Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Attack of the Zombie Aliens!

Last night, for my brother's birthday, we went to see the movie Skyline. From both the previews and the reviews, I was well aware of what to expect: a film with some quality special effects, but little else of value. Knowing this, I decided I'd watch the film with a critical eye, to see what I'd have done differently had I written the script.

First off, I'd have written a script.

Not only is the dialogue poor and the action predictable, but the film feels like it was written by a couple of visual effects guys.1 Some of its other problems:
  • It begins with a little teaser scene, then jumps back 15 hours to introduce the characters (three of whom are visual effects guys!). Attention, movie people: If you want to start with the action, then stick with it and develop the characters as you go. If you want to build up to the action by setting the scene and developing the characters, do that instead. You can't start with the action, then build up to the same action. Lose the frakkin' preface.
  • It's a horror film, so as you'd expect, characters don't act like normal people. "Ooh, let's wait half an hour after the first attack to turn on the news and get more details!" "Ooh, let's all take the elevator when we try to escape from the building!"2
  • Even if you ignore the illogical logistics of the alien invasion (How'd they sneak up on Earth? How'd they know before they arrived they wanted our braaaaains?), when you find out their sole motivation (they want us for our braaaaains), it still makes absolutely no sense. The aliens looked good, though.
  • Along with the usual tension created by characters having conflicting plans for survival, the writers also introduced extra tension between characters (based on relationship issues) for seemingly no other reason than it's what they'd been told they should do in their screenwriting class.
  • You're given practically no reason to care about any of the characters, unless it's because you've enjoyed watching them in shows such as Scrubs (Donald Faison), Dexter (David Zayas), 24 (Eric Balfour), NCIS (Scottie Thompson), or Sweet Valley High (Brittany Daniel).
  • And lastly, the reason we get to watch the invasion unfold from the perspective of these characters is not readily apparent until the very end of the film. I'll give you a hint: It's not because they happen to be filming it (a la Cloverfield) or because they're the ones who figure out how to kill off the aliens (a la Independence Day, Mars Attacks!). I could say more, but I don't want to ruin the ending for you.3
So, yeah, what would I have done differently? Well, I'd have rewritten the thing from scratch to fix all those points I just mentioned.

And then maybe — just maybe — I'd have added a plot.

1 It was.
2 Spoiler alert: Nothing happens in the elevator.
3 I'll let the ending do that.


  1. that makes total total sense about the visual effects guys writing it.
    I found all the characters really dislikable and had huge issues with how they reacted to things. We also felt they wrote scenes such as "aliens attack them on the roof. Aliens attack them in the garage" but had no real plans or understanding about how to get their characters to those places.
    BUT, to be fair, i could kind of overlook all the holes and crap throughout the whole movie and sort of enjoy myself until about the last 5 minutes.

    WTF was THAT? It's like they wanted their ending to be "totally badass" and just decided to do what they wanted regardless of everything which had happened before

  2. That's a shame. Based on the previews, it looked like it could be pretty fun...granted, that was mainly because of the visual candy on the screen. Sad to hear that the story (if it's allowable to use that word for this film) was lacking.

    I'm not a big fan of movies that spend the whole time building you up for a small payoff/twist at the end (a la Shamalayayayan)...even worse if the final "reveal" isn't great.

    Thanks for the review.

  3. Come on, Falen, of course they knew how to get the characters to those places. Take the stairs for the roof, and the elevator for the garage. (Duh.) As for the ending, no one said it ever had to fit with the rest of the movie. Or make any damn sense.

    Okie, despite all its flaws, the movie is actually kind of fun (in part because the writing is so poor). And it's not that the film builds up to a twist at the end. It's that there's no discernible reason for why we're watching the struggle of these specific characters until we reach the final scene. Which, to be frank, could have been written better by a monkey.

  4. Plot matters! (And that was the tagline for a movie that poked fun at the Godzilla remake.) Hope Skyline is good enough to poke fun at, though. After my play by play with Sharktopus, I intend to do the same with Skyline.

  5. Alex, although Skyline is bad, in my opinion it's not made-for-SyFy-bad, so you may not have as much fodder for jokes as you did with Shaktopus. (You did a fantastic play-by-play on that one, by the way.) You could still have a lot of fun with it, though.

  6. Although I seemed to enjoy the film more than you, I agree with all of your review completely.