The city of angels isn't big enough for two alien invasion films - not if the studio behind Battle: Los Angeles has anything to say about it. Sony Pictures Entertainment is contemplating legal action against Greg and Colin Strause, the directors of Skyline and the owners of Hydraulx Filmz - a visual effects company that contributed to Battle: Los Angeles.
According to Deadline, Sony feels that the Strause brothers should have given them a heads up about their plans to make Skyline before accepting the FX gig on Battle: Los Angeles, which gave them access to the film's script, storyboards, and animatics.
More to the point, Sony is wondering if Battle: Los Angeles served as inspiration for the brothers to make Skyline and if they used the studio's resources to polish up the effects on their modestly-budgeted thriller.
In Skyline, "strange lights descend on the city of Los Angeles, drawing people outside like moths to a flame, where an extraterrestrial force proceeds to swallow the entire human population off the face of the earth." The story is told from the point of view of four friends who have just returned from a night of partying and the majority of it was shot in Greg Strause's home.
At the Skyline Comic-Con panel, the brothers cited Paranormal Activity as the main inspiration for their approach to the film. The independent production gave them the freedom to cast lesser-known actors and kept them free from studio interference.
Comic-Con attendees weren't the only ones taking notice of Skyline. While the film had already blipped on Sony's radar when Relativity Media acquired the rights back in May, the debut of its trailer and the accompanying panel were what convinced the studio to explore its legal options.
Another point of contention for Sony is that Skyline is scheduled for release on November 12th - four months before Battle: Los Angeles. With all of the buzz Skyline has generated by seemingly arriving out of nowhere, they're worried it could potentially steal a sizable portion of Battle: Los Angeles' thunder. In light of these developments, a rep for the Strause brothers issued this statement:
Any claims of impropriety are completely baseless. This is a blatant attempt by Sony to force these independent filmmakers to move a release date that has long been set by Universal and Relativity and is outside the filmmakers' control.
Interestingly, even if their plans for Skyline had cost Hydraulx the Battle: Los Angeles gig, Deadline points out that the brothers had already seen the script for that film since they were considered as potential directors at one point.
I think what's important here is that the difference in tone between Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles is pretty significant. It's actually not all that dissimilar to Armageddon vs. Deep Impact - two films with the same premise but vastly different aspirations.
Skyline is a small-scale thriller and Battle: Los Angeles is a military action film with a much bigger scope. Personally, I think they both have their place and four months is plenty of time to avoid the feeling that one is stepping on the other's toes.
We'll be sure to keep you updated on how this plays out.