Back in 2010, Skyline descended into cinemas with a low budget and high ambitions. Telling the tale of a blue tinged alien invasion as told though the eyes of a group of the most indecisive people in Los Angeles, the movie came and went while barely leaving a dent in the cultural landscape; however, one thing did managed to stand out from this frustratingly bland wedge of sci-fi guff and that was the closing minutes of the movie. Finally shifting into a faster gear just in time for the credits to roll, the ending saw “hero” Jarrod and his pregnant wife sucked into the indestructible mothership only for the former to have his brain forcibly removed (is there any other kind?) and placed in the skull of an alien drone but as his spouse is moved to a different part of the ship to have her unborn baby experimented on, Jarrod managed to regain his mind and spirit his wife away to a distant part of the craft. As cliffhangers go, it actually managed to stubbonly stick in my head while the rest of the movie evaporating like steam in a bathroom and for years I casually wondered what would happen next.
Seven years later… cue Beyond Skyline.
We once again head back to LA before the extra-terrestrial and highly spectral light show worked it’s magic, but instead we follow Frank Grillo’s washed up detective Mark Corley as he liberates his wayward and estranged son Trent, from jail, but as Corley clumsily attempts to reconcile with his boy on the subway the alien invasion begins. Putting their awkward bonding attempt on hold as they’re assaulted on all sides by squid-like harvesters and jumbo-sized alien biosuits, they, along with subway worker Audrey, try to escort the survivors to safely, only to fail spectacularly when they are all drawn into the mothership just like everyone else. However, while the alien tech may be virtually invulnerable, it turns out their management skills are highly suspect as the aliens only have a single crew member per mothership and they allocate all their other shit to the human-brained drones that clump noisily around the place (no alien union for them, then…). As Mark and his rapidly dwindling group of survivors manage to work their way through the ship, they stumble upon the human/alien hybrid Jerrod and his wife who’s pregnancy has been greatly accelerated due to alien tinkering and all are stunned when she drops her sprog right there and then. Finally managing to cripple the mothership as it hovers over Laos, the humans escape and team up with Sua, a soldier for a local drug cartel who has been defending the area from both alien attacks and the rogue police. Realising they have a secret weapon in the form of the blood of Jerrod’s rapidly aging daughter, the humans plan to mount a pushback against their overwhelming foe, but the alien pilot has finally decided to get it’s inhuman hands dirty and try to snuff out this pesky resistance once and for all….
If you just read that synopsis and just went “oh great, he’s just spelt out the whole damn plot!”, rest assured, I’ve only spilled about half the crap that’s stuffed into this movie. As energetic as the first movie was dull, Beyond Skyline turns out to be a minor masterpiece when it comes to re-conning a dull movie with lashing of VOD pulp and most to this is thanks to a literal change in it’s direction. Stepping up from writing and co-creating the orginal, Liam O’Donnell slipped into the directing chair vacated by The Strauss Brothers (AVP: Requiem) and immediately pumped this sequel with enough bizarre malarkey to fill a month’s worth of Syfy channel content that doesn’t so much flirt with B-movie madness than get to third base with it on the first date.
The first thing that works incredibly well is the fact that it “remakes” the first movie by going over it’s events but from the point of view from people who aren’t hiding from the aliens from behind drawn curtains and who are much more proactive, much more interesting and continues to prove the fact that everything gets 45% better when you add Frank Grillo. While the first third of the movie gets you up to speed with the otherworldly shenanigans, the second goes full Aliens as the survivors run around the mothership like they own the fucking place as they frantically tie up the loose threads left over from the previous flick by introducing it’s leads (amusingly recast with actors who look nothing like Eric Balfour or Scottie Thompson) who stick around long enough to pass on some exposition before being ruthlessly cast aside by a script that’s relentlessly obsessed with forging new ground. This takes us to the third section of the movie which randomly decides to drop everyone into Asia and shows that despite their awesome tech, the aliens seem to be suprisingly vunerable to Indonesian martial artists when The Raid’s Iko Uwais turns up and starts dishing out some human-based pain to these alien arseholes. Once a plan has been formulated around some bollocks about getting the blood of Jerrod’s mutant child (dubbed Rose by Grillo) into the aliens machinery we’re off to the races as Grillo, Uwais and and cameoing Yayan Ruhian (The Raid’s unforgettable Mag Dog) beat the living shit out of the invading drones while the head alien and another turned drone have a full on giant smackdown while piloting Kaiju-sized monsters.
Now while admittedly Beyond Skyline may not have the financial wallop of an Avengers or a Fast And Furious movie, it makes up for some noticably rough edges by leaning into it’s strengths (noticably it’s cast) but also embracing some more low tech solutions to it’s problems like balancing the screen time of the drones between being realised by full CGI and having some poor fucker in a rubber monster suit get mercilessly beaten on by a wild-haired, Indonesian lunatic. It adds to the soothing, B-Movie, anything-goes spirit of the film, especially when you see how many times the poor, overworked suit performer face-planted mid-scene thanks to the outtakes that are sweetly included during the end credits like a Jackie Chan movie.
Beyond Skyline ain’t art, but it is as fucking cool as watching Frank Grillo mutilate space marauders with an alien weapon he has fused to his arm while a screaming human has his arms and legs pulled off like a demonic child torturing his Action Man; and if nothing else, it’s got to be eligible for some kind of “most improved franchise award” if such an cinematic honor were to ever exist – plus, it even has a role for original Huggy Bear actor Antonio Vargas and that’s got to be worth something!
As lightfooted as a xenomorph dancing on a hotplate, the movie more than makes up for it’s stale predecessor thanks to it’s deranged, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sensibilities that manage to win you over thanks to how adorably eager it is to please.
Could a further sequel possibly hope to capitalize on this impressive comeback? Keep watching the Skyline – but maybe skip straight to the second one, yeah?