Monday, July 30, 2012
The Good, The Bland, and The Ugly: Steven Spielberg
Posted by Courtney Small
The premise of this is simple: if someone, who knows little about the director/actor/etc. in question, asked you to select one film for each of the following three categories below what films would they be?:
1) The Good – A film they should seek out right away
2) The Bland – Not among the best, but still a film they should see.
3) The Ugly – If pressed for time, this is the one film that they should skip in order to squeeze in more hours for the top works.
Keeping this in mind, my three would be as follows:
The Good – In many ways it is fitting to feature the king of the summer blockbusters, in my eyes at least, as we hit the final leg of this summer’s movie season. Similar to the previous two directors featured in this column, Steven Spielberg is a director that is tough for me to only single out one film for each category. The fact of the matter is that his films are one of the reasons I have grown to love cinema so much. While I am sure my choice will change given the particular day, I will start off by selecting Jurassic Park in this spot. While not as definitive as say Jaws, Raiders of the Lost Ark, or even Schindler’s List, I must admit that Jurassic Park is the film that brings out my inner child every single time I watch it. I still remember my fifteen year-old self being mesmerized by what was unfolding on screen. Although the film may not have been as chilling as the novel, what Spielberg and cast achieved is truly outstanding. The film is filled with several characters that you actually care about. If the film was made by a lesser director, characters such as Dr. Grant (Sam Neil), Dr. Sattler (Laura Dern), and Dr. Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) would have been merely be one dimensional figures that offered nothing significant to film. However, Spielberg manages to bring depth and emotional weight to each character. One other thing I find truly interesting about the film is that, after almost 20 years since its original release, Jurassic Park still holds up very well from a visual standpoint. The film’s special effects look far better than most big budget films released today.
The Bland – I know there will be those who will instant think of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, but aside from the unnecessary final act A.I. is a brilliant film. For me, War Horse is a film that fits this section perfectly. From a strictly technical standpoint War Horse is solid, as you would expect from Spielberg film, the sound is fantastic and the film is beautiful from a visual standpoint. However it is the human characters in the film, despite the talented actors Spielberg enlists to play them, who did not grab me at all. The film tries to show the various aspects of war through the individuals the horse encounters along its journey. The problem is, outside of the horse’s plight, none of the human stories struck any emotional resonance. Whenever the horse was not on screen, the film just felt rather bland. War Horse is one of the few films that I actually wished I had just seen the stage version instead.
The Ugly – Hook. I will never understand the love that many have for this film. Normally I am all for taking well known characters and reimaging them into something new and refreshing. However, Hook never evoked that childlike nostalgia in me like it did for so many others. The film focuses on an adult Peter Pan (Robin Williams) who has lost all sense of his youthful spirit. It is only after Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman) kidnaps Peter Pan’s children, that Peter ventures back to Neverland to regain both his kids and his childlike sense of wonder. Aside from the performances by Hoffman and Bob Hopkins, who plays Smee, none of the other performances grabbed me at all. At the end of the day though, it is the script that ultimately ruins Hook for me. The film is supposed to evoke a sense of childlike adventure, but everything from the one-liners to the overall plot conventions feels very uninspired.
What films would you select for each category? Let us know in the comments section.