Hands up if you remember 2010’s Skyline. It narrowly avoided being in my bottom 10 films from that year, and is best remembered for (1) having a pretty decent trailer and (2) not even coming close to living up to that trailer. It was shot on a low budget, grossed several times what it cost, and has since developed something of a cult status. Not a major cult status, mind, but a miniature one. It was directed by The Brothers Strause, whose only previous effort was making an unwatchable Alien vs. Predator sequel.
The point is: it wasn’t on the top of the list of sequel candidates, or so we all assumed. One of the writers of Skyline is Liam O’Donnell and, through what can only be assumed to be sheer determination, managed to get somewhere around $20m for a sequel, with him taking over the directorial duties and sole writing credits. The result? Well, it’s a whole heck of a lot better than its predecessor, that’s for sure. It’d hard to be worse, of course, but I actually found myself enjoying most of Beyond Skyline.
There are a few differences between the movies. The first is simple: we have clear, established goals in this one with characters whose motives we understand and, potentially, care about. Our lead is Mark (Frank Grillo), a detective currently on bereavement after the death of his wife. He has a son, Trent (Jonny Weston), who is dealing with the death poorly. Then aliens invade, Trent is captured, there’s an alien-human hybrid baby, there’s a good alien that wants to help the humans, and also two guys from The Raid show up and intermittently turn Beyond Skyline into a martial arts movie.
If that last sentence seemed like it jumped around a little bit, it’s because it did, and so does the movie. It gets wild after it sets everything up. We get more information about what the aliens are doing and how they operate, we have a father who wants to save his son, we have a woman (Bojana Novakovic) who becomes a surrogate mother to this alien-human baby that grows far too fast to be sustainable, and, yeah, the Raid dudes show up to put on a martial arts show.
Beyond Skyline is a vast improvement over its awful predecessor.
It jumps around a lot. It’s cheesy. It’s silly. It’s winkingly self-aware—the dialogue is bad but the characters play it straight, mostly, with only an occasional nod to how ridiculous it all is. It’s got some laughs. The action is mostly solid. the martial arts is good and Frank Grillo is on an action hot streak right now. And for a movie with a relatively low budget, the effects aren’t bad. They’re better than Skyline‘s, anyway.
It’s fun. Beyond Skyline is fun. It’s not particularly deep, and it’s not especially interesting, but it’s basically what we should have hoped Independence Day: Resurgence turned out to be. The story isn’t really all that different, start to finish, but this one has better characters, arguably better aliens, and is actually kind of fun. Oh, and it cost something like 1/10th of the amount of money. That doesn’t really impact you, but the people who made Independence Day: Resurgence must be looking at Beyond Skyline and crying. It did what they wanted to do better and for less money.
Frank Grillo is very good at playing this kind of role. I mean, it’s essentially the same as his Purge character here, but he’s endlessly watchable. He’s got the right mix of snark and toughness that simply works. Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian bring some fun energy to the mix, with Uwais in particular. And both Bojana Novakovic and Pamelyn Chee get some good moments, too.
Beyond Skyline is a vast improvement over its awful predecessor. It’s an R-rated alien invasion B-movie that has good enough characters, acting, effects, action, and humor to be worth checking out. It isn’t very interesting or intellectually stimulating, but you’re not selecting a movie like this one for that sort of thing. And if you were really disappointed by Independence Day: Resurgence, well, give this one a shot. It’s essentially that, but better. If you like B-movies, Beyond Skyline should scratch that itch.
Conclusion: Beyond Skyline is not only watchable, but pretty entertaining.
Recommendation: Skip Skyline, watch Beyond Skyline if you want a B-level alien invasion movie.