Skyline Blu-ray Review with D-BOXMarch 10, 2011
Visual effects gurus The Brothers Strause bet their limited budget on Skyline's deadly aliens attracting moviegoers into buying tickets with hypnotizing blue lights and human vacuum spaceships in scenes right out of a video game. They lost that bet and as a result, Skyline plays out like a B-movie whose mindless aliens are exponentially more compelling than their dull and dimwitted human prey.
Skyline's premise is moderately intriguing and gets off on the right foot. Bright lights fall from the sky and into the streets of Los Angeles during the dead of night. Anyone who dares take a peek is drawn to them by an otherworldly force that causes their eyes to turn white and veins to bulge. The film's hero, Jarrod (Eric Balfour) catches a glimpse but is saved by his girlfriend Elaine (Scottie Thompson) before he can be sucked up to a certain death.
In the first of many unadvised moves, Skyline cuts to the past and wastes countless minutes explaining why Jarrod and Elaine are in Los Angeles and in the sky rise penthouse apartment and the unfortunate individuals they'll spend the night with. To call the characters introduced during this time, the direction, and cardboard acting of B-movie quality would be an insult to the worst of B-movies. A few minutes of hanging out with this assortment of the wealthy and their leeches and the aliens can't come to scoop them all up soon enough.
You know the cast is hurting when Brittany Daniel and David Zayas of Dexter fame are the most recognizable faces and neither is a main character with more than a few lines. No offense to David as I love his work as passively aggressive Sgt. Angel Batista, but even he chokes on the atrocious dialogue.
The real stars of Skyline are the various forms of aliens that never speak a word in going about executing their plan. The Brothers Strause are not afraid to show off their creations in the daylight and their work looks spectacular given the film's relatively minuscule budget. It's a shame that Skyline is unlikely to get the sequel set up in the unexpected twist ending that would let the aliens be the stars and offer the potential for scope beyond a single building that Skyline lacks.
At Skyline's heart is a question that would loom huge in the event of a real alien invasion. If you woke up and aliens were scooping people off the streets, would you stay holed up in your building or make a run for seemingly safer ground? Skyline addresses both sides of this argument in the only semblance of convincing storytelling the film has to offer.
Skyline may be a big mess but it looks absolutely fantastic on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition. The day time shots of the aliens in particular are stunning. The downside to such a tight transfer is the nighttime scenes when aliens go on the rampage overexpose the use of CGI and draw out what's obviously fake. Otherwise there are no complaints in how Skyline's mix of interior and exterior photography is visually presented on Blu-ray.
In the aural department is a strong 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that brings all the screams, thuds, gunfire, explosions, and unfortunately pedestrian score of Skyline to life. The mix is most impressive when the group of survivors is being chased by aliens underneath, inside, or on top of the apartment building where directionality is given a chance to stretch its legs and assist the action. Though drowning out the abominable dialogue might have improved the film, each poorly delivered line is clearly audible without fail.
D-BOX Motion Code
D-BOX engineers must have picked up on Skyline's inadequacies early on as motion is relatively calm in the first half of the film after an appropriately bumpy opening. There is stillness as Jarrod meets up with his old friend and tunes blare in the background or when the score kicks in.
It takes the aliens on the prowl to get D-BOX going and when it does there's a treat to be had. The second half is chock full of moderate D-BOX movement orchestrated to gunfire and the larger aliens tearing up the streets of Los Angeles. The smaller aliens mostly float on air so there isn't an opportunity to do much with D-BOX as far as they are concerned.
Compared to other big effects features this D-BOX track, like the film, lacks scope that really aims big. Moderate is as far as D-BOX motion effects extend which won't leave a lasting impression or desire to bookmark a scene and return for an encore performance.
Beyond the Feature
The Brothers Strause and separately co-writer/producer Liam O'Donnell and co-writer Joshua Cordes offer commentaries brimming with confidence for a job well done. Admittedly listening to the Brothers in particular makes Skyline a slightly better film given all the shortcuts they had to take to meet the budget demands. You know corners are being cut when the main set is one of the filmmaker's condo. Both commentaries could have used some reflective criticism given the response Skyline received by moviegoers and critics during its theatrical run. If you endured the film and approved of the effects then The Brothers Strause commentary is worth a skim.
There are seven Deleted and Extended Scenes (6:36) that are all predictably the human characters briefly interacting with one another either prior to the alien arrival or downtime during the invasion. Most are short snippets and none are must-see. Two Alternate Scenes (2:30) add some additional character backstory.
Sadly, the only supplement dedicated to the film's successful visual effects are two Pre-viz (9:59) sequences. The Brothers Strause talk extensively about effects during their commentary but the absence of input from anyone on the effects team in the bonus features is a letdown. Also included are the Teaser and Theatrical Trailers (3:58).
Sound ideas are buried deep within Skyline but The Brothers Strause failed in nearly every point of their execution beyond integrating flashy visual effects in a real world. Budget is no excuse for their blunder; look no further than District 9 for proof of that. This alien invasion could have been epic and instead it plays out like an episode of MTV's Real World that never leaves the house.
I'd say avoid Skyline like the plague but those visual effects are worth a look, especially on Blu-ray where Universal has punched up its presentation and package more than it deserves.
- Dan Bradley
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