Beyond Skyline review: The sequel to the marmite film, Skyline, has arrived, but after seven years, was it worth the wait?
Beyond Skyline review by Kat Hughes.
2010 gave us a small low budget science-fiction thriller known as Skyline. It was a film subject to the marmite phenomena; you either loved it, or hated it. Grossing $78 million from a budget of $10-20 million meant that the prospect of a sequel seemed like a good idea. Sadly, the filmmaker seemed to be so consumed with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.
Outside of the practical effects – which were stunning when you consider the modest scale of production – what made Skyline great was how unique it felt. Starring Eric Balfour and Scottie Thompson as Jarrod and Elaine respectively, the movie saw a group of friends try and survive a strange alien invasion. Rather than wiping out humans straight out, these extraterrestrials instead collected people, using their brains to power their technology. It was a grim prospect and had an even grimmer ending as it strayed into District 9 heartbreak territory. The whole film honed in on the relationship between Jarrod and Elaine making that conclusion even more gut-wrenching. Unfortunately, most of what made Skyline special has been squandered in its sequel, Beyond Skyline.
Events move to New York this time around where we join Frank Grillo’s Mark, a Detective currently out of work on compassionate leave. Mark is searching for his son Trent (Jonny Weston) who has gone off the rails since his mother died. The pair reunite just in time to hop on the subway as the invasion strikes. Trapped underground, they team up with train driver Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) as they try to survive. Soon enough Trent is taken and Mark, desperate to save his son, follows him onto the vessel, but can he save him before it’s too late?
This synopsis actually only covers the first hour or so of Beyond Skyline, what follows is essentially a completely different story set within Laos. This is one of the biggest flaws with the sequel, it just feels like too many different types of science-fiction story. It’s a generic science-fiction action, devoid of originality, that throws everything it can at the viewer in an attempt to get as many people to like it as possible. This of course doesn’t work as it’s all rather confusing. We get men fighting aliens in hand-to-hand combat, men fighting Megazord style aliens as humans, rapidly ageing hybrid children, a rescue mission, a post-apocalyptic landscape (despite it having been only a couple of days since the invasion), and so many loud banging noises.
The first hour is almost solidly action scene after action scene, with very little time for story. When this action finally lets up about half way through and starts to try and build its plot, it’s a case of too little too late. Audiences have gone so far without their brains engaged that they simply won’t be bothered to engage it again. We’ve gone so far with the characters, but have no emotional connection with them and we are just past caring about both the characters and the film. At this point you’re just happy that the banging has stopped, and a little disappointed that there’s still another half of the film left to go. The second half is also so different from the first that it the story is almost completed disjointed and therefore difficult to accept, it no longer feels like Skyline and comes across more like a cheap TV movie.
Frank Grillo is great as always, it just seems that he has a hard time picking the best projects to be involved with. Here he gets a lot of time to show of his fighting skills, and even gets to briefly battle with The Raid‘s Iko Uwais, but he doesn’t get to demonstrate a great amount of range. He’s either fighting, running or shouting – so basically he’s Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible movie. Bojana Novakovic is underused and is clearly around to just add a female component. She was fantastic in Corin Hardy’s The Hallow, another film where she was left holding the baby, but here she’s sidelined and given next to nothing to do other than look after the child.
Beyond Skyline is the directorial debut of Liam O’Donnell, the original writer of Skyline. How the man that wrote the first film can go so spectacularly wrong with the sequel is perplexing. It’s not just the tone and direction that have been changed, even the timelines don’t match up. Skyline was set over three days, the bulk of Beyond Skyline occurs on day one. We do revisit elements of the first film, but what should be day three, is now suddenly day one. This simple disregard for what could be called the lore will frustrate those few fans that exist for Skyline. Also, with the budget being around the same as Skyline, and technology having come a long way in seven years, it’s hard to watch the visual effects as they really aren’t very good. Most of the film relies on the man in a suit route rather than using CG and it makes the whole thing feel like an insane episode of Power Rangers, but not the good first series, one of the later incarnations – definitely not a good thing.
A film that had so much potential to build on the clever ideas and issues thrown up by its predecessor, Beyond Skyline is a limp and bloated affair. More concerned with ticking science-fiction movie tropes off, and showing off the fighting prowess of its male actors than working on a compelling and engaging story, the whole film is one big bitter disappointment.
Beyond Skyline review by Kat Hughes, October 2017.
Beyond Skyline screened as part of the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween 2017 programme.