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At Least They Didn't Use a Mac

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | November 12, 2010 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Film | November 12, 2010 |

Skyline is perhaps the worst movie I have seen in the last few years. I mean, I’ve seen some seriously flawed films, but this one sets its own standard. When in Rome? Terrible. She’s Out of Your League? Abysmal. Even restricting the comparison to science fiction, it’s no contest. Even Gamer and Fourth Kind had moments of creativity while disappointing overall. But Skyline? This is the big budget version of the movies that SyFy makes for a buck fifty and shows late on Saturday night, except the filmmakers managed to strip away all of the hilarious badness and bizarre originality that makes those films so-bad-they’re-good. Skyline is not so bad that it’s good. It’s so bad that you start playing the game where you count down and try to check the time on your cell phone precisely when it flips minutes. Only time has stopped and the minute never flips.

The basic premise is that aliens show up and start sucking people into their mother ships with vacuums of blue light. Oh, and then after the movie shows that hook it rewinds twelve hours in order to give us background. The only vaguely interesting part of the movie, where it almost hooks the audience, is with that little hook in which the lights fall from the sky and people start walking out of windows. I get that the playbook says that you should make us care about the characters, but see, that assumes you have characters worth getting to know in the first place. The film would have been better if it had not spent half an hour convincing us the main characters are idiots before getting back to the main story of watching them die. I don’t say that we will be watching them try to survive because frankly the actions of these characters are too stupid to classify even loosely as survival attempts.

We are introduced to a couple on a flight into Los Angeles. The woman is Jeanne Benoit from “NCIS” and the guy is Jesse from that first episode of “Buffy.” Her character is that she is pregnant and she whines. His character is that he is an artist and broods. They are flying to Los Angeles to meet up with Turk, who has made it big as an actor, with the penthouse, blonde wife and brunette mistress. Turk is douchey, the blonde is shrill and the brunette is shriller. Oh and Angel from “Dexter” is in there as the manager of the building. The names of their characters don’t really matter and never actually manage to sink in, what with all the running and screaming.

Oh and the running and screaming. You would think a movie that involves people screaming and running to different corners of a penthouse would have something interesting going on, but all it really does is give you a headache.

There is no humor, and at the three or four points when the film tries to make a joke, it does it with such heavy winks at the camera that there’s nothing left to laugh at. You’ve got Donald Faison, just point the camera at him and let him riff and you’ll have a few genuine laughs without even trying. The movie is so dreadfully serious at all times that by the end you are just begging for the characters to realize the dark hilarity of their situation. It’s like they took the script for Independence Day, removed all the banter between Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum and added four more speeches for Bill Pullman.

And the ending … there is no ending. The movie technically has a stopping point, I suppose, because the lights came on, but there was no actual ending. They just hit the 100 minute mark on the dot and shot down production. And the dialogue … there’s a point when it stops being cliched and hackneyed and actually becomes plagiarism. Let’s play Wheel of Fortune, see if you can complete these actual lines of dialogue said with absolute seriousness while loud music assured you that drama was indeed happening:

“I’m ___ _____ anywhere _______ ___.”

“I haven’t _______ any of them near _____.”

“Someone is ________ back!”

“We are at ___!”

“They’re not ____. They’re just ______ ______ ___.”

Look, if you have to pull out the smallest sliver of a silver lining, it’s this. The movie’s basic premise of an alien invasion that we see only from the point of view of normal people, rather than the fighter pilots and strong jawed presidents is compelling. That’s the part of Signs that actually worked. There are glimpses of a movie that could have worked at moments during Skyline, in moments like when the characters look up in awe at the sky as drones and fighter planes battle their way across the Los Angeles skyline, rooting for their side to win, when they can see a carrier battle group in the distance off the coast. But that movie requires you to make characters that the audience can appeal to, not some douchebags ripped out of a twelve year old’s idea of what’s cool.

Steven Lloyd Wilson is a hopeless romantic and the last scion of Norse warriors and the forbidden elder gods. His novel, ramblings, and assorted fictions coalesce at You can email him here.

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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.