Skylines

If you’d told me as I was leaving the cinema after watching Skyline in 2010 that the execrable sci-fi flick would eventually make it to an entire trilogy my first reaction would been one of horrified disbelief – not to mention a fair bit of confusion due to a total stranger running up to me yelling useless details about the future – but after witnessing it’s 2017 sequel, Beyond Skyline, things managed to not seem that bad. After all, it’s tough to hate a film that tears up it’s own rulebook so defiantly and plunges headlong into utter craziness by flinging in martial arts, Kaiju fights and Mad Dog from The Raid having his legs pulled off into it’s already crowded continuity. This miraculous turnaround was mostly due to director Liam O’Donnell who shifted from writing the first to helming the rest who seemed to put every idea he’d ever had into this one movie. This asks a rather pertinent question, however: by putting so much into the sequel, would he have anything left in the creative tank to round off the trilogy?

Relating it’s comically complicated backstory via a story being told by the ubiquitous James Cosmos over a campfire, we find out that Rose, the fast-aging, half-alien superbaby born from the heroes of the first movie and raised by the hero of the second, helped the people of earth with her ill-defined alien powers to utilize the invader’s (known as Harvesters) own technology in bringing back the consciousness’ of all the “Pilots” (alien foot soldiers implanted with human brains) and launching a counter attack by using their spacecraft. However, at the precise moment she was supposed to use her death ray against the extra-terrestrial base ship, she hesitated which cost thousands of people their lives and only damaged the antagonists craft instead of destroying it. Feeling understandably sheepish about annihilating a huge number of her own people, Rose went onto self-imposed exile for five years and we catch up with her living in a camp just outside a ruined London. Trying to reverse the degenerative effects using her powers has on her body with the local doctor, Rose is eventually tracked down by a taskforce led by soldier-type Leon who escorts her to General Radford who in turn reveals that the billions of turned Pilots around the world are succumbing to a viral pandemic that will eventually cause them to revert to their monstrous, people-killing ways before eventually dying. Their plan is to mount and expedition to the alien homeworld (snappily named Cobalt 1) to locate the base ship Rose damaged years before and use it in conjunction with Rose’s powers to find a cure before the situation on earth violently goes tits up so the usual team of tough-talking marines – plus Rose’s Pilot step-brother Trent (told you it was complicated) are assembled to travel through a worm-hole to try and make things right before all the earth-bound Pilots go utterly bug-shit. But movies with plots inspired by James Cameron’s Aliens require sub-plot also inspired by James Cameron’s Aliens and so there’s a human conspiracy afoot that derail the entire mission – that is if the mutated versions of Harvesters on Cobalt 1 don’t derail it first…

Anyone who took to the frankly berserk second outing from the Skyline franchise franchise was hoping a returning Liam O’Donnell could do the double and produce another entertainingly random sci-fi blowout, but by giving himself an even grander canvass to play with (Spaaaaaaaaaace!!!!) he ironically ends up limiting himself thanks to the amazingly convoluted continuity and borrowing way too heavily from the aforementioned Aliens. Outright stealing the “marines on a distant planet” trope like hundreds of sci-fi potboilersbefore it, Skylines (or, as it’s sometimes referred to: Skylin3s – yes, that sound you hear is my eyeballs rolling in their sockets), unfortunately doesn’t bring the same anything-goes attitude that made it’s predecessor such a pleasant surprise which is a shame, because at times that old attitude pops up here and there to tantalise the crap out of us.
Firstly the endless wandering on Cobalt-1 isn’t particularly interesting as the cast struggle to make an impact with a script that mostly requires them to yell out stock phrases like “MOVE!”, “GET OUT OF THERE!” and randomly adding “GODDAMN” to sentences to show a rise in tension and you begin to think that replacing the likes of Frank Grillo and Iko Uwais with Rona Mitra, Dr. Bachir from Star Trek: TNG and the guy who played geeky intern from Thor: The Dark World was a horrible mistake. In fact, there are times where the slightly ramped down CGI and Alexander Siddig’s highly ramped up performance start to make things feel a little bit like latter-day Dr Who episode (not a bad thing, but also not what you want from a feature film, either) and the tangible, cool violence of Grillo and Uwais stabbing aliens to death has been lost to a bunch of guys shooting at shadowy CGI monsters.
However, just when you think things are at their bleakest and you think the movie will literally choke to death on it’s own plot (I lost track of what exactly the heroes were trying to achieve at one point and just translated it as they have to find a “thing” and get it to the other “thing”), some of that old craziness seeps back into the climax.
Some of it is thanks to the cast powering through to get to the fun stuff with The 100’s Lindsey Morgan being particularly endearing despite having to shoot light beams from her arms and Thor: TDW’s Jonathan Howard looking stunningly buff while his Lancashire accent soundly weirdly relatable as spaceships and aliens crash all around him. Even the actors lower down the cast get to enjoy the fun as two supporting characters played by Daniel Bernhardt and Cha-Lee Yoon have a martial arts fight out of nowhere which turns out to be fucking ace and The Raid’s Yayan Ruhian cameos despite having gus arms and legs ripped off in the previous as he has alien limbs now attached instead!! Another thing that works in Skylines’ goofy favour is the character of Trent who now is essentially this movie’s Groot as his twentysomething, human brain has him swaggering around the place despite it being lodged in a powerful, four-eyed Pilot body.

While the movie still delivers more thrills and spills than the orginal Skyline, it still gas to be considered a relative disappointment compared to the balls out cinematic flex that the second movie was. Still gotta love the bloopers playing over the credits though…
This third glance at the Skyline turns out to be fairly overcast by plodding, derivative clouds, but when they finally break, the sun still shines.

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