5 – Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Both Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children fuses its post-apocalyptic setting with irreverent comedic overtones and steampunk aesthetics to create some truly unique fantasy films of the 90s. The sci-fi motifs are sparse, the expositions to contextualize their diegetic realities are minimal, and the imagination in both visuals and ideas are phenomenal. It’s little wonder, then, that his visual and narrative style wouldn’t mesh in the Hollywood machine, and especially not for a hot property like Alien.
Alien: Resurrection had the smoothest production in the history of the franchise, but it would still run into various issues, notably studio space and the final script; Jeunet had trouble finding suitable recording spaces due to other blockbusters in production at the same time. Any idea Jeunet had was rejected by the studio, and any that somehow made it to the screen was more of an odd allusion; Ripley’s maternal behavior is purposefully ugly, yet tonally doesn’t coincide with the rest of the film, and the claustrophobic close-ups were due to financial restraint and smaller sets rather than a creative choice. In short, Jeunet found the whole affair a tough experience to not be able to fully create the Alien film he wanted with constant studio interference. His follow-up feature, Amelie, proves his best works are on the fringes, and part of the European film circuit.
4 – Noam Murro
Smart People may have a tremendously flawed conclusion with its sudden and abrupt character changes, but it is, nonetheless, an entertaining and cynical look at the life of academia and how one copes with grief. Its charm resides with the cast, their on-screen chemistry, and the dialogue that offers moments of wit.
Noam Murro’s next film would be the (apparently!) eagerly anticipated 300 sequel, 300: Rise of an Empire. 300 was a silly film, with moments of wry irreverence and a visual style that complimented its comic-book origins. Rise of an Empire, conversely, was silly without the fun, and po-faced without self-awareness. Entrenched in an underdog narrative, it lacked much of the escapist fare the predecessor had, and relied too heavily on action set pieces. Furthermore, the action set pieces were significantly lacklustre in contrast to its predecessor; they look less like original ideas and more like parodies. Murro has nothing set in production in the future, but one hopes he distances himself from the big-budget hollow nonsense that this clearly was.
3 – David Lynch
Eraserhead is every art student’s first favourite surrealist film about the fear of fatherhood, careers, and sexuality. Lynch’s following feature, The Elephant Man, brought the infamous character of Joseph Merrick, a man born with an unclear physical deformity, to the big screen, and along with it a number accolades. Could this surrealist filmmaker with an understanding of linear narrative bring the dense sci-fi epic Dune to cinema?
Of course not; this infamous blunder has, in recent years, gained a cult following with some commenting the film is better appreciated after reading the book. This is flawed opinion, for any adaptation should be able to stand on its own merit, cannot disguise Dune’s ugly aesthetics, its melodramatic space opera narrative, and its desperate desires follow the success of Star Wars. Lynch has always distanced himself from this film following a dispute over final-cut privileges, and has since maintained his status as an avant-garde American filmmaker.
2 – Neil Burger
Limitless is a techno-thriller done with a visual flare, and takes pleasure in having fun with the concept of a drug that chemically heightens cognitive thinking. The period drama that is The Illusionist tackles social class differences and forbidden love with nuance and magic. On paper, Burger looks to be an ideal candidate for the young-adult sci-fi-fantasy Divergent.
It’s unfortunate to note this shameless cash-in on the success of The Hunger Games is inevitably as dull, predictable, and safe as one would expect. With a film that borrows everything from a feisty female protagonist, to the level-based tutorials, through to adolescent characters fighting against the tyrannical adult-overlords, this film cannot even be saved by Burger’s visual flare. It’s a shame the success has spawned a franchise that is aggressively following The Hunger Games formula, going as far as to split the final book into two-parts. It is, however, fortunate Burger did not return.
1 – Gavin Hood
Tsotsi, set in the slums of a Johannesburg district, follows the youthful titular character and his street gang. It’s a redemptive coming-of-age ‘hood’ film as Tsotsi, through his illegal and thuggish actions, tries to do right by his friends, and to care of an orphaned baby (orphaned by his careless murderous actions). It’s an anti-hero narrative with a heart. So doesn’t he sound like the ideal candidate for X-Men Origins: Wolverine?
It’s no secret that this is the worst X-Men film to-date – everything from the tension-less narrative, and uninspired set pieces, to the despicable presentation of Deadpool (the recent trailer looks a little more promising, so we may all be able to recover). It offered no greater insight into the Wolverine character that prior films hadn’t already done so. It had all the markings of a studio less interested in telling an origin story, and more interested in box office receipts (we all know that’s what Hollywood films primary objective is, but we shouldn’t be aware of that). Moreover, this film underperformed greatly that Fox decided to change tact, and hired Bryan Singer to rewrite its planned sequel X-Men Origins: Magneto to form what would be X-Men: First Class.
Hood tried big-budget Hollywood again with the forgettable Ender’s Game, and, again, due to a major underperformance at the box office caused the studio to halt future sequels. Hood, you should definitely stick with smaller films.