Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.
So the big news this week is that Episode 7 has a director and it’s J.J Abrams, the guy who rebooted Star Trek, created Lost & Alias and apparently rocks a mean keyboard.
He did turn it down at first because of the release date but with Disney willing to play ball and give him time to do it his way one imagines they won’t mind if it comes out in 2016. Reading the initial reports that he turned it down that was the key thing to look at; he couldn’t get it done in time and needs six months to a year more than their initial estimate of 2015. With his current slate, and with production needing to be started in the near future to hit 2015 on an effects laden film, he’d need some compromises. And my guess is that they really wanted him behind the films because they made that concession when he came on board because he’s a safe pick.
He’s the kind of choice you’d expect from Disney, as he has experience rebooting dormant franchises with significant histories as well as a lengthy history making successful films. He’s not the geek’s geek of directors, of course, but when you have enough range to make consistently good films as a producer, director and writer you’re an easy choice. He’s geek-lite, just geeky enough to keep the usual suspects from losing their minds but not enough to make them cream their jeans. The latter would’ve been Joss Whedon and the former would’ve been Michael Bay, of course, and Abrams is that squishy middle that is hard to object against. And that’s the only real problem I have with it.
J.J Abrams being picked to tackle Star Wars: Episode 7 (Ridiculous Name to Be Added in Post Production) is like picking Schwarzenegger to make an action film or hiring Megan Fox for a role where she’s in her underwear for a good portion of the film. You know he’ll deliver something good, but not great, and he’ll show up and do all the fanboy conventions and get them satisfied, as well, because the hordes of dorks do need to be satisfied. They’re like the creepy priests from 300 in that you have to bribe them before you do something. Whether or not the film looks good they’ll still see it 20 times and come in costume to the midnight screening, of course, but you have to placate their opinions at least once.
And if you make a good film, but not a great one, they’ll still call it great because it’s The Avengers parallel coming into play: that film was not that good but people had been anticipating it for so long that they couldn’t admit it. It’s like being that idiot who paid $100 for a ticket to Red State and didn’t like it, but couldn’t say it because they didn’t want to admit they wasted their money. So the sheer excitement for Episode 7 will overwhelm all rational thought and people will give it significantly better reviews than it’ll deserve because no one wants to upset the crowd of dorks. They make good asthma inhalers now and, combined with an overabundance of pitchforks due to a factory error, they can chase you for days.
And much like a joke about dorks with asthma being into Star Wars, this week’s column is an easy one. I kept thinking about how weak Abrams was as a choice because it was easy. You know you’re probably going to get something acceptable at worst and when it comes to cinema I’d rather see a studio try for something special instead of settling for something they know they can do. It’s like people wanting Kate Hudson to do something else besides a romantic comedy; you want to see that talent that was on display in Almost Famous.
It’s kind of like hanging out with Brad Pitt before he was famous at a bar. You don’t want to see him go after an ugly girl, who’ll swoon because it’s Brad Pitt and such. You want to see him go after a young Angelina Jolie and adopt a kid from every United Nation member. You want to see him reach for the stars and come up short before reaching for the top of the door way and nail it. Which is why Abrams is such a weak choice; he’ll change some things but he’ll make a perfectly acceptable film as opposed to the freakin’ brilliant one we’ve been waiting since Return of the Jedi.
Which is why I have opted to come up with ten directors I think would’ve been way better choices than Abrams. Thus comes this week’s column, tongue firmly planted in cheek for those of you who are going to comment “your picks all suck, durr” and whatnot:
Notable Films: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Cowboys & Aliens
Why he’s a better choice: Favreau knows to build Filmss from the ground up, of course, but he’s familiar with working with Disney under the Marvel Studio banner and turned Robert Downey Jr. into one of the more bankable stars on the planet. Iron Man went from being a minor hero to one of the signature cinematic comic book heroes of our time. He’s also a huge fan of Star Wars, as well, so you know he won’t try and screw it up.
