If you hadn’t heard that Skyline was getting a sequel, I’m not entirely surprised. The 2010 film received negative reviews from critics and mostly slid under everyone else’s radar. The sequel, Beyond Skyline, on the other hand, has actually been gaining momentum – and for all the right reasons.
Beyond Skyline is an apt title for the sequel. It doesn’t quite continue the story from the first film – which Beyond Skyline writer/director Liam O’Donnell co-wrote – but instead it rotates the focus in an entirely different direction. It moves beyond the isolated scope of the first film and provides a much needed burst of over-the-top action.
Let’s start with the cast, for example. O’Donnell stacks the roster with literal heavy-hitters Frank Grillo (The Purge: Anarchy/Election Year, Captain America: Civil War) and Iko Uwais (The Raid: Redemption). Actresses Bojana Novakovic (The Hallow) and Pamelyn Chee (Prescient) are a reminder that being a total badass is often born from protective affection. They’re a fierce strength throughout the frenzy.
Iko Uwais brought along Yayan Ruhian (the incredible and feverishly brutal Mad Dog from The Raid: Redemption) to join the team where they both served as Action Choreographer. Let that sink in for a minute. Now imagine them fighting aliens. Okay. Cool.
Beyond Skyline is a wild and entertaining ride with everything from war zone combat to crazy Kaiju battles, all delivered with impeccable visual effects. But if the hack-and-slash isn’t enough for you (I don’t understand you, but, alright), rest assured that there’s actually a lot of heart to the film. For a movie that’s all about an alien invasion, it’s deeply human.
Check out the trailer below and read on for my interview with first time director/writer Liam O’Donnell. You can check out Beyond Skyline on VOD starting December 15th.
KM: So, as we know, Skyline had mixed reviews…
LD: They weren’t just bad, they were vicious. Even within the negatives for Beyond Skyline there’s not the level of vitriol which, I do think, merits of the first film aside, which I co-wrote and produced and am proud of, it was such a weird acquisition and promotional process and they kind of sold the movie for what it wasn’t. I’m still fighting this fight – always – with marketing and I take a pretty big leadership role in all the poster design and everything. You have to sell the movie for what it is, don’t try to dupe the audience. That’s some 1992 stuff, you can’t do that anymore. I love the trailers that Zealot did for us with Vertical, their trailers just kind of perfectly captured what the movie is for me. If you liked the trailer, you’ll like the movie. It’s not telling you that the trailer’s some other story. So that’s always what I’m very sensitive of, I just want the people who are going to like it, I want them to be happy. I’m not trying to make a movie for everybody. But I want to make it for the fans of this stuff, to really hit their spot.
KM: I was talking to a friend of mine about Beyond Skyline – who hasn’t seen it – and I was telling him a bit about how it’s got Iko Uwais and Frank Grillo and it’s this exciting, enjoyably cheeky alien action movie, and he said “that sounds like it’s way more fun than it has any right to be”, and it really is.
LD: That’s the pull quote on the poster! “More fun than it has any right to be” with a shaking fist [laughs]
KM: Beyond Skyline is your directorial debut, and you’ve said that you put in everything that you wanted to do in a movie. There’s so much going on, so I’m curious, was there anything that didn’t make it in that you were keen to try and incorporate or anything that came along during the directing process?
LD: Yeah, there’s a few deleted scenes and deleted ideas that I had in the script, that I think would have been cool if I could have made them work, and one of them was to expand the idea of the light into an actual frequency, so it wasn’t just your eyes but it was anything you heard, that they figured that out and it became a bigger part in how they could avoid being caught by it. But the scene that set it up was the last scene we shot in Toronto in Lower Bay and I just didn’t have the time. I got to do like 3 takes and then they were kicking us off the tracks and then I was picture wrap. There was a lot that was jam packed into those last few days. Shooting on the Subway was the most challenging of everything. I’d rather be in a jungle surrounded by scorpions and snakes than in that Lower Bay on the tracks.
Directing is communication, so you’re trying to talk to different people to get everything right before each take and you have a train of thought, and then a subway train goes over your head and you just have to sit in silence for a minute and a half. Then it stops and you look at everyone and you’re like, “I forgot, I don’t know”. And it just kept happening! There were takes where the actors were, you know, God bless them because they would be going and we’d just have to say “keep going and we’ll ADR”. We actually didn’t have to ADR that scene, but it frayed everyone’s nerves, definitely, and not having the time to finish that scene. It was one of those intellectual things where I think it would have been a cooler payoff and a bit more of a meaty story throughout, but it didn’t quite work.
There were some comedic one-liners that I really wanted to work. My favorite part of the movie is when they all meet up at the end temple. I thought there was a great one-liner opportunity there, but I didn’t film it at the right spot, and if I’d had a better insight it would have been after the whole shot when they come around and get to their face, bang, we would have done it right there and it would have really been a big applause moment. But the way I had it just kind of fucked up the momentum of the shot going in so I had to cut it.
We had an idea in the script of doing more of a mind meld between the alien and Frank when he first gets on to the ship, but it had been done quite a bit in movies recently so I wasn’t super sad to have let that go. So we did a bit of a reshoot and had a narrated flashback instead of a more stylized visual mind meld. That was a bit cleaner so we could catch everyone up who hadn’t seen the first movie instead of some of the more abstract stuff that I tried to do. We just explored a few different ideas and pacing with that, and I’m pretty happy with how we landed with it in the end there.
I’ve only been through two festivals, so the thing I’ve learned most from getting to see the film with different audiences is to really build to these applause moments then give a little bit of time afterwards, and that would be another takeaway. Find the mark, milk it for all it’s worth, give everybody a bit of a breath afterwards, and then move on. Sometimes we move at such a breakneck pace, but overall, again, I’m pretty damn happy with how it’s playing.
KM: It’s like in live theatre when you hold for applause in-between lines, right?
LD: Yes! I just saw Mom & Dad at Sitges with Nick Cage and I thought they did a brilliant job of that. It really builds to these big applause moments that are a lot of fun, and then sometimes it would just go to black for 3-4 seconds and everyone kind of took their cue.
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