Released in late 2010 and directed by brothers Greg and Colin Strause, like their previous feature Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, Skyline was more of a showcase for the technical skills of the former special effects artists whose expertise in the field had taken them from Titanic to The X-Files to Galaxy Quest to, more recently, Midnight Special, X-Men: Apocalypse and The Conjuring 2.
The original written by Joshua Cordes and Liam O’Donnell, another effects artist, it is O’Donnell who has now stepped up as sole writer and director of Beyond Skyline, a belated, unwanted and inconsequential sequel whose sole purpose beneath the slickly produced veneer is once again to serve as a showreel for Hydraulx, the Brothers Strause’s visual effects company.
The opening half hour running concurrently with the events of the first film but told from the point of view of a new set of characters at ground level, much of Skyline having taken place in a high rise luxury apartment complex, Beyond Skyline starts as a condensed retelling of that film with no preamble, the arrival of a vast alien spacecraft in the skies of Los Angeles and the ruthless and brutal harvesting of the population.
Among those taken aboard the craft are police officer Mark Corley (The Purge: Anarchy‘s Frank Grillo) his son Trent (Project Almanac‘s Jonny Weston), subway driver Audrey (The Hallow‘s Bojana Novakovic) and homeless veteran Sarge (Starsky & Hutch‘s Antonio Fargas); there they find pregnant survivor of the first film Elaine (now played by Samantha Jean), and together they fight to escape their captors.
Disjointed to the point of incoherence and packed with underwritten characters, much of Beyond Skyline serves as a companion piece to the original which makes even less sense without it until the barely introduced Los Angeles ensemble crashlands in south east Asia to be joined by a similarly barely-sketched resistance group involved in a local turf war, conveniently heavily armed and with an inexplicable medical laboratory.
Offering nothing which could be considered intelligent or original to link the endless fistfights, armed confrontations or explosions, the monolithic anonymity of the mothership has been replaced by the masked cyborg drones, impressively created but crucially unable to convey personality despite their appearance and movement being reminiscent of the armoured Predators with which the Brothers Strause, still serving as producers, are familiar.
Moving to a giant monster smackdown in the final act, the jungle setting may set it apart from the predictable urban rampage of Dawn of Justice or the forthcoming Pacific Rim Uprising but rather than going to the promised beyond, evolving the plotline or challenging the audience, it remains an overlong and noisy parade of digital violence and destruction, its brain removed as comprehensively as any of the captives, O’Donnell’s competence as a director undermined by his comprehensive failings as a writer.
Deserving much more than playing hide and seek with rubber monsters while carrying a newborn baby, it is to the credit of Frank Grillo that he comes out of this with any dignity at all, the sole oasis of charisma in a generic science fiction action survival horror mashup with nothing to distinguish it in any of its multiple genres, and despite the signalling of a third film it is to be hoped that threat is not carried out.
Beyond Skyline is released on DVD and Blu-ray on Monday 8th January