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Review: Skylines – “You could do far worse with 110 minutes of your life. Especially in 2020.”

I can’t lie, I was praying for a recap of some sort. A flashback or something, to tell me how we got to a third film, in what is legitimately to me,
one of the most intriguing film series around.

Firstly, I remember Skyline, well. 2020 has felt 10 years old itself, so to hear it came out in 2010, I’m massively confused. That feels both ages ago and yesterday.

I remember enjoying it mostly, and being fascinated by how a $10M budget could manage to get so much up on the screen. The effects as I remember were mostly very good — explained hugely by The Strauss Brothers background in that sector.

Characters? Plot? Less so. But it looked good.

Then, 7 years later, we get the sequel. This is where I get the Simpsons mob GIF thrown at me… …because, despite my obsession with Frank Grillo’s hair, I’ve never seen it. That’s doubly confusing when I realise I watched the trailer and quite fancied it.

It just passed me by.

So 2020. The year that never ends, but throws up Skylines — or, in Fincher style — Skylin3s.

A quick look at the trailer and they’ve somehow scaled it up again. Baring in mind having never seen the sequel isn’t a contractual obligation, I step in.

Of course, Phil. I’d love to watch it.

Twenty minutes in, they do a pretty good job of setting the scene. Including a pretty hefty, “here’s what you may have missed”. The aliens now live amongst us. Not in a segregated ‘District 9’ kind of way, necessarily, either. They literally walk among us and London has half of its skylines shattered by embers of alien spacecraft.

This time it’s war.

Throw in Lindsey Morgan as Rose Corley and we’re all set. Continuity for the die-hards. The promise of marines versus aliens for those of us that still wish it was 1986. She can speak “Alien”, which helps. Especially when she gets given a team (A Mercenary! A Scientist!), to venture on one last mission.

One of the characters really annoyed me. From the Guy Ritchie school of Cockney, he’s no Grillo and, flashbacks aside, I already started to miss Grillo. (“Have you got a license for that thing?”)

There’s very little star power here and with modern TV upping the bar, even the effects work may seem lightweight if you’re into The Mandalorian. The bar has raised considerably and the world is a different place to 2010.

But I can’t deny… …there’s a charm to it. I like the alien design and no one can question the film’s ambition.

When the refugees start to get other refugees trying to enter the camp, with Alien deformities, my interest piqued. Again, possibly because it reminded me I was due a rewatch of ‘District 9’ — which incredibly was 2009!

I’m of the opinion that if you’re watching ‘Skylin3s’, you’ve probably been supporting from the start. That said, if you were new to it, it would work as a standalone, too.

Would it make you — or encourage you — to go back to the first two? I think it would, actually. A boldness of ideas and scale with some decent effects work? You could do worse, but don’t expect the next Blomkamp — himself seemingly swallowed up with ideas, rather than end product.

Instead expect a reverse alien invasion film. A team (A Mercenary! A Scientist!) going up against the aliens, on their own bastard turf. I lost track of where they got the ship from. Or how they got to the planet.

But an Alien says (accompanied by subtitles)}, “FFS” and after the year we’ve all had, I’m mostly here for it.

It picks up considerably when the team crash land and it becomes a demented version of The Descent (shhhh, this one can’t see you) and Starship Troopers. There’s even a tiny bit of “wait, is that a darksaber?”, thrown in.

So you’re kind of looking at a greatest hits of recent sci-fi and who am I to argue with that?

They’ve got a mythology. They’ve expanded on it and they went bold. This is anything but by the numbers. I’d rather they went full on gore at times — it’s a “15”, but mostly very safe — but the battles are strong enough. Although I’m not here to plug it, anyone with a Phillips Hue Sync box will love the blue and purple aesthetics. It pops.

To be honest, you could do far worse with 110 minutes of your life. Especially in 2020.

Switch your brain off and then let’s all reconvene to watch the second one.

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