Breaking The Story (Sky High — Pairing Genre)
Does anyone remember Sky High? Like, really… what was that movie? It had superheroes and Kurt Russell and… babies?
Looking back, it’s easy to write it off as a cheesy kids movie that can only be enjoyed as a kids movie. But, after recently watching it, I was quite surprised by how well it held up. In fact, I even enjoyed the experience and found tools within the film that could apply to my own writing.
The Work: Sky High (Available on Disney+)
The Writers: Paul Hernandez, Bob Schooley, and Mark McCorkle
For those of you who have yet to come across this Disney Channel gem, here’s what it’s about:
Will Stronghold is your normal teenager. He argues with his parents, is worried about school, and has no idea what he’s going to grow up to be. Oh, and he’s also the child of the world’s most powerful superheroes. He’s brought to SKY HIGH, a high school specifically designed for superhero kids like him. He now must learn about the hierarchy inherent in the school and, more importantly, figure out just where he lands within that power structure.
Why It Works:
Pairing Genre: The writers seemed to realize, pretty quickly, that they were dealing with two films in one concept here. On one hand, you had a superhero movie. On the other- a high school movie. The audience is thus expecting to see both of these films within this short run-time, so how on earth do you combine these concepts? Well, if you’re writing Sky High, you search for the commonality. What these genres have in common is they both tell coming of age stories. Both genres have expectations built around a protagonist discovering how to embrace themselves without hurting the people around them, and that’s exactly what the writers do with Sky High- turn it into a pure coming-of-age film. This allows them access to specific tropes of the genre that they can then exploit to their dual-concept (i.e super-powered bullies, girlfriend with a secret identity, etc.)
Entertaining Combinations: Because this film is a mesh between the superhero and high school genres, the writers are able to have a lot of fun in combining the tropes of each genre. The bullies are super villains. The “lame” kids are sidekicks. The hothead is literally a hothead. The “cool girl” has a secret identity, and the overbearing parents are the most popular superheroes in the world. Combining these archetypes is fun, pure and simple, and it’s hard not to feel positively overjoyed by seeing them so willingly embraced on screen.
Embracing The Ridiculous: One of the things that make some of the current superhero movies hard to digest lies in how seriously they take themselves. It’s strange to see movies with absurd premises adopt a tone more fitting to a psychological thriller, rather than embrace the fascinating elements that make them so exciting. Sky High, obviously, doesn’t have this problem. The film fully recognizes how ridiculous a “high school for superheroes” sounds, and doesn’t waste time trying to sell it to us as a serious gambit. We don’t get downer scenes where heroes discuss their governmental role and monologue about whether or not they’re leaving a positive impact on the world. Instead, we get scenes where superheroes are turned into babies! We get P.E scenes that serve as mock battles between hero and villain. We get a bus that flies. The movie knows exactly what it is- a ridiculous comedy meant to entertain, and man does it entertain.
Sky High is a really fun movie, and doesn’t try to be anything more. Sure, a few base themes are thrown in, but for the most part, we’re able to enter into this movie, turn off our brains, and fully enjoy the absurd and creative vision of the writers. Maybe it’s purely nostalgia speaking, but to me, it’s one of the rare films from childhood that can still be enjoyed in adulthood.