Skylin3s retains its predecessor’s admirable commitment to absolutely bonkers midnight movie storytelling.
I did not particularly care for the first Skyline, an alien invasion movie from a decade ago. The movie assembled a mishmash of pretty young LA sorts (and Turk from Scrubs) and locked them together as they navigated soapy personal intrigue while the alien apocalypse percolated around them. While the movie has some interesting action beats particularly in the last act – and a great money shot of the giant alien ships harvesting Angelinos – I saw it and simply never thought of it again. So I was surprised when, seven years later, a sequel titled Beyond Skyline not only existed, but was evidently something not to be missed by genre fans. Gone were the younglings of the first film and in their place was Frank Grillo and the dudes from The Raid, the finest martial arts movie of this millennium. Grillo, a sort of modern version of Charles Bronson, brings an inveterate toughness to his roles. He’s a perfect leading man for genre material and writer/director Liam O’Donnell (writer of the first film and taking over the director’s chair for the first time) played well to his gravelly strengths.
Perhaps the greatest joy of the second film is this sort of go-for-broke reckless abandonment in storytelling. From riffs on Kaiju movies to Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhain putting their martial arts skills to the test against giant robotic aliens to vicious robotic tentacles that rip brains straight out of their victims’ skulls, there’s nothing too insane for O’Donnell’s storytelling. It made for a modern midnight movie classic.
And so, I was delighted to see a third Skyline movie on the horizon. I could not help but feel a tinge of disappointment to see significant turnover in the cast – only Lindsey Morgan (seen in a late film cameo in Beyond Skyline) and Yayan Ruhian return, but the new additions were full of genre favorites such as James Cosmo (Game of Thrones), Rhona Mitra (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), and Alexander Siddig (best known for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, but truly wonderful in the underseen Cairo Time). And I’m happy to report that O’Donnell has lost none of his leave it all on the field energy.
Despite what appears to be a fairly significant decrease in budget, O’Donnell has set his sights on even more ambitious and epic storytelling. Jumping a decade and a half after the first two film’s initial alien invasion, Skylin3s focuses on a human effort to assault the alien homeworld. There are more complicated plot machinations at play here, very much dedicated to paying off the prior film’s plot beats, but the basics see O’Donnell doing his take on Starship Troopers: a morally questionable government sends a bunch of attractive young warriors to an alien world to eliminate the threat present there.
Prior to the Skylines series, I was unfamiliar with Lindsey Morgan (evidently a fan favorite on CW’s The 100). I was surprised to see an actress of excellent physicality and surprising depth. She is credible in the action sequences and blessed with a real star charisma. It takes commitment to sell an emotional connection to an adopted brother, who happens to be the brain of your presumed dead father figure’s son locked in the body of one of the alien invaders, and Morgan is more than game for the sort of thing. She manages to ably elevate the story’s more mundane character beats as well. A good lead performance is often key to making this sort of movie vibe, and Morgan is up to the task.
All of the supporting players seem committed and engaged in their roles. Alexander Siddig, in particular, seems to be having an absolutely joyous times chewing the scenery as a leader who is definitely not going to turn heel at an inopportune moment. The array of attractive young actors who fill out the cast make for effective enough redshirts.
The action does not quite live up to the bonkers highs of Beyond Skyline. Perhaps it’s the lack of Grillo and Uwais, or just the nature of sequences more inspired by Aliens than Ong-Bak, but it just never has quite the same sense of madcap joy. Nevertheless, much of the action here is great fun and playfully remixes classic genre action beats with O’Donnell’s brand of frenetic filmmaking.
Look, Skylin3s isn’t for everyone. If the idea of watching an Indonesian martial arts legend wearing prosthetic alien arms viciously murdering robotic alien invaders doesn’t being a tinge of excitement to your heart, Skylin3s is probably not for you. But if you’ve ever been to a midnight genre movie and cheered along with the madness of some over-the-top action scene, Skylin3s was made just for you.
Vertical Entertainment presents SKYLIN3S on VOD in English-speaking territories from 18 December.
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