Monday, December 30, 2019

Movie Review: Beyond Skyline (2017)

Once upon a time, I saw the 2010 science fiction movie Skyline and was probably one of the few people to enjoy it. I liked the design of the aliens, the use of nuclear weapons immediately and their more realistic effects (it's not immediate death to absolutely everything and against something as big as an alien mothership with regenerative capabilities it might not even fully work), and the unorthodox ending.

So when the sequel Beyond Skyline came out, I was willing to see it, although other things took priority and I didn't get around to seeing it until Christmas break. So here's the review...

The Plot

Police officer Mark Corley (Frank Grillo), having just lost his wife, is retrieving his troubled son Trent (Jonny Weston) from jail apparently for the third time when the alien invasion from the first film starts. Avoiding immediate abduction due to being in the subway when the harvesting starts, he and some other characters like the homeless blind veteran Sarge (Antonio Fargas) and transit worker Audrey (Bojana Novakovic) soon find themselves collected by the aliens as well. They avoid having their brains harvested to power the aliens' bio-machines and after meeting Elaine (Samantha Jean) and the alien-ized Jarrod (Tony Black) from the first movie, escape to Laos when the alien ship they're on crashes.

Now they have to team up with some martial-artist Golden Triangle drug traffickers to fight the remaining aliens from the fallen craft. Said aliens are after Elaine's baby, who might not be fully human...

The Good

*For all its foolishness--I'll get to that later--it's a very fast-moving, entertaining film. I watched this on Netflix on my Kindle in three elliptical sessions at the gym and it kept me nice and focused.

*We once again see human counterattack in Los Angeles from the first movie, including a grounds-eye view of "the little UCAV that could" (there was a funny meme about that I'd link to if I could find it) that nukes an alien mothership and temporarily grounds it. They even throw in a bit of nuclear strategy--the homeless veteran Sarge, despite being mostly if not completely blind, knows that it's a short-ranged, low-yield nuke. A military commander seeking to destroy armored alien ships the size of the Astrodome without killing the hundreds of thousand of human survivors in the immediate vicinity would start with small tactical nukes and only break out the city-killers if the city and its population was irretrievably lost and there was no other way to protect the rest of the country.

*When the Los Angeles characters meet the Southeast Asian ones and hide out in what I'm pretty sure is Angkor Wat, I liked how the Laotians describe how the temples that were once built to honor the gods are now bases to fight them. Good line. I also liked how (I assume) the children of the Vietnam War generation, when the Americans claimed they're in the middle of the apocalypse, viewed the aliens as just another "apocalypse" they could survive. The various wars in Southeast Asia, if you include WWII, lasted from 1941 to 1990 and killed millions of people. An alien invasion, at least at first, might seem like more of the same.

*There are martial-arts battles between the Asian characters (and some of the American characters who have police experience or simply use handguns) and alien infantry that, despite the ridiculousness of the whole situation (the alien infantry are armored, at least 1-2 feet taller, and at least 50-100 pounds heavier), are still quite entertaining to watch. And occasionally pretty funny.

The Bad

*During the early sequences in Los Angeles it was hard to keep track of some of the lesser characters' names.

*Too much reuse of clips from the original film. It was difficult to tell when they were doing it for the nuclear-attack sequence, but it was obvious when Elaine was talking to Mark about how Jarrod was able to retain his own personality (despite being transplanted into an alien body) due to repeated non-terminal exposure to the alien hypnosis.

*The childbirth sequence is rather poorly done and entirely too short. They could have prolonged it to build suspense--perhaps alien-Jarrod is fighting off other creatures to keep them off Elaine--but it's completed in-universe in maybe five minutes and Elaine somehow has her pants on the entire time.

*The alien attack on Hawaii is a major a missed opportunity. If Hawaii was bypassed during the initial invasion, that leaves the US navy base at Pearl Harbor untouched. That's a crapton of navy ships with long-range missiles (the submarines and cruisers/destroyers all carry substantial cruise missile complements and the subs can launch cruise missiles from underwater) that could engage the aliens from beyond visual range (i.e. their crews can't be hypnotized). The military brass in Hawaii has no doubt been sitting out there getting reports from the mainland about the aliens' strengths, weaknesses, and what isn't working and planning accordingly. Instead, all we see are some of the big warrior-aliens landing at Honolulu Airport and smashing up some buildings before the alien ship moves off toward Asia. If depicting the battle is too expensive, they could just depict the Los Angeles ship arriving to clean up afterward--lots of sunken Navy ships, sailors getting sucked up from the water, some of the alien ships damaged and repairing themselves from local materials, etc. The Los Angeles ship could simply supply some extra warrior-critters to help mop up the area around the base and then move on.

(Somebody write a fan-fic called "The Second Battle of Pearl Harbor," since I don't have time. There's so little Skyline fan-fic out there you'd be a big fish in a small pond.)

*Given Sarge's apparent age, there's a missed opportunity when everybody ends up in Laos. He could easily be a Vietnam vet and could possibly recognize the place from the smells and sounds despite not being able to see. Hell, he could serve as an interpreter between the English-speaking Americans and the Laotians.

*Just how fast is the alien ship moving? It gets from Los Angeles to Hawaii (2,558 miles) in what seems like an hour or two (an airplane flight would take around 5.5 hours) and then travels the 6,500-ish miles from Hawaii to Laos very soon after that. Something that big moving that quickly shows how advanced these aliens are (after all, one of the Los Angeles ships is able to repair itself and fly again after being grounded by a nuclear strike), but it came off to me as the writers not having much of a sense of scale. Especially the latter part. They could have had the damn thing crash in the Philippines, except even that is still over 5,000 miles from Hawaii. The Pacific Ocean is freaking big, people.

*Where are they getting the clothes for the rapidly-growing baby? She gets from a newborn to looking like a preschooler halfway through the film--in-universe that's only in a day or two. Are they stopping by houses along the way to trade clothes?

*And speaking of the baby, she becomes a Macguffin with a bunch of science so weak it would make Star Trek blush.

*There's a big time skip at the end and events taking place after said time skip that don't make a lot of sense.

*There's a weird flashback/flash-forward thing that doesn't really work that ties in with the above.

The Verdict

An improvement over the original if you don't think too hard. Will see the upcoming sequel (yes there is one). 7.5 out of 10.

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