The first SKYLINE was an adequate alien invasion movie with excellent visual effects and an astonishing ending in which self-centred rapper and father-to-be Jarrod has his brain crudely ripped from his skull and placed into the body of a bio-mechanical alien soldier, emitting red light as opposed to the movies signature eerie blue to signify he has retained consciousness in his new form. Tenderly placing one of his enormous, clawed appendages upon the belly of his pregnant partner Elaine, Jarrodalien sets about defending her as aliens close in…
2017’s BEYOND SKYLINE initially picks up a different group of people experiencing the events of the first movie. Detective Mark Corley (Frank Grillo) is having a bad day: suspended from the LAPD due to drinking too much since the death of his wife, he has just picked up his estranged son Trent (Jonny Weston) from the police station when the alien invasion begins. I first became aware of Frank Grillo in the 2011 Joe Carnahan/Liam Neeson movie about grief and wolf-punching, THE GREY although he had significant and recurring tv roles in THE SHIELD and PRISON BREAK in the mid 2000’s. He is 14 years older than me yet could pass for my younger brother – assuming we had different parents or were the product of a TWIN’s style genetic engineering experiment – and he possesses a kind of gruff charm which the streaming service Hulu hope will be enough to propel the soon to be released BOSS LEVEL to the top of the cinema charts.
Whilst father and son alternately bicker and bond the alien invasion starts. Writer/director Liam O’Donnell cleverly roots the action on the ground this time rather than the original’s high-rise apartment setting which gives a different perspective on the initial alien encounter, as colossal spaceships arrive and begin hoovering LA residents up into the bowels of their spaceships whilst they are hypnotised by the unnatural blue light that accompanies them. Quickly escaping to the relative safety of the underground system, Mark and Trent soon join up with a subway conductor named Audrey, fellow police officers Garcia and Jones and (I shit you not) a blind, homeless veteran known only as ‘Sarge’ played by Antonio ‘Huggy Bear’ Fargas.
It’s not long before Trent has been hypnotised by the light and abducted along with rest of the group. You will be unsurprised to learn that they don’t all make it however someone who has made it this far is Elaine, Jarrodalien’s girlfriend from the first movie (Samantha Jean making a brief appearance replacing Scottie Thompson from the first film) who is now in the final stages of pregnancy and Jarrodalien himself! Mark helps to deliver the baby and somehow works out that Jarrodalien is the father, leading to scenes of him skulking around Hard Boiled style with a baby tucked under one arm and an alien metal claw surgically grafted to the other.
Some stuff happens and the spaceship crashes in Laos, allowing Mark, Audrey, Trent (who now has his human brain inside an alien body) and a baby they discover is rapidly aging due to her alien/human blood to meet up with THE RAID’s Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian as Sua and The Chief, respectively. The climax features plenty of spirited if slightly awkward looking fights between the cumbersome looking alien monsters and knife-whirling local militia groups set amongst ancient temple ruins, and once again this series tacks on a huge sequel hook with the now grown-up alien baby, Rose (Lindsey Walker), seemingly setting out to destroy the alien’s home planet with her adopted alien stepbrother Trent.
Like SKYLINE before it this movie demonstrates just how much you can do with a little and the sequel amplifies that significantly while still having a similar budget to the first movie. We get scenes set against the apocalyptic Los Angeles landscape, the dark and slimy HR Giger-inspired cavernous interiors of the alien spaceships, the lush and verdant Jungle setting of Laos and while I must confess to not being a huge fan of the alien design, they are decent looking practical effects which blend in neatly with the extensively used green screen. Mark delivering the baby and then assuming the role of protector is clearly meant to be juxtaposed with his absentee parenting of Trent, although I’m not sure that him effectively handing the baby off to the female lead of the movie at the first available opportunity really does redeem him. BEYOND SKYLINE continues the series proclivity for audacity and continually adds new ideas to avoid feeling repetitive, so count me in for the third one.