SKYLINES is the trilogy ender for this unlikely franchise
I'm not going to lie, I really didn't like the original Skyline. While it did have impressive effects for the time, the story was so pedestrian, the characters so unlikeable, and the pace so slow that I couldn't wait until it was over. That being said, the ending of the original promised A LOT for a potential sequel, and I thought the second movie (Beyond Skyline) was a big improvement over the original. That's mostly because I'm a huge fan of both Iko Uwais and Frank Grillo (both absent in Skylines). Now, we have Skylines which is supposedly the trilogy ender for this unlikely franchise, and while not as solid as its predecessor, is a decent science fiction action movie with a lot of problems.
It's very clear that writer and director Liam O'Donnell (who also co-wrote the first Skyline and wrote/directed the second one) cares deeply for this franchise and puts in a lot of effort to build a world and mythos that feels fleshed out. O'Donnell gets kudos from me for trying to do something new while also borrowing elements from other science fiction movies while not completely ripping them off. His direction gets the job done, with most of the movie being paced decently; although, the last half does slow down a bit too much and the action is a little shaky, it's shot well enough to be considered pretty fun.
Honestly, after the way Beyond Skyline ended, I was hyped to see what would happen next. It promised a huge, all-out war which I thought would've been the main focus of the next movie. Sadly, that's not the case. I'm assuming the budget just wasn't big enough for something like that because the story ends up being much more generic and small scale than I was hoping for. It's the tried and true story of a group of soldiers trying to get something that will halt a bad event from happening and they only have a certain amount of time to get it done. A ticking clock style of story like this has worked plenty in the past (Dunkirk, 1917), but the major problem is that it goes exactly where you think it'll go at every point in the story which creates no suspense. Again, there is some fun worldbuilding here and there that peaked my interests, and there are some fun action scenes littered throughout, but the overall plot is just serviceable enough to not be boring.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Like the movie in general, the acting and characters are just serviceable enough for the movie to get by. Leading the charge is Lindsey Morgan who's one of only two actors that returns from the previous movie (the other returning actor is mainly a cameo) but she's easily the best part of the movie. Her character Rose is half human and half alien, which easily makes her the most interesting character in a cast of stereotypes and boring personalities. Morgan does a solid job at carrying the more emotional and dialogue-heavy scenes and kicks a good amount of ass throughout which is always fun. I especially enjoyed her interactions with her brother Trent who was a former human now turned alien. Their bickering back and forth was actually pretty funny and felt like a real brother/sister relationship.
Like I said though, the rest of the cast are a bunch of military stereotypes, which includes the serious commander, the overly gruff sergeant, the jokester, the tech guy, etc. Think of the characters from Aliens except much less entertaining. I will give special credit to Rhona Mitra who plays a doctor that is also a gun-toting badass, and that's mainly because I've liked Mitra ever since the Neil Marshall movie Doomsday.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Now, this is where it gets interesting. Skyline and Beyond Skyline both had pretty small budgets with around 10 mil for Skyline and 20 mil for Beyond Skyline. While I didn't like the first movie, the visuals were really good for its budget, and the same goes for Beyond Skyline. I have no idea what the budget for Skylines is, but I'm going to assume it was low like its predecessors. Either way, the special effects are very hit and miss. I'd say the first hour of the movie looks great with terrific set designs, great CGI ships and landscapes, and wonderful practical effects including the awesome looking alien costumes.
The effects started to take a nosedive pretty hard in the last half with some embarrassingly bad greenscreen work: giant battles and explosions that looked like they were taken straight out of a video game CGI cutscene from 2010. I give them huge credit for doing what they did with what I'd assume is a small budget, but there's certainly some shoddy looking stuff later on. Still, what's good is very good and I appreciate the combination of practical and special effects.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
About as standard as you can get for a science fiction action film. The score is only really noticeable during the action scenes and adds a little bit to the frantic action but nothing about the score is memorable after you're done watching the film. Like a lot of other elements, the score is unremarkable but gets the job done.
I wish I liked Skylines more than I did. The first Skyline was awful, but the sequel showed me that this series actually had a good amount of potential. While not bad, Skylines feels like an above-average SyFy Channel Original movie more so than an epic trilogy ender to a franchise that started a decade ago. Still, I gotta give the cast and crew credit for trying when so many low-budget science fiction movies don't anymore. There's some care put into this, and I applaud them for that. But, if there ever is a fourth Skyline movie, please convince both Grillo and Uwais to come back. They're both so great!
Vertical Entertainment will release SKYLINES in select Theaters, Drive-ins, on Demand and Digital December 18th.