Beyond Skyline
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Beyond Skyline

When I first received the screener for ‘Beyond Skyline’ my initial impression was that it was that I was about to watch just another ‘B’ science fiction action movie. It was somewhat unusual that the initial release was theatrical and not one of the SyFy Channel’s ‘Saturday Night Specials.’ These are notorious among fans of the genre as low budget production with a broad range of quality and artistic merit. Admittedly I fell victim to judging a Blu-ray by its cover art. Superficially, it had all the defining characteristics of a low to mid end movie with a plot that has been repeated too many time to count. A hostile race of extraterrestrials invades Los Angeles and begin harvesting the population. ‘Beyond Skyline’ is a direct sequel to the 2010 movie. ‘Skyline.’ I remember reviewing that release a few years ago finding it to be a notch above mediocre. Surprisingly, the film considered here was significantly better in most respects. It is rather rare for a sequel to surpass the original film, particularly by such a significant measure. After pressing the start button, it didn’t take very long before I realized that this was not the usual cranked out time filler that has proliferated along with the relatively easy means of distribution including DVD and streaming media. This is not to imply in any fashion that this is a memorable example of the cinematic arts, but it does provide an engaging couple of hours’ worth of entertainment. For fans of the original ‘Skylines movie, the filmmaker managed to achieve a better than usual level of continuity naturally extending the original story.

The story begins within the same timeframe as its predecessor. Extraterrestrial invaders descended on an unsuspecting Los Angles with swift and dire consequences. The invading vessels emit bright light that mesmerizes everyone the stares into the light has their free will removed. Darkness surrounds the eyes as the gaze\unblinking at the unworldly illuminations. Once subdued the victim is inexorably pulled into the air disappearing into the huge craft. Los Angeles is a very large city, and even such a monumental event as alien ships in the sky will take a little time to be noticed by everyone. Mark Corley (Frank Grillo), the detective with the LA police, is about to reconnect with his estranged teenage son, Trent (Jonny Weston). This noble and emotionally arduous meeting is interrupted most unusually. Mark is called to the police station currently holding Trent on charges of public bawling. As the bright blue light emanating from the hovering spaces ships incapacitates and abducts the population, Mark takes charge leading a group of people into the subway tunnels. The group of fleeing humans includes a transit worker, Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) and a bling homeless man, Sarge, portrayed by a seventies television favorite, Antonio Fargas. He has been a steadily working character actor best known for his stint as a pimp, Huggy Bear in ‘Starsky and Hutch.’ His lack of eyesight renders him immune to the blue light. The others initially with the group are sequentially picked off, haplessly levitated into the waiting ship.

In the first film, the government reacted to the alien invaders with the most drastic and apparently prudent measure, a tactical nuclear explosion. One factor that contributed to the greater success in this case Mark and the others r measure of success for the sequel is depicting the same circumstances from a different vantage point. In this case, Mark and the others flee from the explosion’s devastation by heading towards the marina. Their the encounter a huge, humanoid creature with four eyes glowing blue. The creature overwhelms the valiant but meager resistance with Mark being brought up to the ship shooting. Refusing to be left behind Sarge screams a few choice words and a tentacle from the creature apprehends him. Following the expected plot points the remnant is deposited in a holding bay of sorts. In keeping with the current Hollywood motif for an advanced yet hostile extraterrestrial, much of the ship appears to organically produce resulting in s cybernetic feel to the ship and creatures. There is one alien that seems to be in charge sitting at a console. It becomes evident that it might be the only actual member of the alien race. One of the pivotal reveals, without going into too many spoilers, the humans are used to work the invasion force. In CGI effect that is admittedly cheesy yet effective, the living brains are pulled out of the captive humans; they are then placed in a cybernetic shell. Most are slightly larger than s human, but all resemble the large creature seen at the marina. Any member of the audience with a modicum of understanding of anatomy will instantly realize considerable dramatic license in depicting the brain transfer. It is shown as a nicely cleaned and isolated organ, but then again this is a story about aliens harvesting our planets dominate s pilots for a weaponized suit of armor.

A solid story can increase the probability of overlooking even the most obvious plot inconsistencies or conveniences. This is where this story passes its predecessor. Most times a science fiction movie such as this is restricted to a rather simple premise, exploring the themes in the most straightforward fashion possible. The fundamental motif used to tell the story. In the beginning, it comes across as a run of the mill survival story. People trapped in a confined space must fight overwhelming odds to extricate themselves from the circumstances. This was reminiscent of the Sylvester Stallone vehicle, Daylight (1996). There the hero was faced with leading a group of people out of a collapsed commuter tunnel. Next, the action shifts to within the ship. There Mark has to engage in direct combat with the brain-driven andradite aspect of how the story is crafted and ultimately propelled forward, is accomplished with a degree of skill not often seen in what amounts to a second-tier movie. The infusion of the necessary exposition and the groundwork for the dénouement. All too often a movie loses its focus in the third act. The obvious purpose is to tie up the numerous loose ends and provide a reasonable finish to the character development.

Director/screenwriter Liam O'Donnell take the audience in decidedly different direction. Once again, the venue changes. Mark, Audrey and her rapidly growing newborn daughter, there is a long-standing meme in soap operas where children are born and within a season or so are in school. In this instance, the child’s rapid maturation as a result of birth aboard an alien spaceship. After escaping the ship. Under harrowing circumstances, the crash land in Southeast Asia, in the middle of the Golden Triangle, the world’s leading source of narcotics. They are immediately captured by, Sua (Iko Uwais) and his sister, Kanya (Pamelyn Chee), leaders in the human resistance to the invasion. After a required battle to establish dominance. Or at least parity, Mark joins up against a common enemy. This change in setting reinvigorated the action by again altering the form of combat. Stylistically the stunt coordinator has treated the audience to action utilizing close quarter fighting to the expansive combat within the ship and now onto jungle warfare. To continue with the movie references, this brings up similarities to such classics as ‘Predator.’ This plot point also incorporates something very beneficial to the success of the movie. In the previous encounters, the home court advantage was with the invaders, the element of surprise or their ship. Now, humans that have lived in the dense jungles of Southeast Asia, well trained and prepared to defend against a superior force. An advantage of the locations involved in high-end drug production provided a logical means to account for the presence of a trained scientist and modern laboratory equipment. That allowed the child’s DNA to be weaponized. The final act is reasonably predictable, but that fact doesn’t diminish the enjoyment it creates. The film is a solid piece of science fiction that fully acknowledges its influences from the classic ‘bug-eyed aliens’ tropes of the golden age of the genre, the fifties. For once a direct sequel to a ‘B’ flick not only surpasses its progenitor but resolves unanswered questions while organically extending the story.

Posted         03/16/2018

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