It’s not much of an understatement to suggest that there’s no love lost at STARBURST HQ – or, indeed, anywhere – for Skyline, 2010’s frustratingly cheap-as-chips alien invasion effort by the Brothers Strauss. Whilst the film had an interesting aesthetic when it finally got around to showing off its aliens and their intergalactic tech, the film’s lack of funds meant that the human protagonists spent much of the film in hiding or else watching the invasion on TV or by peeking through shuttered windows and gasping “Wow, oh my God!” occasionally. But there were, in fairness, a few good ideas here and there but the film was never able to let them fly because it clearly couldn’t afford to.
So the long-threatened and barely-demanded sequel finally arrives with the Brothers now credited as producers and former visual effects producer Liam O’Donnell making his debut in the director’s chair. Extraordinarily, he’s somehow managed to give Skyline the kick up the backside it so desperately needed if there was to be any point to this sequel and dragged its cast of characters out of the shadows and front and centre – and how – into the middle of the alien invasion. Mercifully set in a different location to the original film, Beyond Skyline chronicles the alien invasion – you’ll remember the glowing lights dropping from the sky and the armada of mechanical, tentacled clanking things stamping and swooping about the place – from the perspective of recovering boozehound cop Mark (Grillo) and his ne’er-do-well son Trent (Weston). No sooner has Mark bailed Trent out from a tricky encounter with his cop colleagues than it all kicks off; the aliens arrive and, in a visual image as striking here as it was in the original, humankind is lifted off its feet and drawn inexorably into the belly of the alien war machine. Mark, Trent and a few fellow survivors flee underground and for a moment we fear the worst – a rehash of Skyline’s timid, cash-strapped, it’s-all-happening-off-screen approach. Not a bit of it. A tactical nuke levels Los Angeles as the authorities fight back (although the city doesn’t look especially nuked when our heroes emerge from the darkness) and almost immediately – and quite surprisingly – half the main cast are culled and the rest are peremptorily whisked up into the spaceship where, not to put too fine a point on it, things all go a bit mental.
Beyond Skyline is a big, dumb, non-stop joyous blast. It shamefully plunders from Independence Day, Predator and Battle Los Angeles before doing an about-face halfway through and morphing into a martial arts war movie. Schizophrenic doesn’t come close to describing it – and yet there’s so much going on, so many wild ideas flung into the mix, so many staggeringly-impressive visuals (which only slightly over-reach themselves as we head towards the frantic climax) on what can’t have been a massive budget – that it’s impossible to resists being swept up in the tide of madness, action and spectacle. Scenes aboard the alien spaceship itself are visceral - there’s some nasty business going here involving the aliens ripping open people’s heads to suck out their brains – and stunningly realised and we learn more about the aliens, their origins, and their culture as the film progresses.
Clearly, this isn’t Blade Runner or Arrival or any other more cerebral sci-fi flick – but then if you’re familiar with Skyline you won’t be expecting anything too thought-provoking or challenging. But if you just want some easily-digestible, pulse-pounding, fast food fun fantasy, Beyond Skyline is immeasurably preferable to some of the stuff that’s crowded out the multiplexes this summer. Beyond Skyline, beyond belief, is beyond good.BEYOND SKYLINE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: LIAM O’DONNELL / STARRING: FRANK GRILLO, BOJANA NOVAKOVIC, IKO UWAIS, CALLAN MURPHY, YAYAN RUHIAN, JONNY WESTON, ANTONIO FARGAS / RELEASE DATE: JANUARY 8TH 2018