REVIEW: Beyond Skyline (2017)

Beyond Skyline is a sci-fi sequel to the 2010 original. Frank Grillo plays an LAPD officer who has to survive an alien invasion, protect his family, and perhaps find a way to bring the alien threat down.

The performances in Beyond Skyline are fine. Frank Grillo plays a convincing badass in everything, and in the scenes with his character’s son, he also shines as a father. Iko Uwais does some good work here, obviously with the action, but also with some of the more dialogue heavy scenes. Acting in his second language doesn’t diminish the fact that he’s a surprisingly capable performer. Bojana Novakovic is passable, although she isn’t given a lot to do; in the final act she has some weirdly over the top moments, shouting at aliens as she’s firing a pistol, that kind of made me laugh unintentionally. Jonny Weston is also middle-of-the-road as Grillo’s estranged son.

The story for Beyond Skyline is a mixed bag of all-over-the-place. It starts out simple enough, with a bunch of LA citizens trying to make it out of the city alive, a strained father-son relationship, and the alcoholic depression of Grillo’s character. That’s all fine and dandy, but after a certain point in the film, complications arrive in both the story itself and the execution of that story. The ideas the producers/writers/director have aren’t inherently bad, they’re just not deftly handled and the runtime and budget constraints don’t help. They don’t give this plot any time to breathe, and not in the super fast-paced kind of way. They try to accomplish a lot in a small time frame, and the film suffers for it. We’re asked to be invested in characters that they’ve barely attempted to flesh out or set up in any meaningful ways besides passing mentions and the first five minutes of the film. They introduce a plot element later on that they barely explain, but it becomes the focus of the finale. No spoilers, but the way that the ending plays out from a story perspective downright confused me, as there’s no time taken to explain to the audience how certain characters know to do certain things. It’s also slightly off-putting how frequently the film shifts between a couple genres. There’s action beats, there are horror/suspense beats, and then there’s just full blown sci-fi madness. I’m fine with these genres mixing; in fact I’d be more than happy with it, if the shifts were better timed and executed.  The ending is also hilariously sequel-baity. All of this makes Beyond Skyline an ambitious film, but not an overly satisfying one from a narrative point of view.

The action set pieces, for a film of its budget, are kind of impressive. Earlier on, the action is fairly standard point-and-shoot stuff, but later on there are some pretty solid fight scenes and grander sci-fi action. There’s one scene in particular, between Grillo and Uwais, that might be the most satisfying action sequence in the film, solidly directed and performed by the actors. Some of the action suffers from a clearly low budget, particularly in the finale; there’s a gargantuan-sized battle that looked absolutely horrible. As I said, too ambitious for its budget.

Even outside of the action, the effects are hit and miss. There are some moments that look pretty good. Scenes with the giant mother ship flying around and some pretty well rendered creatures build you up for a theater-level sci-fi action film, but other sequences remind you that you’re watching a direct to VOD film. These moments took me out of the film, and I found myself wincing at some of the CGI. In contrast, however, the practical suits for the man-sized aliens actually look pretty good. There’s some nice detail and the character design is well done. The alien ship interior is hit and miss; there are some parts that look really good and others that look positively ugly. Most of the time, you can clearly see what is a set and what is green screen just from the contrast in level of detail. This is a 20-million-dollar film that almost looks like a 5-million-dollar film, and at times it’s predecessor looked better. This all comes down to budget vs. vision; Beyond Skyline tries to act like it’s a 100-million-dollar blockbuster when it’s not.

The cinematography is average; I can’t think of a single shot that was really impressive. I will say that they do a pretty good job at framing the action scenes; even with the handheld/shaky-cam I can still pretty clearly see what is going on, so that was definitely a plus.

The musical score, helmed by Nathan Whitehead, is fine, but not all that original. It features a lot of electronic distortion and some solid orchestral moments, but I can’t think of a single situation where the music really amped the action up or helped an emotional beat ring true. It played like background music to me, not at all effecting my enjoyment of the proceedings one way or the other.

Beyond Skyline is a pretty disappointing film. I was actually excited to see it when the trailer was unveiled because it looked like what the first film probably should have been: an off-the-wall, badass sci-fi adventure. Sadly, it’s let down by an incredibly weak script, messy plot, thin characters, and some uneven VFX work. If you really need to scratch a sci-fi itch, maybe rent it or dig it out of a bargain bin. If not, look up the Grillo vs. Uwais fight on Youtube.

Have you seen Beyond Skyline? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. Stay nerdy everyone!

By Mike Calkins

23, Writer for Geeks + Gamers since 2016. Film, comic, and video game fan; Physical media enthusiast/collector.

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