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Film / Skyline

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Skyline is a 2010 science fiction disaster film directed by the Brothers Strause.

A young couple, Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson), travel to LA for their friend Terry's (Donald Faison) birthday party at his penthouse apartment. After the wild party, everyone goes to sleep it off... only to be awoken by mysterious blue lights that fall from the sky into the city. As people are drawn to the lights in a twisted trance, they are snatched by the light, never to be seen again.

As the survivors draw the blinds to protect themselves from the light, they're faced with a dilemma: do they brave the hypnotic blue lights outside to try and escape, or do they hide in the darkness and hope that help comes for them? Things get worse when the aliens start sending out scouts to search every apartment with their blue lights, and especially when they learn what the aliens do to the people they take...

A sequel, Beyond Skyline, was released in 2017, starring Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais. It was followed by Skylin3s in 2020.

At least one key plot element — why the aliens are here — could be considered a reveal, but it's also intrinsic to the discussion of the work. Per Handling Spoilers, blocking out 1/3rd of the examples doesn't work. So if you haven't seen the film and want to keep the alien's modus operandi a surprise, stop reading here.

Skyline provides examples of:

  • Ace Custom: The alien overlord has a personal 'mecha' that's larger and more humanoid than the rest.
  • Alien Abduction: Stare into the pretty lights and a few seconds later you're being pulled into the ship.
  • Alien Blood: The aliens bleed dark purple blood.
  • Alien Invasion: The conflict of the movie.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: These are some of the most assholish aliens in cinema. They invade Earth and start killing people, making them slaves, and using them as People Farms. When they come across pregnant women, they try to suck out their babies.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: Oliver was looking at a nuclear explosion through a telescope. You're not supposed to look at the sun through a telescope, certainly not a nuclear explosion. That eye should be at the very least temporarily blinded - or more realistically - permanently.
  • And Then John Was a Zombie: Jarrod's brain is removed and installed into one of the war machines.
  • Anyone Can Die: By the end, only two members of the main cast are still alive.
  • Appendage Assimilation: The aliens can take human brains and use them as processors for their war machines. If damaged, they just grab a new brain. It looks like the rest of the body is melted down in the motherships (they throw them into a glowing pool). In the sequel a character falls in and reacts to it like water; it then "flushes" its contents into the sky.
  • Asshole Victim: Basically the entire named cast with the exception of Jarrod and Elaine. Terry is an obnoxious womanizer, his girlfriend is a self-absorbed Gold Digger, the girl he cheats with is an obvious groupie, and Oliver, despite being the Only Sane Man, remains antagonistic and condescending for most of his time in the film.
  • Attack Drone: Alien "Hydra" drones that search the skyscrapers, as well as the smaller, octopus-type things, which are actually called "Drones". Also used by the military in an attack against the large ships.
  • Back from the Brink: Humanity manages to win in the sequel once the aliens' weakness is found.
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • Sure, Jarrod may get a somewhat happy ending if he and Elaine can escape the ship, but these aliens have killed most of humanity already, and it's implied they aren't going to leave... at least until they run out of humans, at any rate. Subverted in the second film, where the aliens' overlord gets killed by Trent, who is in an alien biosuit, but regained his human memories in the final battle.
  • Behemoth Battle: The climax of the second film is the alien overlord fighting Trent, both in giant organic mechas. Trent wins with some interference from his father and Rose.
  • Big Bad: The aliens' overlord, who led the invasion and was working behind the scenes in the first film, but appears in the second film in action. The alien Matriarch serves as this for the third film and the series as a whole.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • Jarrod gets one of these at the very end when he rescues Elaine while in a superhuman alien body.
    • Jarrod repeats it in the sequel, saving Mark.
    • Also in the sequel, it appears the plan has failed and the alien overlord is going to kill everyone...when the restored Trent arrives in a Tanker.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The aliens appear to be biomechanical, and most have an abundance of metallic tentacles and other strange appendages, and run on human brains. Their leader, who appears to be the only 'true' alien seen is still extremely alien and it appears the biomechanical drones are modeled off him.
  • Body Horror: Staring into the light makes your veins turn a dark, inky colour. Then you learn what the aliens want with humans — to rip out their brains for use as biological CPUs in their war machines.
