Skyline seems to be the word on the tip of a lot of tongues this weekend. A pretty big majority of people are describing it as being painfully bad, competing for the dubious title of worst film of the year with The Last Airbender – available on Tuesday! There is a much smaller subset of people and critics who were pleased with the film, finding it to be a fun B-movie. Beyond the quality issue, there are a few reasons to talk about Skyline.
First there is the obvious comparison to 2011’s Battle: Los Angeles, a much bigger budget film that looks like it’s going to kick all kinds of ass. When discussing the two, you could either bring up the fact that it seems like an obvious entry into the Duo Flicks category – like when we had both Deep Impact and Armageddon come out very close together or when both Dante’s Peak and Volcano exploded onto screens at the same time. Beyond that there is the potentially shady legal issue which has Sony accusing the Strause brothers of some bad dealings involving the project and technology surrounding it, considering that Hydraulx (owned by the Strauses) did some work on B:LA and all the work on Skyline.
That seems like it could be a perfectly normal vehicle for discussion, but that’s not what most people are talking about. No, what they’re talking about seems to betray a lack of understanding of exactly what Skyline is.
Skyline isn’t an example of two big studios firing off similar movies at each other like those films mentioned earlier. Skyline is a big studio offering at all. Quite the opposite actually. It’s an independent film, created outside of the studio system. Much of the movie was filmed in the private residence of one of the brothers. That’s his apartment in many of the scenes and that’s his roof. Most of the aerial shooting was accomplished in a single day with a single helicopter rental.
Skyline probably shouldn’t be compared equally to Battle:Los Angeles. In the grand scheme of things, Skyline is Paranormal Activity to B:LA’s … okay, not a great example because horror movies have pretty small budgets. The point is that Skyline is a small, independently produced movie. Like Paranormal Activity it’s pretty amazing that Skyline made it to theaters at all.
Of course none of this means that it’s actually a good movie. A bad movie is a bad movie is a bad movie. But people generally aren’t as harsh when considering small films that have put up a good fight. If we want to trash Skyline let’s keep in mind what it really is, and what it isn’t.
What it is – a pretty amazing bit of VFX work, a B-movie that’s meant to be fun that got a shot at the big screen against all sorts of odds.
What it’s not – a big budget studio picture meant to be compared to a tent-pole film with a budget five times larger. When talking about independent features, we praise the short shooting schedules, the low costs, and the inventiveness of the crew in putting together a film. A film like Monsters gets a lot of positive attention in its small release while Skyline, which is a very similar film in terms of how the films were made, gets a ton of poop thrown at it and is graded against the studio experience, unfairly.
So yeah. Skyline may not be a great film and it may not be for everyone, but let’s just remember what it really is before we soundly trounce it. It’s a small group of very talented people working on their own, outside of the system, to create something on a very grand scale. Yatta yatta, unfairly shitting on Skyline or comparing it to movies far out of its budget class pushes me towards my boiling point.