Review: ‘Skylines’ (2020)

Skylines is the kind of film you don’t see much of anymore and especially not one so well-made. More often than not, creature-oriented science fiction action movies tend to not be handed the kinds of budgets that they need to successfully tell the stories and showcase the special effects work that they need. This is not to say that Skylines is some sort of mid-budget anomaly. It’s clear that writer/director Liam O’Donnell is once again working with a meager amount of funds for this sort of project, but as with the previous film, he manages to make every cent count.

After an opening sequence set 10 years after the events of Beyond Skyline, we jump ahead an additional five. Earth has successfully repelled and survived the Harvester invasion. Resources are limited, so society has fallen into a post-apocalyptic state of ruin, but humanity is coexisting relatively peacefully with the Pilots (mutated alien-hybrid humans) that walk among them. There are no signs of any potential further assault by the Harvesters, but a new threat has arisen. A virus is spreading through those aforementioned Pilots and they are start to revert back to the aggressive state that they were in during the invasion 15 years earlier.

Obviously this is a bad thing and something needs to be done to stop it. A plan is formed; one which requires that a team of scientists and soldiers venture out into the cosmos in search of a piece of Harvester tech that can reverse the effects of the virus. Among that team of heroes are General Radford (Alexander Siddig), Owens (Daniel Bernhardt), Leon (Jonathan Howard), and Captain Rose Corley (Lindsey Morgan). If that last name sounds familiar, it should. Rose is the now-grown daughter of the couple from the original Skyline, as well as the adopted daughter of Beyond Skyline‘s lead, Det. Mark Corley (Frank Grillo). Morgan previously played the role in the wraparounds in Beyond and is one of wo returning characters her. The other being Yayan Ruhian’s Huana.

Needless to say, their “search & retrieval” mission on a distant alien world does not go exactly as planned. The Harvesters are still around, of course, but other problems arise as well. I won’t spoil the details, but there are once again some fun new additions to the franchise.

Whereas the original film was a disaster survival film and the second was a martial arts adventure flick, Skylines is very much a “men on a mission” movie. This really sets it apart from the previous two, as our heroes here actually know what they need to do from the get-go. Sure, problems still arise where they have to think on the fly, but gone is the more chaotic “What the hell are we gonna do?!?” nature of the previous two outings. On the one hand, this robs it of a bit of the adrenaline and sense of urgency that the others (especially Beyond) had. On the other, it allows us more time to get to know the main characters.

Lindsey Morgan is an incredibly capable lead here and between this and her work on The 100, it’s no wonder that she recently landed another main series role over at The CW for their upcoming Walker: Texas Ranger reboot. Rose is a character who is walking around with a lot of baggage; from her traumatic early life to her otherworldly abilities to further traumas caused by her time as a soldier. It’s a very tropey character, but one that she brings to life in a believable fashion.

Supporting her we have deligtful scenery chewers like Alexander Siddig (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) and Daniel Bernhardt (The Matrix Reloaded, Atomic Blonde), veteran character actor James Cosmo (Braveheart) in a mentorly role, and Rhona Mitra (Doomsday) being as stoic as ever. The latter two, along with the aforementioned Yayan Ruhian (The Raid), fill out the B plot that’s going on back on Earth as the space mission unfolds. If you’re going to have a side story that isn’t quite as interesting as everything else, you could certainly do far worse than having it center around those three.

Because of the nature of the “men on a mission” tropes that this film is playing around in, the story here has a slower start. That might bug viewers who are sitting down with this expecting something more bonkers like Beyond, but I think it’s a benefit. It gives Skylines its own identity, instead of just being Beyond Part II. If the latter is what you were hoping for, you’re probably going to be disappointed by this film. The pacing is slower here and the storytelling is more traditional. You will be gifted with a few fun martial arts-laden sequences, but this film relies more on firefights and military tactics than it does on hand-to-hand combat.

Ultimately, I think I prefer the crazier flavors of Beyond Skyline, but that’s just personal taste. This is a worthy sequel and still superior to the first film. Liam O’Donnell has crafted a wild, monster-filled, adrenaline-charged sci-fi action franchise here that continues to offer up completely different tales each time out. That is something to be commended. Skylines is a trip worth taking and I hope that we get more from this series in the future.

Skylines is sci-fi action film and the third installment in Skyline franchise. It was written and directed by Liam O’Donnell. The film was produced by Matthew E. Chausse, Liam O’Donnell, Colin Strause, and Greg Strause. It stars Lindsey Morgan, Jonathan Howard, Alexander Siddig, Daniel Bernhardt, James Cosmo, Rhona Mitra, Ieva Andrejevaite, Samantha Jean, Giedre Mockeliunaite, Cha-Lee Yoon, Phong Giang, Jeremy Fitzgerald, Naomi Tankel, and Yayan Ruhian.

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