2010’s Skyline was widely regarded as a terrible, terrible film, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian (stars of The Raid franchise) were teaming up with Frank Grillo to star in a film entitled Beyond Skyline. “It couldn’t be,” I thought, puzzled that someone would try to resuscitate a science fiction film that almost no one wanted to see again. However, first-time writer/director Liam O’Donnell not only took on the unenviable task of bringing back a movie rarely thought about since its failure, but he has also done the impossible: made a fun, ambitious sequel that doesn’t even require you to watch the original.
Beyond Skyline acts more like a “side-quel,” as the alien invasion that happens in the original film is looked at from a different perspective. In this instance, it is from the eyes of Mark (Grillo), a recent widower currently taking a leave-of-absence from the Los Angeles Police Department. It’s not crazy casting to have Grillo play a grizzled detective who likes to drink and has a ton of inner demons he’s fighting, but it’s effective. As he goes in to release his son, Trent (Johnny Weston), from the police station, the two are soon catapulted into a survival film, as aliens arrive on Earth and begin a widespread abduction of all human life.
In comes the troubling, yet unrelentingly ambitious structure of Beyond Skyline; it has far too much going on. The first act of the film is essentially a survival film of people trying to evade the invasion; the second act is your science-fiction action film, as we learn more of the nuance involved in the abduction process, and are introduced to the aliens in a much more confrontational manner; then the third act tacks a martial arts adventure onto its already action-packed science-fiction plot — there’s so much happening that you can’t help but laugh. This is a good thing. What’s a bad thing is that the film lacks restraint, and makes all the human emotion contained within fall flat. There’s a relationship between Trent and Mark that becomes difficult to care about, especially when it becomes heavily sci-fi.
Genre films are fun for how they can sometimes not take themselves too seriously and come out feeling like a blast, or in the case of Beyond Skyline, really go for it and still come out a winner. Lack of emotion aside, this is a movie that wants to do it all. Martial arts fans will love when Iko Uwais shows up to kick some alien ass with his signature style, as each fight in the movie is well choreographed (he is also the action choreographer, along with fellow cast member Yayan Ruhian) and feels appropriately violent and dramatic. You’re not getting the same caliber of violence as you would in The Raid, but you’re getting quite a bit. It’s unfortunate though that Uwais’ character doesn’t appear until midway through the movie, but it allows for the main plot to be set in motion before things become more of an action-adventure than they were before.
My largest concern going into Beyond Skyline was that its focus on aliens would result in a series of comically bad CG, but this is definitely not the case. Practical effects were used when needed, and the alien suits are very well-integrated into green screen-heavy special effects that only occasionally become a little noticeable. Adding a splash of kaiju fights to Beyond Skyline would have been a bad idea if the special effects budget wasn’t there, but damn, was it ever. It’s not Pacific Rim, but it’s pretty close, and there’s nothing I could do but smile throughout each large-scale assault.
For every complaint that I have about how much is going on in Beyond Skyline, it’s far too ambitious to fault. It even ends with a little set up for another sequel (!), but it’s so cheesy and dumb that it comes off a little too self-aware compared to the rest of the film. Still, it’s that earnestness that made me fall in love with every silly one-liner and alien dismemberment. There’s a great cast and the promise of an awesome action filmmaker, which is why Beyond Skyline is definitely worth checking out when it makes its way off the festival circuit.