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[Article] – Auteur Directors For Mainstream Franchises

 

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Posted December 12, 2017 by

 
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The recent and rather left field announcement of Quentin Tarantino taking his unique worldview to the Star Trek franchise creates the tantalising notion of seeing an auteur director given the reigns to a mainstream series, with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal. Auteurs usually have to fight for their creative vision with their films often failing to reach a wide audience outside of an ardent, focused fanbase, but what if they were given financial freedom of a franchise guaranteed a to be box-office home run, who else like Tarantino would offer a strangely enticing prospect for something outside the general purview?

Paul Thomas Anderson / Star Wars

Star Wars may be currently thriving, with Rian Johnson expected to deliver the goods with The Last Jedi, but that doesn’t make the idea of an Anderson backed Star Wars project any less enticing. Star Wars has always been a franchise about family, a subject well suited to Anderson, whose films often focus father and son, sibling or surrogate relationships, Inherent Vice being the only exception. He would undoubtedly be able to create the kind of mysterious relationships Star Wars loves, where family origins are constantly questioned, take for example There Will Be Blood where Daniel Plainview’s brother turns out to be an imposter, Anderson can certainly bring the dramatic tension necessary. Stylistically Anderson’s approach may vastly differ what you would expect from Star Wars, but great directors can adapt their style for whatever the story requires, on paper he may not have the action experience you would hope, but Anderson is masterful at moving his camera and there is small scene in Punch-Drunk Love, where Barry Egan beats up a group of thugs – with disturbing efficiency – that suggests he could make the jump to action successfully. Also promising on that front is the action experience oft-collaborator DP Robert Elswit has gained over the years, having shot instalments in the Mission: Impossible and Bourne franchises, not to mention Anderson’s interests with large formats, having shot The Master in 70mm and having professed a love for Imax, Star Wars could be his best opportunity to utilise these formats.

Christopher Nolan / Bond

This coupling may be the most realistic possibility imaginable, and one that may actually bear fruit with Nolan rumoured to be in the frame for Bond 25, a role he has been linked with since Inception, a film whose own Bondian inspiration served as a perfect calling card for Nolan to tackle 007. Bond seems to be the next logical step for Nolan, whose post-Batman career has been focused on pushing the Imax format, a format that needs spectacular images to justify its colossal size and expensive utilisation, both Skyfall and Spectre gained Imax releases – though not shot in Imax – and were box-office gold, so an actual Imax bond film seems to be a natural progression. Technical specifications aside, it will be interesting to see how Nolan would approach Bond from a narrative aspect, his plots are rarely straight forward – time wise – would he be satisfied with a simply linear approach, while Bond is a relatively grounded franchise it no doubt benefit from seeing Nolan push its structural boundaries, perhaps Batman Begins would serve as good yardstick for what Nolan could achieve – Bond begins – after twenty-odd entries the franchise is yet to see an origins story, Nolan could oversee a successful shake-up for the series. And of course with Nolan on board there is a much higher possibility of seeing Tom Hardy adopt the infamous moniker, a casting choice many fans have been ardent to see, and it would be an opportunity for audiences to actually see his face in a Nolan film for once.

Werner Herzog / Batman

DC have struggled with how to approach Batman since Nolan departed, Ben Affleck has divided fans and critics alike, and while Matt Reeves will direct an upcoming solo film, Werner Herzog would be a much more entertainingly diverse choice to reinvigorate the dark knight. Batman’s more commercial nature may represent everything Herzog hates about filmmaking, but that may be a good thing, instead of using the character as a marketing tool Herzog could really delve into the character, and when you break it down Bruce Wayne seems well suited to the Herzogean archetype. The Batsuit may have become a symbol of cinematic cool, but in essence Wayne is a very strange character, a man who dresses as a bat to fight crime, in real life perhaps he could be the subject of one of Herzog’s documentaries, he has always been drawn to the strange, the alienated and those who have suffered traumatic experiences. Herzog could be the one who fully realises Batman’s dramatic potential, and whose earthy naturalism would complement the strangeness of the characters existence. While the dream casting of Klaus Kinski (for Batman or a villain) is no longer an option, perhaps a more recent muse – Michael Shannon – would be a perfect fit, an actor capable of incandescent rage and quiet introspection, and who doesn’t want to see a Joker armed with Herzog’s uniquely nihilistic, blackly comic dialogue.

