Saturday, June 02, 2007

Spy Hunter Becomes The Hunted

Poor Paul W. S Anderson, he really can't get a break with the online film geek community. I won't repeat the comments I've seen clogging up Aint it Cool talkbacks and various forums and messageboards, but you probably know the sort of thing because it's probably how you feel yourself.

Yesterday, Variety announced he was attached to direct the long-stalled Spy Hunter film and the knives came out again. But was it deserved?

Probably not. Listen, if Anderson was hired to direct a film like, say, Neuromancer then I'd be outraged. Incensed. He doesn't have the skills to handle that kind of film at all. If he's given the joystick for a Spy Hunter adaptation I say, fine, fair enough, whatever. Anderson is, in the best sense of the word, a hack - and sometimes, a hack is a better choice than people might be prepared to admit.

Let me explain what I mean. We'll compare a hypothetical hack with a hypothetical 'visionary'. We'll call them, just for sake of argument, Paul the Hack and David the Visionary.

Each of them is given an identical budget and the same script and are sent off to make their own versions of the same film. A videogame adaptation, say. Let's say APB, that old cops-and-donuts chase 'em up.

Paul the Hack takes the script, looks through for the big exploitable elements, gets his board artists in and they draw up the sequences with/for him. The second unit are called in and the various shots are delegated, the green screen is rigged and, before you know it, shooting is underway. The piles of footage, much of it indifferent, some of it surprisingly effective in a matter-of-fact fashion, are heaped onto the editor - who, probably being quite experienced rather than particularly expert, makes a solid fist of stringing it all together. The finished film rolls out and... it's just a workaday translation of the script.

Over at David the Visionary's camp, things are happening very differently. He's going through the script with a fine tooth comb. He's got some real ideas - some great cinematic tricks he can get in their somewhere. He's not alone in using slo-mo, Andrew probably got a few shots of that in too, but David has other ideas. 'Bigger' ones. 'Better' ones. How about some of these things just coming up in ads and music videos? They look really cool. And David likes to 'play with film grammar'. So he does. And he's in charge of the storyboarding with a rod of iron. And he towers of the second unit director like a behemoth. And... well, this would be okay if David knew the first thing about shooting this kind of business. And the poor editor: just a button pusher for an auteur's ego.

One film does exactly what it says on the tin. The other film doesn't even want to come in a tin and has to have a special screw-top crystal box made for it. In Andora. By virgins.

I think I hate Paul's APB much, much less than David's 'comment on the apathy of police in a virtual crime scenario'.

Resident Evil is most definitely a lesser zombie film - at least when held up against Romero's films, or Raimi's. I'd still take it over 28 Days Later, however. It makes infinitely more sense and it doesn't tire the audience out with a conceited aesthetic barrier in every single shot - I mean, who thought shooting a film on a dodgy camcorder made more sense than the invisibilty of decent 35mm? (My issues with 28 Days Later are many, and not for now...)

Poor Paul W. S Anderson. He's going to make a completely acceptable, solid and perfunctory interpretation of an utterly pointless and banal Spy Hunter script, I swear. It's what he does. And, no, it might not warrant the multi-million dollar price tag, but did Se7en? Gangs of New York? War of the Worlds?


ltar said...

Would like to hear your problems with 28 days later...or maybe do a series of all the films you dislike that are otherwise popular on the cultural radar really want to bag that much on Seven? Wow...yeah, would like to hear what issues you had with "...Later".

Leos said...

Wow. You would take "Resident Evil" over "28 Days Later"? You're defending Paul W.S. Anderson? In an ideal world, even a cheap video game adaptation would be directed by someone that knows what they're doing. I'm gobsmacked that you're written this, Brandon.

Brendon said...

I agree: in an ideal world even a cheap videogame adaptation would be directed by someone that knows what they're doing.

I agree with that 100%.

In our far-from-ideal world, I'll take the hack who knows a little of what they are doing and is part of a committee with other people who have part of an idea too over the 'auteur' that pushes their 'vision' despite them a) not knowing what they're doing either and b) thinking they know better than their audience.

Harmen said...

Opinions about Se7en aside, i can see what you're saying.

I mean sure, Anderson is one of the ...ehm... "lesser" directors in Hollywood but seriously: does anyone care that he's attached too a film that was going to be boring anyway? I wouldn't be interested in a Spy Hunter movie even if someone like Ridley Scott or whoever was attached to this. It's just not a license that you can do that much with. For al i care, Anderson is the PERFECT choice for this. Mediocre director for a mediocre game-franchise. Can't really seem to see what the problem is here.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it could be much worse. It could be directed by Uwe Böll...

That said, I really like some of his stuff. Resident Evil was pretty good. Soldier was interesting, if only for the references to Blade Runner. And I was one of the 2 people out there who actually liked Mortal Kombat!