Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
As as a longtime lover of science fiction I have come to appreciate all of its different flavours and subgenres, whether it is hilarious Sci Fi comedy like Galaxy Quest or a deeply cerebral Sci Fi drama like Arrival. And sometimes I just want to sit back, switch off my brain and watch some ugly alien bastards get blasted to kingdom come. And one group of films that does a decent job of delivering on that big, loud, popcorn Sci Fi action is the Skyline trilogy.
The series began in 2010 with alien invasion Sci Fi disaster thriller Skyline (what a mouthful!), continued with Sci Fi action flick Beyond Skyline in 2017, and concluded with Sci Fi action flick Skylines in 2020. The first film was directed by brothers Greg and Colin Strause and co-produced and written by Liam O’Donnell. For the second and third films the Strause brothers produced while O’Donnell continued to write and took up directing duties. With a mothership-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s review all three films:
The original Skyline features some young people sleeping off a night of partying in a swanky LA condominium when the city gets attacked by alien invaders. They begin hypnotising humans with an eerie blue light and abducting them en masse. Despite featuring a stellar cast in Eric Balfour (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2003 reboot, Haven), Donald Faison (Clueless, Scrubs) and future Gotham and Swamp Thing star Crystal Reed the characters are almost all bland, one-dimensional and unlikable. And many of them do very stupid things and end up getting abducted or killed. And for a Sci Fi thriller/disaster movie to truly work you have to at least care a little about the survivors, but these folks make it really, really, hard. The only character with some likability is the building concierge Oliver (Oz and Gotham actor David Zayas). That’s about it.
But to the film’s credit it does feature some pretty cool alien designs and a few bombastic set pieces. It’s not an Independence Day budget but the special effects gets the job done. And the ending with (deep breath) Eric Balfour’s character Jarrod getting his brain ripped out and placed in a biomechanical alien body only to reject his programming and protect his pregnant girlfriend Elaine (exhale) was unexpectedly epic. Where was this for the rest of the film? In conclusion, if you don’t mind cardboard characters and a paper-thin plot and just want some big, dumb alien invasion action, then there is some fun to be had with Skyline.
Editor Jules’s Score: 4 out of 10
Beyond Skyline (2017)
So you have a genre thriller franchise but you want to turn it into a genre ACTION thriller franchise, who you gonna call? Frank Grillo! Just as the MCU and Zero Dark Thirty star delivered a much-needed dose of adrenaline to the Purge franchise when he starred in its first and second sequels the Grillman also pumps up the energy in Beyond Skyline. Here he plays Mark Corley, an LA police detective who gets captured with his son Trent and other survivors by an alien flagship. He meets up with alien Jarrod and Elaine and their baby who is rapidly growing. Elaine dies giving birth, Jarrod dies fighting the alien leader, Trent gets turned into a biomechanical alien and Mark rescues the baby. And that’s just the first act!
The alien ships then crashes into rural Laos and Mark teams up with a group of resistance fighters who plan to use the baby (later named Rose) and her evolving DNA to stop the alien menace. As you can tell a lot happens in this film and it keeps a breakneck pace. To its credit it knows it’s an over-the-top Sci Fi action film and never takes it too seriously. And the film does its action very well, especially the bloody human-versus-alien fight scenes involving Grillo armed with alien weaponry, and Indonesian martial artists Iko Uwais (The Raid, The Raid 2, Wu Assassins) and Yaya Ruhian (The Raid films, Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Ruhian is especially entertaining as the wild militia leader Huana. Add to that some giant alien tanker action and some sweet practical effects and you have one supremely entertaining time, and easily the best of the trilogy.
Editor Jules’s Score: 6.5 out of 10
The final film finds Rose, now all grown up, traveling to the homeworld of the alien “Harvesters” to find a cure for a virus ravaging the “Pilots”, humans that were placed in those biomechanical suits but have regained their free will and are living among regular humans. My first strike against this film is there’s no Frank Grillo (in-story his character is missing) and actress Lindsey Morgan (The 100, Walker reboot) as Rose just can’t fill those action shoes. She’s not terrible but she does come off as a generic, brooding Sci Fi action hero. Genre action stars Daniel Bernhardt and Rhona Mitra are also here and have some decent action scenes. And Yayan Ruhian returns as Huana but other than a couple fights he is barely in the movie.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Game of Thrones star Alexander Siddig is also here as General Radford and he could not have been a more obvious twist villain if he wore a sign around his neck. Siddig did seem to enjoy hamming it up as a baddie, though, which did make me smile. I also liked the change of scenery to the alien planet even though there was not a whole lot to see. In terms of special effects again the practical effects shone and I thought the shadowy aliens looked cool. There are some CGI effects, however, that were a little wonky but thankfully there’s not much of it. In terms of story I hoped they would have dug deeper into the whole human/Pilot tension but it is left very surface. And in the end the plot was super predictable. But the film is still decent enough and provides a solid ending to the franchise. I still missed Grillo though.
Editor Jules’s Score: 5 out of 10
So are you a fan of the Skyline films? And which is your favourite? And you can check out more great Sci Fi action content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.