Peter Weir / Pirates Of The Caribbean

The POTC franchise is treading water with declining box office returns and critical response, growing ever more incoherent, perhaps Peter Weir, director of the far superior seafaring fare Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World could whip the franchise into shipshape. The pirating genre never used to be solely action-oriented, before POTC came along the high seas had much more dramatic potential with a history stretching back to films like Mutiny On The Bounty, Weir could be the one to bring some much needed coherence to the less bombastic moments, perhaps focusing on a less fantastical plot and crafting more believable dialogue. Weir’s experience with Master And Commander would also be beneficial when POTC has to indulge in its theme park origins, having proven he can create stunning visual spectacle and handle the logistical nightmare of naval combat, with the Weir creating battle scenes as beautiful as they were breath-taking, the film even managing to beat Return Of The King to the best cinematography Oscar, one of the few it didn’t win. Weir may also prove beneficial to the onscreen talent, having directed Jim Carrey to a career best performance in The Truman Show, he could provide some shape and purpose to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack, which keeps seeing further reduction into comic relief, and who doesn’t want to see frequent collaborator Ed Harris on the villain’s side, an actor whose visage is perfectly suited to the POTC franchise.

Wes Anderson / Toy Story

The notorious control freak Wes Anderson, a director who likes to dictate every aspect and fine detail of his films, has found a means of exerting this in recent years, through stop motion animation, where everything can be choreographed and co-ordinated on a frame-by-frame basis. His animations Fantastic Mr. Fox and the upcoming Isle Of Dogs feature – like many animated films – anthropomorphised animals, non-human characters given human characteristics, and his animated approach could offer a new take on one of the most successful, if not the most successful animated series, Toy Story. The franchise was originally closed with Toy Story 3 but has been reopened with the announced Toy Story 4, being so critically successful the series doesn’t really risk growing stale but perhaps after what was supposed to be concluded, a different style could be interesting to see employed. Anderson is no stranger to large cast lists; he would no doubt be able to juggle the large collection of characters with ease, and he certainly has the comic chops to continue a series that has brought as much enjoyment to adults as children. While Anderson’s more formally constructed approach may need some visual integration, his recurring themes of dysfunctional families, rivalries and friendship would be a good fit for Woody and the gang, though perhaps the biggest creative decision for Anderson will be to decide what toy to give Bill Murray’s voice to, he will undoubtedly be involved in some way, and who doesn’t want to see that.

Terry Gilliam / Mad Max

George Miller brought Mad Max roaring back to life with Fury Road, but his on-going involvement with the series seems to be in limbo, if he does end up backing away, Terry Gilliam seems like the (in)sane choice to keep the flame of the brilliantly bonkers dystopian nightmare alight. Gilliam came close to his own franchise when he was in the frame for the Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone (which eventually went to Chris Columbus) his dark, dementedly delirious worldview was perhaps to much for a children’s film – despite the series growing incredibly dark towards the end – Mad Max offers no such obstacle, and Gilliam is no stranger to future dystopia’s. Both Brazil and Twelve Monkeys took glee exploring the disintegration of society and the blackly comic possibilities it offered a style perfectly suited to Max’s brazenly over the top take on the collapse of world order. This combined with Gilliam’s madcap visual bravura, full of wide-angle weirdness and sweeping, angular camera movements offer the best chance of emulating Miller’s vision, but of course most important is Gilliam’s imagination, his films are full to the brig with fantastical designs, including everything from costumes to creatures, this would be key in continuing a series which is famous for its outlandish and bizarre embellishments. The Mad Max films are though essentially structured around one big car chase, Gilliam tends to be a more interior director, focusing on elaborate sets and existing spaces, perhaps this would represent a new opportunity, to explore different areas of Max’s dystopia, even different continents, the series has always alluded to a worldwide crisis, perhaps Gilliam could be the one to explore that, in keeping with the series visual style.

Terrence Malick / Avatar

Though James Cameron is locked in for the next four Avatar instalments and is of course best suited to execute the films visual spectacle, his approach towards the films narrative elements first time around was criticised as being somewhat heavy-handed, especially the parallels between the Na’ vi and native Americans. Terrence Malick is a director who has had a much better received foray into that subject matter with The New World; he may be able to offer a more enlightened approach, something that is more visually insightful rather than dialogue-laden. It is no doubt entertaining to imagine Malick’s style imposed on Avatar, Sam Worthington’s clunky voice-over replaced with dreamy, ethereal musings, and his gliding, dancing camerawork capturing Pandora’s natural wonders, the observation of nature and its relation to mankind being perhaps Malick’s biggest recurring theme and one well suited to the series. Malick’s oeuvre doesn’t immediately suggest he could handle the films necessary bombast, but there are signs in The Thin Red Line which shows he has potential for shooting action sequences, with some terrifically, terrifyingly visualised and powerfully edited battles scenes. Though for a films as effects heavy as Avatar, Malick would not be able to employ his usual habit of crafting the film in the edit, leaving entire sections and characters on the cutting room floor, Malick has made recent assertions about moving back towards more scripted and structured films, this would have to be a promise he would need to keep.

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Sam May
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