Beyond Skyline (2017)
Directed by: Liam O'Donnell
Written by: Liam O'Donnell
Starring: Antonio Fargas, Bojana Novakovic, Frank Grillo, Iko Uwais, Jacob Vargas, Jonny Weston, Pamelyn Chee, Yayan Ruhian
BEYOND SKYLINE (2017)
Written and Directed by Liam O’Donnell
LA police officer Mark is escorting his 18 year old son Trent home on the subway train after a run-in with the cops when the city is attacked by an alien spaceship emitting a blue light upon the citizens below. With the power of hypnotising anyone who gazes upon its luring light, the aliens suck up their victims into their spaceship where more horrors surely await. Mark must do what he can to protect his son and the survivors around him including train assistant Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) and blind veteran Sarge (Antonio Fargas). During their fight for survival, they team up with brother and sister Sua and Kanya, both of whom are also trying to protect their loved ones and the community they hold dear from the devastating onslaught from the alien entities.
Sequel to 2010’s SKYLINE, BEYOND SKYLINE is a standalone movie that features a different set of characters experiencing the same alien invasion as seen in the first film. Centred around a family unit of father and son, who’s own relationship is strained since the death of Mark’s wife, Trent’s mother, the fight for survival and family is such a powerful motivation here, one you can invest in more than you can with a group of friends who probably will only give a damn about themselves when push comes to shove. However, as all these movies tend to go, expect the sentimental tropes; acts of mindless bravery/stupidity, soppy scenes meant to stir a tear (though they don’t from the characters on-screen) and more cheese than Dairylea.
As an action sci-fi movie, BEYOND SKYLINE plays out as you would expect for an under-the-radar sequel, one that seems to be trying to differentiate itself from its predecessor whilst offering very little new to the genre. Using macho man Frank Grillo as tough cop Mark seems to be a wise choice though what does feel out of place is the inclusion of martial arts stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhain, stars of The Raid 1 & 2, who’s presence seems to be to inject a bit of Silat kick-assery into the battle between mechanical monster and human, even though their trapping, leg breaks and knife slices would, in theory, be fruitless against the superior foes. Well, this being cinema means that a 10 ft tall alien, who can throw you through a wall, can also succumb to the impressive martial arts skills of a human even though his own strength and alien technology could obliterate his human oppenent in seconds. Hmm… go on then.
Focusing more on what happens to the human victims after they’ve been sucked up to the mothership or, worse still, had their brains ripped out from their skulls like a claw grabbing a cuddly toy in an arcade machine, BEYOND SKYLINE attempts to show that the horrors of alien invasion don’t end in the initial maim or murder. Oh no. There’s worse yet to come. We also find out a little bit more as to the motives of their contempt for human life and where we humans fit in within the alien’s world. All of these ideas, whilst an interesting premise initially, only seem to serve as a platform in which the action spouts from, whether it’s battling or escaping aliens on a spaceship or fighting them on land. Whilst it’s clear the film is aiming to be a fun-filled experience, by dipping its toe into the motivation of the alien species, it then tries to bring an intellectual angle to the storyline, something which the film is unable to even comprehend itself never mind expand upon for the audience. By drawing attention away from the action, it dilutes the movie into a mediocre sci-fi action thriller instead of focusing on just one genre and providing an exhilarating experience in that niche rather than being haphazard in multiple genres.
My biggest gripe about the movie, besides poor plot and recycled storylines, is the pacing and momentum of the story along with the character personalities or lack thereof. Traumatic scenes occur throughout the film but no sooner are they screened that the action and drama jumps onto something else and completely ignores how the character may respond to the experience we’ve just witnessed. This happens with deaths, alien attacks and other dramatic moments in the movie and none of them get the attention they deserve afterwards leaving the character’s actions meaningless and their personality rather shallow – nothing more than an empty shell. The casting also leaves a lot to be desired as they have tried to pair a Singaporean actress and an Indonesian actor as brother and sister despite them both being completely different races. I know it’s only a film but it felt like the casting department thought “hey, let’s get two Asians playing the roles of siblings – it doesn’t matter if they’re completely different nationalities as long as they’re Asian.” Even the extras are a mix of different races when they’re all meant to be from the same location. Maybe I’m reading too much into it but it seems like either lazy casting or super ignorant and I found it both distracting and disappointing that they couldn’t have paid more attention to detail in this way – no disrespect to any of the actors involved.
Its attempt to make sci-fi exciting again has unfortunately fell flat on its face with a movie that hasn’t much heart and struggles to capture the imagination and emotion of the viewer. For mindless popcorn fun, BEYOND SKYLINE ticks the boxes on a basic level but sci-fi and even action fans will be left rather underwhelmed with this damp squib of a movie.