The Strause Brothers are still trying to find their stride as filmmakers, but two major movies with mostly negative reviews puts them face to face with a rotten tomato. While they have yet to respond to the criticisms regarding Skyline, the film's writer/producer combo Liam O'Donnell and Joshua Cordes spoke out recently on the topic.
It is easy for a filmmaker to ignore the general public, but the two seem genuinely disappointed by the overall reaction to their space invasion film. Who wouldn't be? Skyline is currently scoring a 4.7 on IMDb, 26 on Metacritic and 15% on Rotten Tomatoes. These low numbers are enhanced by a plethora of harsh reviews.
We didn't necessarily feel the movie lived up to its potential. Even our 2 out of 5 stars review is generous considering the choice words from others about the film. But when we look back on Skyline in a few years, will it be the goofy, campy alien invasion tribute the producers seem to believe they've made?
In an interview with Cinematical, the producers opened up and responded to the general public distaste for Skyline. The overall tone is one of disappointment, but as the two backtrack on the film's intent, I can't help but wonder how many times we've heard this before - The Last Airbender, The Happening and Tommy Wiseau's The Room come to mind (bit of a spoiler in the quotes below).
Liam O'Donnell - "It's like being exposed to any kind of venom: it takes a while to build up your immunity. People tell you not to read the reviews but I tried to read every one... it was extremely painful initially but now I skip over a 'Skyline. Worst. Movie. Ever.' tweet without it even registering... We wanted to make a fun, spooky popcorn movie with brain sucking beasts from outer space -- and I think we did that."
Joshua Cordes - "Yeah, I was pretty floored by the response... And it hurt, because I love movies and people who love them, and were getting reactions like we made something that came out of some dark intentions. A soulless cash grab? Shamelessly capitalizing off the latest trends? Homogenized Oscar-bait? None of those were true... We wanted to make a fun, spooky popcorn movie with brain sucking beasts from outer space -- and I think we did that.we had set out to make the movie we made, that embraced conventions that every invasion movie before us had adhered to, and then have fun with them."
The initial promotion of Skyline was tough to read. But if the intention was to create an alien invasion movie like Piranha 3D, it didn't seem that way until now.
Some of the criticisms Cordes refers to are a bit drastic - especially the "soulless cash grab." Let's consider the background of the filmmakers for a moment. They pursued a passion because they had the means and desire to do it.
Credit should always be given to filmmakers who finish a feature film. No matter the consequences or result, making a movie is difficult - in fact it is damn near impossible. Plenty of horrible movies have come before Skyline and plenty of worse ones will come in the future.
While the intense process of producing a feature is arduous, Cordes and O'Donnell actually downplay the amount of work put into Skyline. While I feel sorry for them at times in this interview, the following comments feel like a blame game.
Cordes -"Also, we wrote, shot, and did all the VFX on this film in under a year. The schedule was brutal and unfortunately didn't allow us to test the film because it wasn't finished until the last moment. We got backed into a release date and inevitably the film was hurt by it. Another lesson learned the hard way."
The problem with making a weak film is dealing with the backlash. The two producers still care deeply about this project and their pride shows in the interview. But it is difficult to gauge this kind of a response, because you have to wonder what role they had as producers if they couldn't control the production's speed.
We've seen similar expedited productions end in failure. Transformers 2 was pushed through the production process due to a writer's strike, but that is obviously not the only reason it was a "miss" (well, not at the box office - just in terms of the quality of the film). Surely, the speedy production didn't help, but Skyline has far more problems than this.
Maybe the MPAA had something to do with it? According to the producers, Skyline was originally designed as an R-rated film, but the final PG-13 rating hurt the film's initial tone.
O'Donnell - "It really is a dark, apocalyptic R-rated story trapped in a glossy PG-13 body. The original draft was written for an R but it wasn't really over the top... But then once we got to the MPAA, we had a lot of trouble with the brain ripping shots... It's a catch 22: if it were hard R, it definitely would have been more embraced by the horror and online critics. But in our exit polling kids under 17, boy and girls liked 'Skyline' the best.
Cordes - "Now I wish we'd just said screw it and made a bloodbath. Since we're getting no street cred for going out and making a movie on our own, maybe the gorehounds could have given some love at that point."
Of course the Strause brothers went hard R on Aliens vs Predators: Requiem and that didn't seem to help that film much...
Even though the movie was ill-received, it is still a massive action film that calls for a sequel if possible. Made for only $10 million, Skyline has already made profit. The question that remains is whether or not the filmmakers will respond to the criticism within the sequel or simply follow their own dreams.
O'Donnell - "The sequel treatment is very ambitious and addresses a lot of the issues people have with 'Skyline'. It's more character-driven, it's not set in one location, it's action-packed. We're going to have to see how it plays out. International box office has been very strong. Russia alone was around $5.3 million last weekend. I think the film will play great on DVD and cable TV. And because our ending is so crazy even people that don't like 'Skyline' have expressed interest in seeing the sequel. So in one form or another the story will be told."
At the end of the day, Skyline will prove a financial success. It was marketed well, represented by a pair of major studios (Rogue and Universal) and tackles the latest trend in Hollywood - aliens.
Even amidst the controversy between Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles, they beat the handful of 2011 alien invasion movies to the punch. When audiences are moaning over the number of movies in the genre, Skyline will be sitting pretty on a shiny DVD and Blu-ray.
So here's the thing... in the grand scheme of things, Skyline is a movie that should not be compared to the likes of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Regardless of the producers' hindsight comments, the film has some entertainment value, and it is a huge, CGI movie made on a meager budget.
If you have yet to see Skyline, try and have some fun with it. While I compared it to The Room earlier in this article, Skyline is nowhere near as bad as that movie. Don't go into the theater looking for the best alien invasion movie of all time either. Next year will have plenty of potential films to take that claim.
If you have already seen Skyline, share your thoughts on the interview. Do you think this is a cop-out for a movie that went horribly wrong. Are their explanations justified and reasonable? More importantly, would you like to see them give it another try with Skyline 2?