I’ll see if I can get through this without laughing, but if I can’t, please understand that the giggles are the result of being completely entertained by this wackadoodle sci-fi action movie with aliens, martial arts, and some surprisingly sharp special effects courtesy of writer-director and FX practitioner Liam O’Donnell. In theory, Beyond Skyline is the loosely attached sequel to the tepid 2010 film Skyline, about aliens coming to earth and snatching up humans via some kind of light beam. O’Donnell was a co-writer on that film, and instead of simply following up chronologically on Skyline, he devises something of a parallel adventure, only this time with far more interesting characters and an actual explanation as to what the aliens want with their human captors.
Frank Grillo plays Mark, an L.A. detective still mourning the recent loss of his wife and dealing with his slightly annoying adult son Trent (Jonny Weston). The two get trapped on the subway when the invasion starts, and they, along with a few passengers (including train conductor Audrey, played by Bojana Novakovic) must make their way through the tunnels and hopefully to the surface without getting zapped up into the alien ships. The effects in the background are genuinely thrilling, as something that is seen around the corner and must be avoided; it feels more believable as a threat in that context, and O’Donnell gets points in the first part of the film for his less-is-more approach.
When Trent is grabbed up into a ship, Mark finds a way in as well (as do others), and they attempt to rescue him from the guts of this truly insane setting. It turns out these aliens suction out human brains to fuel an army of robot warriors, and Beyond Skyline spares no expense in putting a whole lot of goop on the screen. The always-engaging and fun-to-watch Grillo gets to take center stage as an action star in this section of the film, as he kills aliens, rescues a few human prisoners (including an older character named Sarge, played by the legendary Antonio Fargas), and eventually gets back to the earth’s surface.
I guess the ship has been traveling, because those who escape with Mark end up in Laos (actually shot in Indonesia), where they meet a group of resistance fighters, led by Sua (Iko Uwais from The Raid movies) and Kanya (Pamelyn Chee), both of whom kick unholy amounts of ass as the film shifts into more of a martial arts exhibition. At various points during Beyond Skyline, there is a baby that ages and grows at an alarming rate because it has alien DNA; we find out that the brains in the robot monsters still contain the human’s memories and this messes with the machines; and I’m pretty sure Mark runs into surviving characters from the first film (although played by different actors, which makes you wonder why O’Donnell even bothered with what basically amount to cameos).
Still, Beyond Skyline moves like lightning, has more inventive elements than it does recycled sci-fi tropes, and when it morphs into a full-on action movie, it’s truly bliss with Uwais just wailing on everything that steps in his line of sight. With Uwais providing the grace and Grillo giving us the tough-guy attitude, Beyond Skyline is an utterly ridiculous, highly watchable, and entirely joyous experience.
Although the film is not opening in theaters around Chicago, it is available beginning today on VOD, which is something of a shame, since the movie looks incredible on the big screen and would clearly benefit from being seen with an enthusiastic audience. But see it how you can.