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Whether or not you think Prometheus holds a candle to Alien, we can all agree on this: it's very, very good to see Ridley Scott returning to sci-fi. The director got his start in the genre before moving on to all kinds of different films, some great (Gladiator, Thelma & Louise), and more recently, a lot that were terrible (A Good Year, anybody?) The return to sci-fi with Prometheus seemed to revitalize Scott, get him back in touch with his younger self and help show a way that, even in his 70s, he could still be making some of the most exciting films out there.
So if it worked for Ridley, why not other directors? Everyone has a director they love who's seemed off their game in recent years, and we came up with 5 who don't just need a change of pace, but who need to get back to what they focused on in their younger years. Check out our suggestions below, and let us know of your own picks for directors who need to revisit their own pasts in the comments.
David Gordon Green
Not long ago I was firmly on the other side of this fence. Despite the success of Pineapple Express, not to mention a few great episodes of Eastbound & Down, the clamor for director David Gordon Green to return to his rural indie roots had already begun. It was quite a departure to see the man behind George Washington, Undertow and Snow Angels turn to stoner comedy, but since he was proving himself as deft at the broad blockbusters as he was at his deceptively simple and beautifully shot character stories, I simply saw no reason for him to look back. He had been there and done that (and done it quite well) so why not keep moving forward?
Well, my tune started to change as Eastbound grew increasingly old hat and Your Highness was a mixed bag at best, suggesting that his creative relationship with Danny McBride was perhaps starting to run dry and shooting something other than a comedy started to seem like a good idea. After the The Sitter, a film I actually turned off - and I turn nothing off - I was sure of it. The director could use some creative electroshock therapy and perhaps a return to his small town settings and intense, often familial, conflicts is just what David Gordon Green needs? His Suspiria remake, while not a return to his roots, at least offers the director a chance to shake things up but what I’d really love to see from him is a small dramedy. Perhaps Prince Avalanche, DGG’s secretive project starring Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch, based on the small Icelandic comedy Á Annan Veg (Either Way), is a step in the right direction?
Aside from Steven Spielberg, it's hard to think of anyone who brought more to mainstream films in the 80s than Robert Zemeckis. After getting his sea legs with the goofy Used Cars, he gave us four of the best adventure comedies of that decade, defining a genre that doesn't really even exist anymore. Between Romancing the Stone, the Back to the Future trilogy and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Zemeckis created films with the broadest possible appeal that were also never dumb, uniting audiences by giving them something they all wanted: sheer, perfect entertainment.
But success, as it so often does, wound up leading him astray, first to sappy Oscar bait like Forrest Gump and Cast Away, and then directly into the uncanny valley, where the fascination with mixing live action and animation that began with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? led to expensive failed experiments like Beowulf, A Christmas Carol, and the outright disaster Mars Needs Moms (which he produced). He's returning to live action for Flight, which looks promising, but it's still more of a character drama than the kind of guns-blazing adventure that Zemeckis perfected in the 80s. Nobody really makes movies like those anymore-- maybe Zemeckis is the guy we've been waiting for to bring them back.
Offering up colorful characters and breathtaking shootouts in worlds that were both incredibly dangerous and yet infused with a vibrant joie de vivre, French writer-director Luc Besson used to unleash some of the most exhilarating and inventive action movies the world had ever seen. Regrettably, his latest directorial efforts have been largely mired in the forgettable yet ongoing adventures of Arthur and the Invisibles. Still, there's hope on the horizon of a return to form with Besson prepping the crime-thriller Malavita, about a gangster in witness relocation. Of course, La Femme Nikita is great, but he's already revisited it through a remake (Point of No Return), a TV series, and two sort-of spiritual spin-offs (the classic Leon: The Professional and the flopped and forgotten Colombiana).
So if I had my druthers, Besson would return to the candy-colored world of The Fifth Element where hover cars fly around a sky-high metropolis, work uniforms are taken to a whole new level, and Gary Oldman is still one of the scariest things in the universe! The world(s) he laid out in this kinetic sci-fi action-comedy was so lush and expansive; it'd be easy to imagine entirely new stories within its purview. Of course, if Korben Dallas was set to ride again, I'd be more than on board with that as well.
Will the real Sam Raimi, please stand up? We’d really like to know if Raimi’s the quirky, gonzo indie director who helmed three masterful Evil Dead films, an animated (yet live-action) vengeance comic in Darkman, and an unpredictably unconventional Western in The Quick and the Dead? Is he a “serious” filmmaker content to explore “real” human emotions in manipulative, clichéd pap like For Love of the Game?
No clue. But we DO know we’d prefer Raimi to dabble in offbeat horror, even as he drifts further away from that format with each passing film. Raimi redefined the haunted-cabin template, changing the game so thoroughly that the equally brilliant Cabin in the Woods not-so-subtly shouted out to Evil Dead in multiple spots. Yet Raim regularly slips off this track, reaching for bigger-budgeted (and noticeably hollow) studio fare instead of streamlined and silly exercises in gory thrills.
Do we blame Spider-Man, particularly the misguided and oft-maligned third installment? Yes. But we thought Raimi was getting back on track. He purged the filth of Spider-Man 3 with the taut, terrifying Drag Me to Hell. Fans screamed, “He’s back!” Only he isn’t. Raimi’s collecting a studio paycheck by helming a Wizard of Oz prequel. Maybe it’s great. He just seems like the wrong talent for the job. Know what Raimi should tackle? The proposed Evil Dead reboot. Save us from a tired rehash of a story we’ve committed to memory. Take cues from Prometheus and give us an original spin on the story. There are signs Raimi wants this to happen. But wouldn’t it be great to see him back it up, and reclaim the genre he helped redefine in the first place?
Stupid people will tell you Kevin Smith is great when writing thoughtful, raunchy movies about New Jersey and shitty when writing about anything else, but the outspoken director’s filmography really doesn’t reflect that. Zach and Miri Make a Porno was great, and Red State is weird, clever and absolutely worth seeing. What Kevin Smith needs to do is start having some fucking fun making movies again. In 2010, he took a job directing Cop Out, which he was clearly less than excited doing. A year later, he self-released Red State after preemptively deciding most people would hate it, and now he’s supposedly retiring to do podcasts and wear out his Center Ice package after his upcoming hockey movie is released.
I miss the guy who wrote like a motherfucker and churned out hilarious shit because he was having too much goddamn fun hanging out with Scott Mosier, Jason Mewes and the rest of his buddies. If he doesn’t want to return to Jay & Silent Bob for awhile, I’m completely fine with that. I just want to see more joy and less rampant hate for the system. Maybe Hit Somebody will be universally acclaimed and make millions. Maybe a thousand people will see it. I don’t know, but regardless of what happens, I want to see Smith get back to writing brilliant, envelope-pushing dialogue he secretly laughs about with his buddies.