The film opens in Los Angeles at night, with bright blue lights falling down from the heavens onto the neon-lit skyline.
In their high-rise apartment, photographer Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and his fiancée Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are woken by the illuminations and race to the window to investigate further. As Jarrod fingers the blinds apart, the bright light hits him and his veins begin to bulge ...
The action then shifts back to "16 hours earlier", and we meet the handsome couple flying into Los Angeles to attend friend Terry's birthday party. Computer effects wizard Terry (Donald Faison) lives with his woman Denise (Crystal Reed) in an amazing condo that boasts its own swimming pool and a whole bevy of hot chicks. Yep, Terry seems to be doing okay for himself and even promises to take his friends out on his yacht the following day.
But first there is a night of partying to get through - and everyone is well up for that. Well, aside from Terry who desperately wants old pal Jarrod to join him in LA, and Elaine who announces at an inappropriate time that she thinks she may be pregnant.
Once the party ends, only a handful of revellers remain in Terry's apartment and they retire for what remains of the night. The rest of the building is largely empty.
And then the blue lights fall from the skies.
Jarrod, we now see, manages to escape the vein-sucking light shining through the blinds. He tells his fellow survivors that it felt as though his body was being pulled towards the light. So, with the blinds and curtains around them being closed as quickly as possible, the few remaining tenants of the half-empty condo club together in a bid to survive the threat outside.
It's only when Jarrod and Terry climb up onto the building's roof the following morning that they get a proper picture of how much shit they're actually in: aliens have invaded!
The budget for SKYLINE was reportedly $10,000,000.00. Which, for a Hollywood sci-fi flick, is extremely small. Amazingly, it's claimed that only $500.00 of this figure was spent on the actual filming at co-director Greg Strause's California condominium. The rest went on the digital effects.
The film managed to secure a theatrical release Stateside, opening there in November 2010 and going on to take an estimated $21,000,000.00 at the American box office in its first month.
And yet, a mere three months later, it comes out to buy on UK DVD. There is little mystery behind this decision. The profit margin of the US theatrical run is generally considered as a flop; there are no 'big names' in the cast (not of the calibre that you'd expect from this genre of film); the violence, while never excessive, dictates that the movie should be rated a 15 over here, which is at least one rating too high for UK distributors to chance on an unsure bet at the cinema.
Despite its widescreen cinematography and sterling FX though, SKYLINE actually suits the digital format just fine - and is bound to find its best audience here. After all, traditionally the video viewer is more likely to overlook matters of crappy acting, plagiaristic plotting and plodding direction, being able to tolerate such shortcomings in the hope of finding some good exploitation beyond the cack.
For all the concessions that SKYLINE should be given, none can overcome the fact that this is a weirdly off-the-boil film that wouldn't amount to anything without its admittedly impressive CGI. Performances are muted and uneven, the script is almost insultingly stupid and even Matthew Margeson's score seems to be going sluggishly through the motions.
Imagine CLOVERFIELD without the manic energy. Or DISTRICT 9 without its wit and action. Or THE MIST without its threat. Or even INDEPENDENCE DAY without, er, Will Smith. SKYLINE is essentially a mish-mash of these films, but devoid of all the things that made each one such great entertainment.
However, having said all that, it's not like it's absolutely atrocious. It does build towards a couple of stirring set-piece scenes in the last third, and the FX are indisputably good (and I'm no fan of CGI). After all, the co-directors Greg and his sibling Colin (or The Brothers Strause as they like to be referred to as) have worked previously as visual effects designers on the likes of AVATAR, 2012 and THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW.
Just keep your expectations realistic as our intrepid bunch of daytime soap actors muddle through a by-the-numbers screenplay that involves bickering, plans of escape and dilemmas over the fates of key disaster movie characters such as the obligatory old fogey and a loveable mutt.
SKYLINE is presented uncut in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and has been enhanced for 16x9 television sets. What can I say about the presentation, other than it looks superb. Sharp, clean images, bright vibrant colours, clear defined detail ... you couldn't hope for more. The blu-ray must look superb if it's a step up from this excellent DVD job.
English audio comes in a rousing, arse-filling 5.1 surround option. It's an intelligently balanced, bassy affair that will knock your socks off at all the right moments. Optional English subtitles are well-written and easy to read.
Bonus features kick off with two audio commentary tracks. The first is from the co-directors and, as you'd imagine, is rather heavy on the technical side of the production. Still, they banter just enough to keep things interesting and there aren't too many pregnant pauses to whine over. What comes through most of all is how the film was a labour of love for them.
Co-writer/producer Liam O'Donnell and co-writer Joshua Cordes are also on hand for the second chat track. It's no less earnest.
Seven deleted and extended scenes follow, which can be watched either individually or as a whole via a "Play All" function. They are presented in 16x9 widescreen and come with optional commentary from the directors and writers.
The same applies for two short alternate scenes, which suffer from slightly lesser picture quality (they still look pretty good, then).
"Previsualization" is one of those horrible American terms that doesn't really mean anything, but here applies to two digital storyboards focusing on key action sequences from the film. The latter of the two is a solid 10-minute affair. Again both are equipped with optional commentary.
Finally, we have the film's original theatrical trailer, as bombastic as ever.
The animated main menu page is attractive and has an element of the epic about it. A static scene-selection menu offers access to SKYLINE via 12 chapters.
The disc is defaulted to open with trailers for MONSTERS, SEASON OF THE WITCH and a TV advert for Snickers.
SKYLINE looks great, sounds great and provides some pretty nifty set-pieces. You've seen it all before though and you'll definitely get a niggling feeling to this effect throughout (none of which is helped by the numbingly derivative script and 2D characters), but there's still fun to be had for the more forgiving viewer.
Also available on blu-ray.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Momentum Pictures Home Ent|
|Region 2 - PAL|
|see main review|