Suggested story: After killing the Emperor and watching his father die in his arms, as well as the Empire crumble in front of him, Luke Skywalker (Robert Downey Jr.) has developed a drinking problem as the last remaining Jedi. When a rogue Empire outfit invades his native Tattoine, it’s up to the last remaining badass to mess things up.
Notable Films: Everything Medea related
Why he’s a better choice: You want to know how to hit an audience and keep them coming in for something that isn’t a summer blockbuster you follow Tyler Perry. The guy is good at knowing his audience and delivering, even if his film quality isn’t all that great on occasion. He’s the man when it comes to hitting that audience regularly and keeping them coming back. He’s growing as a film-maker and seeing him work with this universe wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.
Suggested story: Luke Skywalker (Rick Fox) has it all. He’s famous, wealthy and he saved the universe from the Empire. But he’s fallen into the old traps of drugs and loose women, driving away anyone that cares about him. Enter his Aunt Medea (Tyler Perry) to teach him how to be a good Christian man and such.
**OH COME ON, like you didn’t expect that from me.
Notable Films: Fast Five, Better Luck Tomorrow, Annapolis
Why he’s a better choice: Justin Lin has managed to make Fast and the Furious into a valuable Films and made it look like Vin Diesel was as big (or as tough) as The Rock. That counts for something, right? Right?
Suggested story: Luke, Leia and Han (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster) have moved on from their life of taking down empires for a simpler life on Tattoine. But when a local magistrate starts abusing his newfound freedom from the Empire to turn their little outpost into his own little fiefdom, they dust off their custom X-34 Landspeeders to bring him down alongside their old friend Lando (Tyrese Gibson).
Notable Films: Avatar, The Terminator
Why he’s a better choice: James Cameron is the last event director there is. When he makes a film it matters because nearly everything he’s done has changed cinema. When you have crafted the two highest grossing films of all-time people you get clout few have. People will come out for a snuff film he’s done; when it comes to being a heavyweight director he’s the champion of the world. In comparison Abrams is a lightweight, as are most directors.
Suggested story: Han and Leia (Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana) had thought they had finished the Empire off when they destroyed the Death Star. But little did they know the Emperor had a secret doomsday weapon he built alongside it, in hiding, which is going to be unleashed unless they can stop it. It’s a chase across the universe to stop the worst possible scenario against a cyborg something or other.
Notable Films: The Expendables, Rocky, Rambo
Why he’s a better choice: When Stallone’s on as a director and a writer he’s remarkably underrated. He wrote one of the best screenplays in Hollywood history and won an Oscar for it, of course, and when he wants to be a serious story-teller he could wind up being in that Ben Affleck level territory. Let him write a treatment and I think we could see something pretty ballsy for the Star Wars universe.
Suggested story: It turns out the Emperor didn’t really die all those years ago. Luke Skywalker retired from his life of being a Jedi badass and saving the universe to run a little Italian restaurant on Tattoine. Han and Leia stop by every now and again to relive the old days, of course, but when the Emperor shows up looking to settle their score from years ago. But he’s lost the ways of the Jedi to learn how to cook; leave it a training montage to get him back into Jedi shape for the big fight at the end.
Notable Films: Rush Hour
Why he’s a better choice: He’d make it significantly more commercial, of course, and if you want someone who can get it done in 2015 he’s the man. Ratner’s a guy who could come in and not need to work on a script, et al, as he’s the ultimate mercenary director. Disney could tell him to do exactly how they want it and he’ll deliver that film, as well.
Suggested story: There’s only one vestige left of the old Empire: the frozen planet Hoth. It’s up to Han (Jackie Chan) and Luke (Chris Tucker) to figure a way to break into their hideout and force their surrender.
Notable Films: The A-Team, Narc
Why he’s a better choice: Joe Carnahan’s the best director out there in terms of getting the least amount of love from fans and critics alike. When they make lists of the best genre directors he’s usually not on it but he’s never caught a break in having that one epic film that makes a ton of cash.
Suggested story: After saving the universe, Han Luke and Leia all moved back to Cloud City. Han and Luke landed jobs on Lando’s police force, patrolling the dark streets in a post-empire world. When a successor to Jaba the Hutt comes in to run the booze, broads and drugs of Cloud City it’s up to Han and Luke to bring him to justice.
