Monday, May 29, 2006

Mavericks Part Four: The Aughts

2000: The year we didn’t blow up!

In the next century there appeared someone who could, finally make a comic book based film that surpassed all my expectations. That man is Bryan Singer! Sure we all went to see Spiderman and the Hulk and Daredevil and Catwoman. Didn’t we? Well we all saw Spiderman. That was a pretty good film. Spiderman 2. That was a little better. But damn, what Singer did with X-Men just blew me away. He took these guys and made them more real than any character in any movie out today. Granted he had good material to draw from but the way he updated the look and storyline was brilliant. In both films he was able to build the tension a little more with subtle character twists and backgrounds that make us care for the characters in a way that we never felt for mutants before (or since!) Too bad he’s not directing the third film but he is giving Superman another shot on the big screen. So far the best thing about the new Superman previews is that he preserved the John Williams theme song. That’s a good move, Bryan.

This next guy knows how to make a movie. He took the greatest story ever told – next to the bible – and made it into the greatest movie ever filmed. Just on the strength of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson deserves to sit among the greats. It seemed like the guys came out of nowhere. His attention to detail and uncompromising faith to the source material made for a movie that could never been made at any other time, and reminded us of those large Cecil B. deMille-type epic movies with a cast of thousands. These days a cast of thousands only exists inside a computer somewhere but he made it look like they were all right there on set. In some places the effects outshined the characters and story but it was welcome and expected at that point, especially the climactic Battle of Pelennor Fields in Return of the King. He makes gigantic films that make you believe in magic and his sensitivity to the story and characters at times is his greatest strength and weakness. In his follow-up project to LOTR, King Kong he followed the same format that he used before which seemed to be his downfall. While the effects on Kong and during the fight with the T-Rexes were great the action sequences were a little shaky and predictable. The movie was long, drawn out and authentic looking. In LOTR that was a strength because the story needed that type of treatment, in Kong it held us back from seeing the monster, which is what everyone really wanted. In LOTR it held us back from seeing Frodo toss the Ring into Mt. Doom, which is what none of us really wanted. My fantasy project list for Peter Jackson: The Bible, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, History of the World Part 2.

Again this next guy probably belongs to the decade before but there is no denying this guy hit his stride on a major level in the Aughts. Robert Rodriguez delivered El Mariachi and Desperado to us and introduced the world to his twisted mind. He blended violence, revenge and style in a way that rivals the big Q. But unlike our Gen X friend, Rodriguez goes on to direct more films of style and substance. He bakes up a concoction that in my wildest dreams I couldn’t picture as a follow up to Mexican gang films, Spy Kids. If you thought these films were for kids, you’re right. But they are also for you. In kid world, there are movies made strictly for them, and then there are films that the parents can enjoy as well. Stylistically, Spy Kids is a step above, creating an amazing crayon swirl of a world. He never stops. His signature is that if it seems unbelievable and cool, then he can make it happen. He adapted Sin City to the screen, actually making you think that you’ve delved into the pages of a comic book in a way that Ang Lee’s Hulk never could achieve with it’s flying panels. I actually had to scrub my eyeballs my Disney collection to keep from killing myself in agony and despair after watching Sin City. With that movie he took The Crow to the bottom floor, and that’s a good thing.

I’m sure I missed a few directors along the way but as for visibility and style these guys are on top of the world. If you can forget all the fluff that comes in between the mavericks you might begin to respect Hollywood again. Almost.



The Phoenix said...

I've been enjoying your reviews of directors here. Excellent work.

It's hard to believe Ang directed Hulk, but like you said, everyone is going to have a clunker or two in there.

I'm looking forward to Superman Returns.

ObilonKenobi said...

Thanks. Yeah, i guess Ang Lee has a vision for that movie but it failed.