Skyline is possibly the worst movie to ever launch a franchise. The 2010 film has a mere 16% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and it earned just $21 million at the domestic box office. Nevertheless, a sequel, Beyond Skyline, came out in 2017. It at least offered some goofy, corrective fun. Now comes the third installment, Skylines, a generally self-serious picture that advances the fictional world but isn't much fun to watch unless you're deeply invested in the series.

The arc of the saga is complicated to explain to newcomers, so I'll vastly simplify it. Rose Corley (Lindsey Morgan) was exposed to alien rays while still in her mother's womb. They caused her to grow from child to adult in about ten years, infusing her with special powers in the process. Now a virus is threatening alien hybrids who live on Earth, potentially turning them against their human cohabitants. Rose and her team of elite soldiers are assigned to visit an alien world in order to prevent this from happening.

That's a decent enough set-up for a science-fiction adventure. Skylines certainly has the right look. Although a reasonably low-budget production, the visual effects are impressive. There are a lot of them, too. An entire other world has been created, in addition to the usual outer space sequences and starcraft. Writer/director Liam O'Donnell and his FX team have put great effort into making the movie look as sleek as possible.

On a story level, it's not as successful. The franchise has evolved into something about the possibility of alien invasion and whether beings from another planet could share a home with humans. In tackling that theme, though, Skylines fails to bring anything original to the table. The movie feels derivative of other sci-fi films, as it cobbles together elements that are reminiscent of Starship Troopers, Pacific Rim, Aliens, and Predator, among others.

I kept waiting for Skylines to break out of the standard conventions and deliver something fresh or original. It never quite does. What's here isn't bad, but it doesn't engage the imagination, either. The plot hits beats that many other films in the genre have hit better. The action scenes, meanwhile, are technically well-staged, yet again overly familiar. How many times can we see soldiers emptying machine gun rounds into squealing alien creatures?

Skylines simply doesn't do enough to distinguish itself. Bland characterization doesn't help; aside from Rose, everyone is just a generic “type.” For that reason, the picture simply played out on the screen, failing to ever fully draw me in. It's visually nice to look at. Otherwise, the movie is utterly routine.

out of four

Skylines is rated R for violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 53 minutes.