Notable Films: Clerks, Clerks 2, Dogma
Why he’s a better choice: Kevin Smith’s a diehard Star Wars guy, of course, but when Smith’s on he’s capable of really delivering good dialogue driven films. And if Star Wars is going to still be all talky why not go with a guy who’s capable of crafting something amusing and insightful on the human condition.
Suggested story: Han, Luke and Leia (Bryan O’Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Rosario Dawson) decided after saving the universe that they want the simple life. So they open up a convenience store and contemplate life and pop culture while dealing with the annoyances of the local drug dealers (Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes) who frequent their establishment.
Notable Films: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lincoln
Why he’s a better choice: J.J Abrams is the homeless man’s Spielberg. If you want to hire Spielberg but he’s busy you hire Abrams. Why not just go to the source and hire America’s greatest director?
Suggested story: Its 20 years after the fall of the empire and Luke, Han and Leia have retired. Luke’s son is going to make his way into the world, hell or high water, and he winds up in the place where his father’s journey to the stars began: Mos Eisley Cantina.
Notable Films: The Dark Knight, Batman Begins, The Prestige, Inception
Why he’s a better choice: Abrams has made good films. Nolan makes great films. You want a fan boy’s wet dream and you’ve got Nolan rebooting the Star Wars universe in his image. Nolan’s got the best track record of any director working now; everything he’s done has been successful commercially and critically. This is a guy who got $200 million to do a heist film about the inside of someone’s brain and made crafted a sci-fi heist film that made an obscene amount more than what he was given.
Suggested story: Luke Skywalker (Christian Bale) has gone into seclusion after the end of the Empire on Dagobah, to learn the gentle contemplation of his Jedi Master. When an evil arises, and Han’s son comes to him to be trained as a Jedi, it’s up to Luke to train him in the arts of the Jedi.
There are two types of action films: foreign and domestic. In many ways people who like action films resemble beer snobs. On the one extreme you have your snobs that seek out a beer like Westvleteren 12 and consider anything less than exotic as a failure, the type that looks at you funny if you have a Miller Lite in your hand. And then there’s the other extreme, i.e. the guy who’s happy with a Miller Lite and doesn’t bother with anything else.
Most people are somewhere in the middle and I tend to think of The Raid: Redemption as the kind of film that lets you know exactly how much of a pretentious douche bag someone is when it comes to action films.
The Raid is a simple film. A corrupt lieutenant brings in a group of police officers to raid a high rise controlled by some badass criminal types. It’s off the books, of course, and so when it goes bad the cops are stuck in there facing an entire building filled with vicious criminals wanting to kill them. Of course there’s only one cop that matters: Rama (Iko Uwais). Everyone else is cannon fodder, of course, as the film is a violently awesome action film on a lot of levels but not all that engaging on anything more than visceral level.
I already tackled the subject of The Raid and action films en masse earlier, so I’m not going to repeat myself again, but my problems with the film begin with its inherent lack of anything resembling a plot. It shares the same problems as Dredd has, too, as that film felt like a remake of this one. Heck it just looked like someone just took this film’s script, crossed the title off and wrote “Dread” on it before changing some names around before submitting it for approval on the comic book adaptation of Judge Dredd.
It’s a solid film, not great and borderline good. Recommended, but only slightly.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club
Bullet to the Head – Sylvester Stallone’s daughter has been kidnapped by Baywatch Conan with an axe. Time to grab the Asian kid from Fast Five and save her.
See It – I’m a sucker for action films, I admit it.
Warm Bodies – A zombie romantic comedy? I’m not quite sure what the hell this is about.
See It – It’s been a pretty well reviewed book and I imagine it could turn into something interesting as a film.
Stand Up Guys – Christopher Walken has to kill Al Pacino after he gets out of prison. But first it’s time to do some drugs, chase some dames and bust out Alan Arkin from a retirement home
See It – It’s got a good enough cast to make me plunk down my cash.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .