In “Skyline,” which offers a few stray sights of enticing PG-13 grossness but not much of a movie, space aliens drop in on Los Angeles, luring the city’s residents with mesmerizing shafts of unholy blue light. It’s like a trip to a Kmart staffed by the ugliest beings imaginable.
The poseurs littering the story, several of whom work in the special effects industry but act like millionaire gangstas, deliver each new straight line on cue. “Morning already?” wonders the visiting pregnant Brooklynite played by Scottie Thompson (best thing in the film), upon first sighting of the blue light. Once too often somebody screams “Ruuuuunnnn!” or “Noooooooo!” simply because they’ve seen other characters in other movies do the same.
The blue light, according to directors and producers Greg and Colin Strause and screenwriters Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, is meant to be the visual equivalent of the siren songs of old, the trickery by which humans meet their doom. Each time one of the vacuous young folk stuck in a Marina del Rey high-rise starts zombie-walking toward the light, you think: Isn’t that James Cameron’s preferred icy blue hue? Are the aliens actually working for Cameron?
The Brothers Strause, as they’re billed, certainly did; they contributed to the effects work on “Avatar,” among many other high-profile projects. “Skyline” exists to show off a portfolio of creatures derived from “War of the Worlds” and “Minority Report” and many others. There are the motherships, into which masses of hypnotized Angelenos are sucked. (They’re brain food, literally, for the demanding tourists.)
There are so-called hydras and drones, smaller, tentacled beasts that give Donald Faison (“Scrubs”) — who plays a callow special-effects wizard living large — a time of it in the high-rise. Too much of the film takes place in and around and atop that high-rise. Instead of effective claustrophobia, “Skyline” feels static, even with the digital megillahs giving Earth a dehumanizing makeover.
The movie takes an absurd leap into cross-species heroism at the end, once we see what actually goes on inside the brain-slurping motherships. “I never saw myself out here,” mutters our East Coast hero, played, dully, by Eric Balfour, earlier on.
There’s a sly joke buried in “Skyline” relating to the gullibility of Angelenos when it comes to the latest shiny distraction. The Strauses could’ve, should’ve exploited that joke more ruthlessly. Their effects are pretty good, on a fairly limited budget. And that’s about all you can say for “Skyline.” In all the actors are sometimes wooden; the screenplay wobbles between compelling and ridiculous; the characters often make stupidly bad decisions; the ‘next’ scene is frequently predictable; truly, this is no classic of the genre. But still … it’s got awesome giant spaceships and massive lumbering monsters and epic explosions and gory kills and it’s … a dumb-fun matinee flick for sure. Skyline feels destined to become the sort of movie you see, forget about, see again on cable in eight months, and then like a lot more. It’s got a lot of modern effects on the surface, but at its heart Skyline is sort of a childish, tongue-in-cheek love letter to sci-fi cinema, from George Pal to Steven Spielberg, and about a hundred other movies in between.