By no means can it be assured that 'Skyline,' the new film from the Brothers Strause (of 'Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem' infamy), will defeat whatever piece of shoddy filmmaking is currently claiming the top spot on your Worst of 2010 list, but it is most certainly a contender for such an honor. The film opens strongly enough with a thrilling sequence that finds Los Angeles inexplicably set upon by pulsating balls of piercing light. We quickly learn that staring into the light causes a that-can't-be-good reaction to one's physical and mental constitution. Stare into the light too long and it will completely consume you.

It's the kind of opening that jumps right into the thick of the mystery, which is at first genuinely compelling. In fact, it's such a compelling start that one begins to applaud the Strause duo for hitting the ground running without any lame character introductions to get in the way. Unfortunately they then take the first of many missteps and back-track to 15 hours earlier -- in order to deliver all of those lame character introductions that absolutely do get in the way. Such an approach would be forgivable if it actually contributed to the story or the characters in any meaningful way, but it doesn't. This laborious lull only serves to reveal how uninteresting every single member of the cast – which consists primarily of Eric Balfour, Donald Faison, Brittany Daniel and Scottie Thompson – will prove to be throughout the film.
The optimistic response here is that when it comes to an alien invasion movie, the humans don't matter as much as the baddies. Any audience member intrigued enough by the trailers is going to be expecting a special effects-laden action extravaganza, and they'll get the former (the effects are easily 'Skyline's most impressive asset) but not so much of the latter -- until it's too late to really matter, at least. The emotional core of the movie is completely misplaced. There's not a single likable character in the bunch, resulting in repetitive melodrama that revolves around whether or not boring people who are in bad relationships can maintain their bad relationships while trying to survive in a hotel besieged by aliens.

As for the aliens, they certainly do very cool things from time to time (especially in the film's "last hurrah" attempt to wow audiences), but any intensity is instantly sabotaged by the human spectators. The performances are dry across the board, although this could certainly be attributed to the thin material (and time, given the low budget nature of the production) the actors had to work with. It's the kind of absent-minded screenwriting where characters are shaped around a single trait, and in the case of the couple we're supposed to be most invested in, that boils down to a woman who is pregnant (Scottie Thompson) and a man who wishes she wasn't (Eric Balfour). The only affable character in the entire film is played by David Zayas (aka the sweet-natured detective from 'Dexter'), but sadly he isn't given nearly enough screen time to support everyone else.

At the end of the alien-invaded day, the only thing that ultimately separates 'Skyline' from an above-average Syfy channel movie is the caliber of the special effects. The actual design of the aliens and their ships leaves something to be desired, but their execution is top-notch. Most of the quality close encounters are saved for the film's final act, but when they do eventually arrive it's hard not to admire their gusto. They may be completely off their game when it comes to directing and shooting actors (it's a struggle to think of a theatrical film shot on a RED camera that looks as amateurish as this one), but when it comes to dealing with big, bad aliens and loud explosions, the Strause brothers do know how to show off.

A few flares of inspiration, unfortunately, are not enough to salvage how poor the rest of 'Skyline' is. It's plagued by too many elements that are, at best, marvelously derivative and, at worst, barely worthy of basic cable. And that's where this film will be most tolerable. Catch it on a lazy Sunday afternoon while flipping through channels, and 'Skyline' is a passable distraction. See it on the big screen, though, and all of its flaws will be magnified ten-fold.
Based on 18 critics

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