  • Brain Food: Not so much eating as taking and using them for themselves. It seems to be the motivation for the invasion, since they're used to replace old ones a few times.
  • Brown Note: The alien light is this mixed with The Virus. This works against them in the sequel, as the heroes manage to make an antidote from Rose's blood and figure out tainting one of the cores used to make it can free all their soldiers who see it.
  • Cliffhanger: but an interestingly inverted one. It looks like humanity, and our protagonists, are down for the count, but there is a Hope Spot in the final scene, just as we fade to black and the credits roll. Not a Bolivian Army Cliff Hanger, because the protagonists are left safer than they were just one minute before the ending.
  • Cool Ship: The alien spacecraft are huge, complicated masses of metallic spines, panels and antenna, and their blue lights do look pretty cool. Really... really cool....
  • Convenient Color Change: When Jarrod loses their brain, it's a different color from that of everyone else thanks to having built up an immunity to their mind control. Once inserted into a giant monster, they keep control and use it to rebel.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: A really brutally honest example. So a super advanced alien race invades Earth? How will humanity fight off these powerful foes? They don't. You didn't really think humanity stood a chance against alien beings advanced and powerful enough to travel across millions miles to fuel their unstoppable war machines did you? It says a lot that in the sequel, the only thing that starts turning the tables is humans getting their hands on alien tech and turning it against them.
  • Death by Pragmatism: Oliver. He's the most reasonable of the group, to a point, but it's his insistence on staying hunkered down in the building that ultimately spells his doom. Of course, others don't fare much better...
  • Developing Doomed Characters: The first fifteen minutes set at Terry's birthday party, which is brimming with highly unlikeable jerks who like to spy on people having sex for their own entertainment.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The alien Overlord clearly didn't see humanity managing to turn his weapons against him and get to a point where they might actually win coming.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Almost literally. Jarrod starts off with a cinderblock but then goes to fisticuffs. The alien breaks his leg during the sequence, leading to a non limb-specific Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu.
  • Downer Ending:
    • Humanity is done. Worse than done — based on what the aliens did when they discovered Elaine's pregnancy and the other pregnant women nearby, humans are going to be farmed.
    • It's cool though. Jarrod's an alien war machine now and is going to kick some major alien ass in the upcoming sequel.
    • For how long he's going to survive against an entire armada while trying to protect his wife is anyone's guess though.
    • Subverted in the sequel, as the humans manage to steal alien tech and turn it against them, ultimately manage to win.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Oliver.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: In Skylin3s Rose gets corrupted by the Overlord on Cobalt-1, who then awakens her full alien power. After a brief "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight with Trent, she overcomes the brainwashing and unleashes the full breadth of her powers, including the ability to fire powerful energy blasts from her hands without the need for a gauntlet.
  • "Facing the Bullets" One-Liner:
    Oliver: Vaya con Dios, you son of a bitch!
  • Final Girl: featuring Elaine as the very last survivor at the very end, and then quickly adverted by an inverted Cliffhanger (Jarrod's resurrection as a machine).
  • Foreshadowing: A possibly unintentional - and definitely musical - example here. One of the songs featured in the film is 30 Seconds to Mars's 'Kings and Queens', which is about the end of the world, or at the very least, humanity.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: The aliens can recover from anything short of having their brains physically torn out, and even that might not stop them if they can grab a nearby human. However, it seems fire is effective against them and enough heavy ordinance can bring them down.
  • Happy Ending Override: Subverted: Jarrod and his wife both die in the sequel, but in the process their daughter becomes the one hope of stopping the aliens, and Jarrod manages to down the alien overlord's mothership, buying the heroes enough time to figure out a way to stop him. Ultimately Inverted as what seemed to be a certain Downer Ending of the first film is turned around over the course of this one, leading to Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • Hellish Copter: A Blackhawk is taken down by Combat Tentacles.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • In the sequel: the fact the light causes unborn babies to rapidly grow in the womb (so they can be harvested for experiments) results in Jarrod's daughter Rose developing the same immunity he has only stronger due to her altered biology. This gives the heroes a chance of winning, as if her blood is used to taint one of the mothership's rounds that emit the blue light, it can be used to free every one of their soldiers in visual range.
