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Film Review: ‘Beyond Skyline’

Space aliens invade Earth once more, raining down terror and elements from prior sci-fi movies.

Liam O'Donnell
Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston, Callan Mulvey, Antonio Fargas, Yayan Ruhian, Pamelyn Chee, Jacob Vargas, Iko Uwais, Valentine Payen, Betty Gabriel. (English, Indonesian dialogue.)
Release Date:
Dec 15, 2017

Rated R  1 hour 47 minutes

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1724970/

A semi-sequel to 2010’s “Skyline” which follows different characters from the same alien-invasion starting point through fantasy perils on a grander scale, “Beyond Skyline” does its predecessor proud in that it, too, is fast-paced and colorful enough to rate as a solid guilty pleasure. This helming debut for Liam O’Donnell, who co-wrote the original, is another showcase for the FX work of the earlier films’ co-directors the Brothers Strause and their company Hydraulx (which has contributed visual effects to numerous recent tentpoles).

All three dudes were centrally involved with 2007’s “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.” If this new movie also seems to have a whole lot of Aliens and Predators running around, well, it’s not the kind of joint you expect originality from, in narrative or even stylistic terms. It is, however, a goofy hybrid that’s never dull and sometimes flat-out ridiculous, never taking itself so seriously for its logical shortcomings to feel truly embarrassing. A lion’s share of production coin coming from the Far East means that about halfway through, this sci-fi thriller starts incorporating a lot of kickboxing-type action, an idiosyncrasy that only enhances the general entertainment value. Fanboys who can’t access sold-out shows of “Star Wars: The Neverending Story” this weekend might enjoy settling for this wackier enterprise, so long as they maintain a sense of humor about it.

“Skyline” focused primarily on an expectant L.A. couple caught in the middle of a full-scale UFO invasion. Their characters show up briefly (albeit played by different actors) here, but this time our principal protagonist is Mark (Frank Grillo), an LAPD cop who’s been off duty and on a reclusive bender since his wife’s death. He drags himself to the precinct station to bail out young-adult son Trent (Jonny Weston), whose own coping mechanism since mom’s passing has been to get in arrest-provoking fights.

When Mark’s car won’t re-start, the duo glumly head home via subway. But their train is halted by what seems, underground, like an earthquake. Back on the surface, it’s clearly something else: Penetrating rays of light from spaceships suddenly hypnotize the entire populace, most of whom then get sucked up into the air and alien vessels.

So far, so “War of the Worlds.” Once Mark and Trent get back up top — accompanied by a rapidly dwindling group, notably including the former’s colleague Garcia (Jacob Vargas), train conductor Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) and blind elder Sarge (Antonio Fargas) — they find the city already almost emptied of people. Soon they’re yanked up into the airborne belly of the beast, too. There, unlucky humans are getting their brains plucked out and placed in vaguely Predator-looking machines. These mostly do the bidding of the more Alien-looking actual aliens, but sometimes retain enough humanity to prove disobedient. While our protagonists try to avoid that fate, they acquire a baby birthed very prematurely, and which grows yea faster into a little girl whose not-quite-human nature might make her the Messiah of an Earthly resistance.

In the meantime, however, the surviving adult leads find their vessel crashing in the Laotian jungle. They’re taken captive by local sibling outlaws (Indonesian action star Iko Uwais and Pamelyn Chee) who rapidly becomes allies against the common extraterrestrial enemy — as does their hippie-foreigner leader (Callan Mulvey), who spearheads some kind of drug-running guerrilla resistance from tunnels below 1,000-year-old temples.

None of this makes much sense, but then “Beyond Skyline” rarely pauses long enough for one to care, or even notice. Apart from the films already mentioned, there are chunks of “Independence Day,” “Transformers” and more dropped into the mix here, as well as a climactic old-school Toho-style giant monster mash.

There’s scant room for characterization, and when the dialogue isn’t banal or cringe-inducing, it aims for generic smirking-wiseguy quippage. No matter: The performers rise ably to what are primarily physical (rather than “acting”) demands, the energy level is fairly non-stop, and there’s a lot of visual stimulus to keep idle minds further occupied.

From the creature conceptions to the icky-sticky spaceship “womb” interiors, there’s not a lot of design ingeniousness on tap — yet it’s all busy and fun to look at, a lively pastiche of genre influences. The same pumped B-flick esprit is applied to Christopher Probst’s widescreen lensing, the breathless editing (by Sean Albertson and Banner Gwin), and Nathan Whitehead’s clamorous score. Between gobs of generally accomplished greenscreen work, there’s good use of actual L.A. and Indonesian locations (the latter subbing for Laos).

Film Review: 'Beyond Skyline'

Reviewed online, San Francisco, Dec. 13, 2017. MPAA rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: (Singapore) A Vertical Entertainment release (U.S.) of a Hydraulx Entertainment, m45 Productions and XYZ Films presentation in association by Beijing Creastar Picture Intl., Arlberg Prods., S&C Picture Co. of an Arlberg production, in association with S&C, North Hollywood Films Inc. Producers: Matthew Chausse, Greg Strause, Colin Strause. Executive producers: Allen Van Dam, Kitty Li Rong, Allen Liu, Michael Wiluan, Roman Kopelevich, Peter K.K. Lee, Maguy Cohen, Matthew Helderman. Co-producers: Robert Van Norden, Nora Mediana, Lindsey Martin, John “Duke” Duquesnay, Steven Hoban, Peter Y.W. Lam. Jason Hewitt.

Crew: Director, writer: Liam O’Donnell. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Christopher Probst. Editors: Sean Albertson, Banner Gwin. Music: Nathan Whitehead.

With: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston, Callan Mulvey, Antonio Fargas, Yayan Ruhian, Pamelyn Chee, Jacob Vargas, Iko Uwais, Valentine Payen, Betty Gabriel. (English, Indonesian dialogue.)

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