Tuesday, November 11, 2008

McG's Wonder Woman Versus Spielberg's Oldboy

Nice to see you again.

Lets get some basics straight, right off the bat - Whedon's Wonder Woman should have been given the greenlight years ago; the last film Spielberg made that I can care about, for the good at least, and in any significant way is Jurassic Park, and that was because of the work of Phil Tippet and Dennis Muren.

Two prospective projects are getting discussed at length on the geek pages this week. One is a McG film of Wonder Woman, possibly - or possibly not - starring Beyonce Knowles. The other is a remake of Chan Wook Park's Oldboy, directed by Spielberg and starring Will Smith.

Will Smith, okay. I can work with that. I can see a very fruitful process in taking Oldboy and adapting it to fit Smith. If you run his skillset and screen persona through Oldboy you will end up with something sufficiently interesting and different to warrant a remake in the first place. It definitely doesn't kill the film, just makes it stranger. Will Smith lives in a specific world and is set at a specific register and planting Oldboy, full plot intact, on the fringes of this world intrigues me. Tom Cruise would be even more interesting. George Clooney, about as interesting. Nicolas Cage, less so - no offense, Nic, I still love you. If I were remaking Oldboy, I'd try to get Tom Cruise onboard in the lead.

Spielberg is the big problem with the plan. I simply don't think he has anything like the skills required to balance the elements of the storytelling here. Oldboy's is not an easy story to tell well - even Park, one of the greatest of all filmmakers didn't play a perfect game, and I doubt he would deny it. But he did do an incredible job. The film is jaw dropping, entirely entertaining, almost entirely engrossing and, for 5/6ths of the time, technically awesome. It would take something like an on-form Hitchcock, desperately hungry Tarantino or calm, relaxed Gilliam to execute the maneuvers necessary to pull off Oldboy to perfection. Spielberg won't even come close.

McG's Wonder Woman on the other hand seems a brighter proposition.

A satisfying Wonder Woman film would not NEED the conceptual complexity of Oldboy (as much as it might benefit from it) just a strong, keen concept and super polished execution. I know McG can do this - I've seen his three films, at least twice each, and with the exception of some later sequences in Full Throttle, found them utterly convincing. Convincing, that is, that McG could take a Wonder Woman, or a Superman, even a Batman, a Star Wars, an Indiana Jones and hit it out of the park.

The best director to make an Indiana Jones film so far was Robert Zemeckis: Romancing the Stone . While it was a far better piece of visual filmmaking than any of the "real Indy" films, he didn't have a Lawrence Kasdan script. Shame. Kasdan sure knows how to write. With a script of that caliber, McG could make a popcorn flick for the ages, I have no doubt. Louis Letterier - sub McG, for sure - will get his chance with the upcoming Clash of the Titans, assuming, of course, that it is still a Kasdan script when it goes before the cameras.

(Actually, Danny the Dog aka Unleashed is a case in point. The end film definitely stays afloat despite Letterier's intermittently bad decisions blasting a few medium size holes in the hull)

So, Wonder Woman's fate rests now in the hands of the script writers - getting the plot right, the pacing and structure just so, the dialogue under control; Oldboy already has that all ready to be maintained, and the quality of the remake there rests more squarely in the hands of the director. So, if I were a gambling man, I'd be betting on McG's film being the better, and that's even with the risk of a Rossio-Elliot-Orci-Kurtzmann-Nathanson-Koepp screenplay.

Postscript: and, yes, that was a riff on a line in The Dark Knight but no, I didn't like the film. Not at all, really. Gary Oldman was great... er... and... er... Ledger was good... Eckhart was good most of the time... and... er...

Another time.

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