A key part of any film has got to be good acting and a good script but is there any chance that putting all your money and effort into a different area of the film, making sure that is amazing, can actually redeem the first two elements being poor? I don’t think this would work with any other type of film but Skyline seems to manage it. It has poor acting, poor dialogue and the first act of the film is tedious at best but when the action kicks in and the aliens start appearing, this film just seems to transform itself.
Skyline was always fighting a losing battle anyway because every element of alien invasion films has already been done. Alien invasion has been done for over fifty years, from the original War of the Worlds all the way up to the brilliant blockbuster Independence Day. We’ve had every single element of it picked apart, from the one alien in E.T, to a group of soldiers fending of aliens in Battle:LA, to a family struggling against invading forces in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds. We’ve even had the minimalist approach to aliens with Monsters giving us an intimate look at what a world invaded could be like and on the flipside of that is the brilliant District 9 which echoes some of what Monsters does while at the same time approaching it from a completely different direction.
I was watching Skyline, the first part at least, thinking that I’d seen it all before. There was nothing new. We were being introduced to a band of characters, who were ultimately going to be thrown into the same, horrifying alien invasion situation we’d already seen countless times. The main problem with Skyline was that the acting was poor. I’ve got a lot of time for Donald Faison because I’m a big fan of Scrubs but even he seemed to be going through the motions or worst, playing the drama up far too much. Monsters has already shown us how to play this kind of peril without it seeming too cheesy and over-dramatic.
The main character is played by Eric Balfour but he isn’t much better. To defend them though, the script they are working with is full clichéd, ridiculous moments and “shake your head in disbelief” logic. The main problem is we’ve seen it all before and Skyline isn’t offering anything new.
Except that was the case until the characters decided to make a run for it. The moment you actually see the aliens and you see what they are doing, the film, for me, changes. I can see why the actors are poor and the script is suffering because they spent all their time and effort on making the special effects, on the aliens in particular, so cool and impressive. It was almost like someone making Skyline realised this had been done before so instead just decided to do the same film again but well. Make it look slick, make it look impressive. It doesn’t matter about the poor acting and the awful script if the second half of the film is reliant solely on the aliens being menacing enough for the audience to engage.
That then leads me back to my original question because I didn’t like the first part of the film, up to the moment the aliens really started to attack, because it was unoriginal, poorly acted and the script was dodgy but when the aliens did appear, I forgot all of that and really enjoyed it. There were some genuine edge of your seat moments. The tension did ramp up and I did find myself intrigued to how the film would end and what would happen to the band of characters. So is Skyline an example of a film were style really can trump substance? Where if you can overlook the basics being done badly, you actually have a good, very watchable Sci-Fi film?
A final note that’s worth mentioning is the poor ending. It decides to go down a completely silly and weird route for the last ten minutes. I would seriously recommend that you miss those last ten minutes. I won’t spoil it here but this film is actually better without the ending.
Overall, Skyline is a tricky one. Everything about the way it is acted, scripted and even elements of the story are done badly and feel cliché and unoriginal but the effects are really good and the action is done so well it really did entertain me. It is just a question of whether you can overlook those basic factors in an effort to try to enjoy what is a decent attempt at another alien invasion movie.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)