If you trace back to the exact moment my life stopped being perfect, it would probably be when I realised Layla and Warren in Sky High were not going to end up together. Ever since then, I have been held hostage by what could have been — a dream that shall haunt me for as long as I live.
Sky High (2005), for those who live under a rock or didn’t have a childhood, is one of the most iconic teen movies of the early 2000s. At least for people born specifically between 1995 and 2000.
This movie follows a band of rejects at a high school for kids with superpowers. Upon orientation, students are split into two classes: “heroes” and “sidekicks”, based on how cool or useful their powers are.
Unsurprisingly, our gang is made up of sidekicks — until one of the group gets promoted to the hero group, causing bulk drama. It’s giving Cady from Mean Girls.
Sky High has everything: misfit teens, heaps of feminist moments, incredible colour-coordinated costumes that are peak 2000s fashion, fake-dating, and a completely bonkers plot.
But my favourite thing about the movie is the relationship between Layla Williams (Danielle Panabaker) and Warren Peace (Steven Strait), who everyone fkn knows should have ended up together.
It’s been 16 years since Sky High and I still don’t get why Layla went with Will when Warren Peace was RIGHT THERE pic.twitter.com/CBuBKqtsUX
— Tori Fox (@theMandaTorian) August 10, 2021
I mean, just look at the facts: Layla is a pacifist vegetarian with plant powers who is always bright as a summer’s day. She’s polite, sweet, a little naive, and has a very strong sense of self because she knows what she wants.
Warren is our morally grey emo hothead (literally, his superpower is pyrotechnics) who is also a social outcast because his father is a villain but his mother is a hero. He wears all black and his name is a pun of War and Peace because his entire existence is a conflict he’s still trying to understand.
The two first interact because Warren gets into a fight with his enemy/Layla’s best friend and secret crush Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), AKA the main character of the film.
Layla has her heart broken by Will after he stands her up to hang with his new girlfriend. So, naturally, she and Warren pretend to go to prom together to make him jealous.
This pairing has literally all the best tropes in teen romcoms: fake-dating, opposites-attract, enemies-to-friends-to-lovers, grumpy/sunshine, I’m-mean-to-you-but-if-anyone-else-is-I’ll-kill-them. Warren is stand-offish one with an ice cold heart and Layla is the vulnerable one who thaws it. They’re supposed to be just friends, but the chemistry between these two is undeniable.
And yet, at the end of Sky High, Layla ends up with Will — the best friend who wasn’t into her until she was cool. Everyone lives happily ever after, and the toe-curling romantic tension between Layla and Warren is completely forgotten. Instead, we see him holding hands with some ice-powered girl?
It’s bullshit and even seven-year-old me knew it.
We were fkn ROBBED.
Layla’s romantic relationship with Will doesn’t even make narrative sense.
Her character has to go through a transformation after Will’s rejection, which she does alongside Warren. Despite his pretence that he doesn’t care about anyone, he’s there for her when she’s down and is a shoulder to lean on. He listens when she needs it and is surprisingly gentle.
He’s the first person to really *see* her. And also the first person she’s equal to — unlike her relationship with Will, which is always oddly balanced because of the pedestal she places him on.
For all that growth to happen together only for Layla to end up with Will is just bizarre. What was it all for?? Where was this leading to??? Why torture us like this??
if you wanted layla and warren to end up together… you’re a zutara now, aren’t you? pic.twitter.com/TetPXbCn8G
— bea ⚢ tlou brainworms (@juniberryboba) December 7, 2020
Honestly, it reminds me of the Katara and Zuko pairing from Avatar: The Last Airbender, who had a similar opposites-attract/enemies-to-friends arc.
Probably the most compelling part of their relationship was their trauma-bonding and how the two always treated each other as equals, even when they hated each other. Which mattered considering Katara ultimately ended up with Aang, in a relationship that had an awkward power imbalance.
Why am I bringing this up, you ask? Because Warren Peace was actually based on Zuko, right down to the fire powers, villainous father and redemption arc.
I guess we were robbed in that ship, too!
Justice for Warren Peace and Layla Williams, who were absolutely supposed to be together. The world’s trajectory changed the day that script was finalised, and not for the better.
If you need me I’ll be rewatching Sky High on Disney Plus for the millionth time.