As told from the cattle’s point of view…
BEYOND SKYLINE makes the same mistake as its predecessor SKYLINE (2010), a story about an existential threat, dumbed down to punching and lasers.
The “poignant” throughline in BEYOND is a father fighting to regain his son. Goes from poignant to kooky when he’s fighting to get his son back from extra-terrestrial aliens. Beyond kooky and into ridiculous when the aliens implant his son’s brain into one of their alien foot-soldiers. Past ridiculous and thoroughly insane when we see the vast amount of physical territory the story covers, and the myriad alien ships and robots and rebels and pilots and foot-soldiers involved in this sprawling action-adventure, but the aliens make it real easy for dad by using the Plot Convenience Handbook and keeping everyone in the same vicinity, and running into each other like they all work in the same office.
The father-son throughline alone strains our suspension of disbelief to breaking point, let alone director-writer Liam O’Donnell asking us to accept our hero humans surviving everything from laser blasts to tentacle attacks in which they are tossed about like dolls, and being onboard a spaceship as it is decimated in a crash.
Frank Grillo (CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR) is Mark, the salty ex-cop who has to keep his layabout kid Trent (Jonny Weston, WE ARE YOUR FRIENDS) out of jail and now, even out of alien imprisonment. Bojana Novakovic (DEVIL, 2010) is Audrey, the sexiest train driver in the world (a young, beautiful Helen Hunt, I cannot stop gazing longingly at her); Iko Uwais is a rebel fighter; Jacob Vargas is the token Latino cop who sacrifices himself for no reason; Pamelyn Chee is rebel Kanya, also sacrificed for no reason (screenwriter O’Donnell going for poignancy with these deaths and achieving meh). Antonio Fargas is a blind homeless ‘Nam vet who tags along with Mark’s group of survivors simply to slow them down.
If you didn’t see SKYLINE (lucky you!), you’d never know what was going on, as the Running and Screaming starts immediately with no foreshadowing or exposition. Giant alien motherships appear and levitate humans into them, extracting the humans’ brains quite gruesomely and implanting them in aliens. Hundreds of questions – let’s share a few:
- Only the people who stare at the blue light are hypnotized into levitation. What has the hypnotism got to do with the levitation? Can’t they vacuum humans upwards without hypnotic effects?
- How does a species without a brain even give birth to live young?
- Is their method of ripping the brain from the spinal column of humans and ramming it into the heads of aliens medically accurate? Even THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE can teach these surgeons a thing or two. About ass-to-mouth at least.
- Medically speaking, how is the brain connected to the aliens’ neurological pathways, endocrine system and motor functions? (See: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2: FULL SEQUENCE.)
- The plot turns on two of the human brains “over-riding” their alien programming and aiding the humans. Obviously. If the aliens are just jamming human brains into alien skulls, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen constantly!
The absorbing-brains device is from the previous film, and the concept is extended here by making the aliens the progenitors of Mankind, in some desperate dialogue cooked up while cooking meth: a surferdude-scientist (Callan Mulvey) discovers the aliens’ DNA is human-like, and theorizes the aliens planted humans on Earth, returning every 2000 years to harvest us for brains. Oh, more questions, one being: Bro, they were just here in 2010; now they’re back in 2017; I make that seven years, not 2000.
And the biggest question: that means the aliens ARE our Masters, so why are you fighting them?
If the film had inserted this glaring moral ambiguity, it might have raised its intellectual clout, but it would have still had to deal with its efx, which are just a notch above PlayStation.
Trent’s alien body is delegated to hunt Mark, however his human brain overrides his alien body, so he becomes a ManchuriAlien helping Mark and the humans. Writer O’Donnell pulls out The Plot Convenience Handbook to consult the old trope: Destroy The Source, and All The Foot Soldiers Die. He makes sure to copy and paste that widget into the script.
There’s a new “type” of alien introduced in this sequel – a Cthulhu-esque giant robot, powered by an alien inside it, using his limbs in Virtual Reality simpatico with the robot. (A decade before Guillermo Del Toro’s VR robots in 2013’s PACIFIC RIM, the Japanese did it with 2002’s GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA.) Now BEYOND SKYLINE makes a giant robot look like Cthulhu because… it’s threatening the very existence of Mankind? Nice allegory, but I can’t see one practical use for the hotdog-like tentacles around the mouth, unless you’re just trying to be icky.
Mark and Audrey find themselves surrogate minders of a baby, birthed from an alien and a human – don’t even ask. That baby grows up to tease a sequel – as she musters a fleet of ships to attack the alien stronghold!— Hang on a minute! Now that you know aliens are Humankind’s daddy, how can you act so righteous?! First, get rid of all your zoos and pets and animal experimentation and slavery and breeding animals for food in torture conditions – THEN you can pretend outrage that you yourselves have been bred like cattle.
Maybe that’s why BEYOND is boiled down to action sequences and chase scenes, because it’s told from the point of view of the cattle – and how can cattle be expected to see any deeper than their own generation of fools and swine?
Director say: If you think movie wasn’t goofy enough, please enjoy the SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT bloopers in end credits.
Credit where it’s due: the filmmakers are trying hard to be legit, with choreographed hand-to-hand combat scenes (albeit for no reason, because the aliens have guns, no?), with stuntguys on stilts, covered by CGI, creating the practical alien effects (resembling the aliens from DISTRICT 9 meets Charlie Sheen’s THE ARRIVAL, although their lethargy reminds me of those dog-aliens from 1961’s pretentious PHANTOM PLANET).
The father who must reclaim his family, the son who redeems himself, the martial artist who sacrifices his sister, the child who is the hope for all Mankind, and Bojana Novakovic in the sweaty tank top that I can’t stop looking at.