Studio: Universal/Rogue (Movie originally produced by Hydraulx Entertainment)
Length: 1 hr 34 mins
Genre: Science Fiction/Alien Invasion
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: AVC (@ an average 32 mbps)
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.7 mbps)
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
English DVS 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: PG-13 (Some “Intense” Sci-Fi Action and Violence, Some Language, Brief Sexual Content)
Release Date: March 22, 2011
Starring: Eric Balfour, Scottie Thompson, Brittany Daniel, with David Zayas and Donald Faison
Written by: Joshua Cordes & Liam O’Donnell
Directed by: Greg Strause and Colin Strause
Film Rating: 1/5
Noting that Skyline is derivative is kind of like saying that fire is hot and water is wet – it’s so self-evident that it feels silly having to put it down on paper. But for those who haven’t seen this film and may be curious – this is certainly not the heavy duty alien invasion extravaganza promised by all those commercials and trailers. Even the packaging is misleading here – the back trumpets that this movie comes “from the visual effects masterminds behind Avatar, Iron Man 2 and 300!” Yes, Colin and Greg Strause were involved with the CGI for those movies, but they certainly didn’t conceive of everything. It would be more accurate to have said the movie comes “from the guys that directed Alien vs. Predator: Requiem!”
When you actually get down to the movie here, you’ll find that the story at hand is quite literally lifted from multiple science fiction films, mostly ones dealing with alien invasions. The story here finds the characters and the audience trapped in a high-rise condo when aliens viciously attack Los Angeles and begin abducting and mutating the human population. There’s a bit of The Matrix here, in the squid-like design of some of the alien craft, and a bit of Transformers in some of the other machine designs. There’s a bit of District 9 here, in the arresting visual of the alien craft floating above Los Angeles, and in a concept about a human being affected by alien techno-biology. There’s a more substantial lift from the 2005 War of the Worlds and from Cloverfield in the notion of everyday people being caught up in an invasion/monster situation. And there’s the lifts of the dogfights and motherships from Independence Day, which in itself was happily lifting from any other sci-fi movie it could find. And I won’t even get into the similarities to another alien invasion film that just opened in theaters – I’ll just point the readers to the directors’ IMDB pages for that discussion.
When you get past all that, the question remains whether this movie holds together as its own piece. For me, the answer is a clear and fervent “NO.” The problem isn’t the acting so much – the cast is clearly doing the best they can to work their way through this material – particularly Scottie Thompson and David Zayas, but there just isn’t any substance to the writing, and thus there is no foundation from which to build a performance. It’s also clear that the actual production of the live action material was an extremely low budget matter. The movie was shot in HD at director Greg Strause’s condo in Marina Del Rey, so a majority of the film is spent inside with the blinds closed. Some scenes take place up on the roof of the building, and there’s a bit of work in the garage and down by the pool. And, in material clearly shot as part of later reshoots, there’s a quick scene shot at LAX and a few helicopter POV shots of various cities around the world. But the movie is self-limited to the Strause condo, which is a bit of a strait jacket for a movie that wants to present itself as a large-scale alien invasion adventure. I’ll grant that the Strauses’ abilities with CGI are quite strong, and the various shots that use CGI look very good, particularly given the low budget, almost all of which went to the CGI. But as we have learned from many films, going back to The Black Hole, good visual effects cannot be substituted for good storytelling.
Skyline was released on Blu-ray this past Tuesday. The Blu-ray edition has a high definition picture and sound transfer, along with a pair of commentaries and a few extras, as well as the usual BD-Live, pocket BLU and D-Box functionality.
VIDEO QUALITY 3/5
Skyline is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that looks okay, considering the extremely limited budget and the HD cameras used in the process. But the CGI looks quite good, particularly the CGI makeup enhancements done to various cast members as they are possessed by the unfriendly aliens. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
AUDIO QUALITY 4 ½/5
Skyline is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix that is easily the most satisfying element on this Blu-ray. This is truly an immersive mix, with sounds popping up directionally all across the home theater. The surrounds are used both for music and for directional effects to truly place the audience in the middle of the condo as chaos happens right outside the window.
SPECIAL FEATURES 2/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of Skyline comes with a pair of commentaries and a few special features, to go along with the usual BD-Live, pocket BLU and D-Box functionality:
Commentary with Greg and Colin Strause – The two directors talk through the movie in this scene-specific commentary, mostly just laughing and enjoying themselves as the story unfolds. There are a few surprising comments at the film’s conclusion, where they openly state that they’re hoping to make a sequel, as they see this movie as a comic book origin story. (In my house, a very loud “HUH?” was heard after that comment…)
Commentary with Liam O’Donnell and Joshua Cordes – The two writers talk through this scene-specific commentary, mostly just enjoying themselves. There are no major breakthroughs here – although I hoped that the writers might have been able to shed more light on what thought process was happening.
Deleted Scenes – (6:00 Total, 1080p) 7 Deleted and/or extended scenes are presented here, with optional commentary by the writers and directors. There’s nothing crucial here – most of this is just additional material for the beginning of the movie, before the action really begins.
Alternate Scenes – (2:30 Total, 1080p) Two alternate scenes are presented here, also with optional commentary.
Pre-Viz – (9:59 Total, 1080p, DTS-HD MA Sound) Here we have a pair of pre-viz sequences that show the early concepts of how a pool chase and a rooftop combat scene were initially designed. Like the other materials, optional commentary is available here.
Trailers – (3:58 Total, 1080p) The teaser trailer and final release trailer are presented here in HD. If anything, the trailers make one wonder what Dan Rather was thinking when he agreed to appear in this…
BD-Live – The usual BD-Live functionality is present.
Pocket BLU – The usual pocket BLU functionality is present.
D-Box – The Blu-ray is designed to accommodate those viewers who have D-Box technology in their homes.
The movie is subtitled in English, French and Spanish, and there is an English DVS track as well. The usual chapter and pop-up menus are present.
IN THE END...
Skyline is not a movie I can in good conscience recommend, even for rental. The Blu-ray at least presents the movie as well as can be done, but there just isn’t anything of substance to discuss. The extra features unfortunately reveal very little about what was really going on during the making of this movie.
March 27, 2011.