    • The alien overlord is killed when Trent, whom he had converted into a drone to begin with, shoots his organic mecha through the head with his mothership's gun.
  • Heroic Willpower: One of the possible explanations for how Jarrod gains control over the machine, rather than just being the CPU.
  • Hope Spot:
    • As it turns out, nuking the alien ship really worked! Until it starts repairing itself.
    • Played with and subverted, as whenever the main group tries to have a bit of this, they always seemed to get screwed either way. Finally played straight on the ending.
  • Humans Are Insects: The aliens are extremely dismissive of humanity, treating them more as cattle to 'harvest' than people. This mentality blows up in their faces in the sequels.
  • "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight: Happens often due to the corrupting nature of the alien light's brainwashing effect, as well as the converted pilots. Played totally straight in Skylin3s several times with Trent and Rose. Trent begins suffering the effects of a virus that's been plaguing converted pilots on earth for years, eventually turning them hostile again, and needs to be talked down.
  • Implacable Man: The King Kong sized Tankers. One of them survives being hit with a rocket launcher, shot with an M-16, falling off a building, shot with several .50 BMG sniper rounds, getting caught in a gas explosion, falling off a building (again), and getting shot with an F-22's Vulcan. Having the F-22 crash into it, however, seems to kill it. In the sequel, it takes an entire minefield to kill one.
  • Invincible Villain: The aliens to an unbelievable degree. Absolutely nothing stops them, they brush every attack, and the heroes completely fail to fight back against them. Probably the biggest moment is when the aliens manage to shrug off a nuke without any trouble. Subverted in the sequel, however, as it turns out they do actually have specific weaknesses, one of which being fire and the humans actually win by taking the aliens' weapons and turning them against them, as well as finding a way to free their human turned soldiers..
  • I Will Only Slow You Down: Jarrod tries this with Elaine, since he can barely move. She chooses to die with him instead by looking into the light. Only they don't die.
  • Karmic Death: The alien overlord is killed by Trent, whom he converted into a soldier, when he's freed and shoots his mecha through the head with his ship's gun.
  • Kill It with Fire: The sequel reveals this is one of the very few things the aliens are actually vulnerable to.
  • Light Is Not Good:
    • And blue light on top of that, to subvert Good Colors, Evil Colors.
    • Heck Jarrod even gives us Kind Red Eyes to counter the subverted Blue Eyes of Goodness
  • Like Brother and Sister: Despite Rose's accelerated aging, being raised by Mark and restoring Trent's mind gives her a family, and by Skylin3s she's developed a snarky banter with her adoptive brother.
    Rose: Whatcha working on?
    Trent: Nope!
    Rose: I can help!... I brought thumbs!
    Trent: ...Son of a bitch.
    Moments later during an emotional moment with them holding hands
    Rose: Why are they always wet?
    Trent: Oh for fuck sake!
  • Living Ship: According to Word of God, "Every single one is a different unique creature with its own DNA."
  • A Million Is a Statistic:
    • The abduction of the rest of the population of Los Angeles is merely a backdrop for the drama of a very small group of people and their tragedies.
    • Human military aircraft, mostly manned, getting knocked out of the skies in the background becomes almost routine by the time Jarrod and Elaine are taken into the ship.
  • Mind-Control Eyes: Looking directly at the pretty blue lights induces this. Jarrod also gets them when he gets pissed off later in the movie.
  • Mistaken for Quake: When the aliens attack, some of the characters assume it's a minor earthquake.
  • Moral Myopia: The Alien Matriarch in the third film acts like humanity is in the wrong for turning the tables and fighting back...against a species who started the entire war with a completely unprovoked attack.
  • No Ending: The film fades out mid-scene.
  • No OSHA Compliance: This happens so often in films that it's not funny, but rooftop doors are supposed to have a one-way lock. They lock on the inside of the building to keep people from going out on the roof (and jumping), but they do not lock on the outside so no one who is already out of the roof gets locked out in cold/rain (and aliens, by extension).
  • Not Using the Zed Word: The aliens are only referred to as "they."
  • Nuke 'em: The US military attempts to nuke an alien ship. It works, but it quickly starts repairing itself, and eventually appears as good as new.
  • Off with His Head!: The aliens steal brains, taking the entire head and most of the spine with it, using them as brains of their soldiers. Likewise,, this trope is one of the only ways of actually killing them.
  • Oh, Crap!: The alien leader visibly panics when he realizes the heroes have loaded his ship's cannon with a red round and are about to fire it to free his troops. While he manages to rip the gun out before they can, it's the first time in the films any of the aliens show fear.
  • Ominous Floating Spaceship: All over the sky of every major city, apparently.
