Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skyline---Look Away!

At what point should I have left the theater? When the harried protagonists watched a nearby nuclear blast without any negligible consequence? When the male lead first "stared into the light" to become somehow infected by an alien presence? Or when I realized the alien invasion was motivated by a need to eat human brains (one can imagine how hungry these poor aliens were going through the universe in search of such rare and unsatisfying nourishment).

I always believe in writing a positive review. I don't want to tear apart a book or film. There is usually something worthwhile in even the worst endeavor. However, the only good thing about Skyline, its effects, is also the most disappointing element of the film. Skyline represents why the dropping cost of special effects is a mixed blessing for fans. Now a film maker can put something visually striking on the screen and still deliver the sort of story logic and hapless dialogue one used to get for a "B" drive-in film during the 1960's. This isn't just a horrendous film, it will stand as a monument to why 2010 has been such a bad year for the motion picture industry.

The Brothers Strause, the creative force behind Skyline should have stuck to doing the sort of special effects they did for such films as The X-Files and Titanic, and left directing a motion picture to more talented minds.

18 comments:

Jamie Gibbs (Mithril Wisdom) said...

I've seen to many differing opinions on Skyline, it's a real divider. I'll wait for the cheaper DVD release and take a look see, since the overall feel of it is 'visually stiking but not much else'

Stewart Sternberg said...

Jamie, I think the statement 'visually striking but not much else' is misleading. There's NOTHING else, and the visually striking, is fleeting.

S.M.D. said...

Looks like I will be avoiding this one. Glad I spent my money on HP7 part 1, because it was worth it.

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I'm not saying that Skyline is a great film, because it isn't. But to say that the reason for the "alien invasion was motivated by a need to eat human brains" is incorrect and does the writers of the film a disservice. The aliens obviously use a biological based technology and they are stealing the human brains as bio-computers to run their various bio-machines. Although not the most original idea, it has not been widely used in film SF and you have to give the directors some credit for trying something a little different. By choosing to tell the story almost completely visually, it does leave the viewer to potentially misinterpret important story details.

I do hope that that Colin and Greg Strause are able to finish the story that they began in Skyline with a sequel, because it may enable them to correct some of the mistakes they made in the first film.

SQT said...

Maybe I'm getting jaded, but I think a negative review has merit. Not one that trashes a movie or a book, but an honest one that lets other people know what to avoid. One of the big problems with fan-sites is the tendency to only write about what the owner of the blog "loves" and there's really no critical thinking going on. I'm getting to the point where I really value someone who tells it like it is and saves me some money.

Sci-Fi Gene said...

Good review. Incidentally like SQT I think negative reviews do have merit provided, like you, there's some consideration of why. "It sucks" is not a review.

I'm still exploring the reasons why I often enjoy films (including Skyline) that other people slate. In the case of Skyline and your original question, rather than leaving the cinema, you should have entered about two thirds of the way through, just after the alien mothership gets nuked.

Nukes: I think that technically if you're close enough to see the blast you're basically screwed. To be fair, there are no shortage of films, from ID4 onwards, where nukes are set off left right and centre and nobody worries about the side effects - at least in this one the radiation gets mentioned!

Stewart Sternberg said...

So Fritz, how long have you been in the employ of the Brothers Strause? Think about the logic of the plot device you are defending. The aliens are stealing brains to power their technology? They are traveling from world to world to find eligible brain material? Really? How does that work for them? The idea of a species able to adapt biology for its advance was done well in the Star Wars book series. Here, it is a ludicrous device, following the bad movie formula--something borrowed, something blue.

None of us would have accepted this in any work of fiction, why should we accept it in a motion picture? If this film had given us intelligent and likeable characters with good writing, we might have waited until another film to have the holes filled in.

All I need to do is remember the scene where the Hispanic hotel manager is standing behind the gas range waiting to ignite his lighter so he can martyr himself and blow up one of the machines (this after the aliens have shown themselves capable of surviving RPG and nuclear attacks) and I chuckle. When I recall the lighter failing to ignite and his predictable response, I guffaw.

