woman when all they were doing was harvesting brains and brainstems. Plus, it would seem that if you see the light but manage to not get taken by it, you become really strong, your brain goes red and you can be transformed into an alien with a human mind and start the revolution. There’s absolutely no explanation for why any of that happens, but it does. Thus the little twist at the end that gives us some hope for the salvation of humanity. Perhaps.
Of course, there’s the same old compatibility problem. Remember Independence Day, when Jeff Goldblum takes out an entire alien invasion with a computer virus? We can’t even make an Apple Mac talk to a PC, yet Goldblum was able to plug directly into the alien mainframe. Even their ports are the same size! What are the odds? In Skyline it goes even further – apparently our actual brains are compatible with alien bodies. So I presume we’re led to believe that the aliens grow these worker bodies, then trawl the universe harvesting brains for them. Seems to me that if they have the ability to build the ships and bodies they have then they should really build the brains too and save themselves a lot of trouble.
Still, a hugely entertaining movie that’s well worth a watch if you like a bit of the spectacular. It would have been great if a bit more had been put into the story and the character development, but that’s not really what this film was about. From that perspective, it’s worth the price of admission.