  • Only Sane Man: Oliver is the most reasonable and pragmatic member of the main cast, though his insistence on hunkering down inside the building gets him killed. At least he gets a Dying Moment of Awesome.
  • Organic Technology: The aliens. Word of God has it that the Motherships are organic too, in spite of the fact that they really look like they're made out of gold and glass.
  • Parking Garage: When they get there, people start to die.
  • People Farms: It's implied that the aliens are doing this at the end of the film, since they have a contraption apparently designed to suck unborn children right out of the mother.
  • Pulling Themselves Together: The alien mothership — even after being nuked. However, the sequel shows it has its limits as being blown up from the inside out damages it beyond repair.
  • Power at a Price: At the end of the film, Jarrod is immune to the alien bio-tech reprogramming, and retains his personality. While that does grant the strength and speed of the bad guys, the downside is... you're stuck as one of them.
  • Ramming Always Works: The Hydras fight human aircraft by ramming into them at top speed. This leaves the Hydra unharmed...even though getting hit with a missile will kill one. In an unintentional instance of this trope, the Tanker seems invulnerable to anything short of having an F-22 crash into its head.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Inverted; those not under alien mind control have glowing red eyes.
  • Rule of Cool: Who knew such an alien invasion with no hope would somehow be exciting?
  • Scenery Gorn: It would appear humanity loses. All we see are shots of devastated cities, and even our best weapons appear to only slow them down for a bit.
  • Sensory Tentacles: Each glowing probe-arm of the Hydras does double duty as a Sensor Tentacle and a head-grappling device for brain collection.
  • Sex Signals Death: Terry is cheating on his girlfriend and gets killed. So does the girl he's cheating with.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Subverted. When and Jarrod are trapped on the roof by a one-way door, Terry tries to shoot out the lock twice with no success. It takes Elaine opening the door from the other side for them to escape.
  • Slow "NO!": Jarrod, when the helicopter crashes.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Jarrod's Character Tic of stroking Elaine's face downwards from her forehead to her chin helps her to recognise him after Jarrod's brain transplantation.
  • Starfish Aliens: They sure don't look like anything on Earth.
  • Tainted Veins: From looking into the blue lights.
  • Taking You with Me:
    • Oliver tries this on one of the "Tanker" aliens. It doesn't work.
    • Jarrod pulls this in the sequel, as after being mortally wounded by the alien overlord, he blows up his ship from the inside out, damaging it beyond its ability to repair. While the overlord survives, this directly leads to his downfall.
  • The Enemy Weapons Are Better: A major plot point in the sequel: the aliens' tech edge is massive, but humans can use it under the right circumstances and when the human turned aliens are able to be freed, they can as well.
  • Too Dumb to Live: With LA full of alien monsters eating everything that moves, our heroes decide to try and escape in cars with big, growly engines and in broad daylight. Granted, their chances weren't all that good whatever they tried, but at least on foot and at night they had some small hope of evading detection. And let's not even think about the fact that their entire daylight plan was to escape by boat. From flying aliens. Yeah, that will work!
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: Jarrod's glowing red brain proves to be just too much for the war-machine husk and he takes it over. Not quite the normal version of the trope, but close enough.
  • Touched by Vorlons: Albeit horribly underused here.
  • Trailers Always Lie: The trailers and commercials contained snippets of news broadcasts talking about "Every city in the world" being attacked. These never appear in the film.
  • Trailers Always Spoil:
    • Arguably the best surprise in the film is when the car is crushed by the alien's foot as it comes out of the parking garage, so of course this was displayed prominently in the trailer.
    • One of the commentary tracks laments the fact that the helicopter getting grabbed while it's attempting to pick up Jarrod would have been a nice shot if it was wasn't used in the trailers.
  • Villainous Breakdown: The aliens' overlord slowly has one over the course of the second film, as he clearly believed that he was as invulnerable as they seemed in the first film, and becomes increasingly more and more furious as the film progresses and the humans actually manage to turn the tables on him. When he realizes that a tainted round has been loaded into the cannon and could free all his soldiers in the current battle, he begins frantically tearing into his own mother ship trying to stop it.
  • The Virus: The light seems to act like this, particularly for Jarrod.
  • Wilhelm Scream: When a soldier gets knocked off a building. Pretty disturbing version, too.
  • Your Princess Is in Another Castle!: Yeah, we had to nuke L.A., but the alien mothership is down... what do you mean the film is only half over?

Oooh... look at the pretty blue text...

Alternative Title(s): Beyond Skyline, Skylin3s