Stewart Sternberg said...

Gene, there are tons of films I adore that other people have panned. It's why we need to experience a film for ourselves and not necessarily trust a critic, even me. The best someone can do is find a reviewer with whom we agree about seventy-five percent of the time and then use that person's feedback as a guideline and not a final word.

I hated Skyline, but if others liked it, even Fritz, then I can understand that. I think arguing about film is a great past time. I love discussing and bickering details with friends, it's part of the experience.

Consider these films that I loved that the world hated: Spielberg's 1941, Repo: The Genetic Opera, and yes, dammit, I still like Lee Horsley in that old sword and sorceror film

Charles Gramlich said...

This is the kind of stuff I've been hearing about it and it's pretty disappointing. I may watch it on PPV eventually but probably not.

Fabienne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fab said...

Great post, Stuart. i'll be warned when they promote the movie here. I must be out of it, I haven't seen anything about it yet here in Europe, or maybe Belgium is just left out... don't know...

Alec said...

The only message behind this movie was ALIENS USE HUMAN BRAINS AS BATTERIES. I am not even kidding. No inspirational message about the human condition... if anything the total opposite.

This movie was a huge waste of money for me and if I wanted to go home confused and depressed about the future I could have just watched CSPAN and spared myself the 12$ popcorn.

If I could pay money not to see a movie, this would be one of them.

ediFanoB said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review. I wanted to see the movie based on the trailer. Sometimes its fine and sometimes not. I think I will spend my money for other movies.
Anyhow Skyline will hit the cinemas in Germany on December 23rd.

M. McGriff said...

I remember seeing the preview for this movie and it just looked like a mash up of "War of the Worlds" and "Independence Day", a trait that didn't make me interested in the movie. I haven't heard any great reviews on this movie either so I'm glad I decided to wait until it's available on Netflix...maybe!

As far as giving bad reviews, I think if you're someone who normally doesn't post a bad review and you do, it carries some weight with me anyway!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Stewart, if you read the first line of my original comment, you’d know that I’m not defending Skyline, because I honestly didn’t enjoy it that much. I do think it was a good attempt and had it been executed better, may have been a good film. I’ve been a reader of Science Fiction for over 40 years. I’ve read most of the so-called classics and have read many of the more contemporary hard sf novels of the 80’s and 90’s. I only say this to explain that despite some of the seeming implausibility’s (I say seeming, because until we get an explanation for the tech of the Skyline aliens from either the filmmakers or their character rep in the sequel, we can only speculate on what we see in the film) of the alien tech, there appears to be some real science speculative fiction behind to alien invasion. Laugh all you want about the “alien invasion was motivated by a need to eat human brains” or as you later elaborated “stealing brains to power their technology”, because from my single viewing of Skyline it appeared to me that the aliens were using the human brains as biological computers as processors for their various biological machines. Perhaps this is still not the most efficient way that an interstellar alien species could devise for this purpose, but it only may be one of a much larger reason for the alien’s invasion of Earth.

There have been so few truly “science” science fiction films, that I like to support even failing attempts at it. I too enjoy a good debate about the pros and cons of films – particularly sf films. However, I think even failed attempts like Skyline deserve to have both the positive and negative aspects of the film as a whole pointed out. I think it is just too easy to dismiss any film you don’t like with a few sarcastic remarks. This is why I don’t bother reading the reviews of genre films by so called “professional” film critics and rely on the opinions of genre fans who are more knowledgeable of sf and therefore better able understand and articulate their opinions. When you use hyperbole like “This isn't just a horrendous film, it will stand as a monument to why 2010 has been such a bad year for the motion picture industry” as a way of keeping other sf fans from watching Skykine, you only keep sf fans from reading your future reviews, Stewart.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I'll make an effort to avoid it, although there wasn't much risk of me watching it in the first place!

Budd said...

thank you, but this saddens me.

Sean Grey Hanson said...

Lifeless performance I only noticed on this movie...It's not really a waste of time, hhhmmm.. it's just that, i don't wanna see it anymore.