Why is Frank Miller pushing crap?

by Paul William Tenny

The SpiritIt amazes me how directors and actors -- writers don't have this luxury -- can have a really successful film with obvious sequel potential and the pick of the lot when it comes to future projects, and they basically throw it away by ignoring the reality of opportunity that afforded them such luxuries in the first place. Frank Miller had Sin City which was just a fantastically entertaining film based on his own graphic novel of the same name, immediately followed with the visually impressive and yet substantively boring and empty 300.

And now, by at least one person's account, Miller just produced the worst movie since Battlefield Earth.
I remember seeing a short series on one of the Discovery networks a number of years ago, I think it was called Hollywood Inc., or something like that. It was a docu show that loosely followed the parallel production of a couple of films from concept through box office release in each episode, featuring interviews with big name producers and actors and in one instance, a former studio head who was still on the job during the production(s) in question..

Great little series to watch if you ever get the chance.

They covered the production shutdown of Titanic due to budget overruns and the release of Fight Club which they credit with the downfall of Fox studio chief Bill Mechanic, along with Gladiator's script problems, an actor dying near the end of production, and Russel Crowe's ego problems.

I'm telling you about this because there's a clip where Colin Farrel talks about his success with Tigerland and Harts War, and how his new status afforded him the luxury to pick and choose which films he'd really want to be instead of what he'd have to try to get into just to make a living. While certainly true and well within his rights after what he has accomplished (perceived or otherwise), I found it rather arrogant and off putting and hence it has stuck with me these past number of years as an example of people finding success only to abuse it and never really have success again.

While the ability to pick and choose your projects is what everybody in the industry wants and would love to have, some people don't seem to pay enough respect to the unexpected opportunities that allowed them to do that in the first place. Some of the projects you turn your nose up at in favor of "the good stuff" is by definition going to be what made you in the first place, and if you want to keep moving up, doing vanity picks isn't going to service those goals.

Farrel hasn't had any significant "wins" at the box office and I haven't seven seen his face in a trailer since Miami Vice a couple of years ago, and then SWAT before that. While SWAT did okay, Vice kind of choked. Nothing else has been on the RADAR including the five films Farrel has currently in various stages of production, I'd say his career hasn't really been all that impressive.

300Miller really isn't all that different and his recent choices are calling into question the wisdom of giving him such opportunities to both write and direct his own films. 300 did monster business but I haven't found very many people that actually liked the film. Early reviews of The Spirit aren't flattering, with one person saying it's at least as bad if not worse than Battlefield Earth.

After 2 hours of ruminating, pondering what had just happened, we came up with this description of what the viewing experience was like: "I feel like I just watched a movie in a foreign language, where you speak JUST enough of the language to realize that the main character just said he had sex with your mother and then wrote a movie about it...a movie that you can't fully understand except for the nagging feeling that that's your mother up there getting reamed."

Excess drama aside, these are generally the kinds of things you hear about very talented film makers who found success, then went off to do dreamy, unrealistic and commercially nonviable films simply because they could. Miller and Farrel are far from the only examples of people going off the rails doing films you know aren't going to go anywhere.

The real loss here isn't that the public has to suffer through bad movies they went to see based on the credibility of great film makers, it's that these people are basically shooting out their own tires.

The Sin City sequel has been simmering on the back burner for nearly four years now even though everybody supposedly wants to do it, everybody except the guy who was the driving creative force behind the film and seems to want to do anything and everything except something that's the next best thing to automatic win in Hollywood. The way things work, if Miller flops with The Spirit and then flops again with the rumored Buck Rogers feature coming after, he may not have the momentum to step in and push Sin City 2 to the screen.

Two flops in a row could easily cost him his movie career, for that matter.

I know, there are plenty of examples of people continually making bad films with seemingly no significant repercussions, but this game is a cruel one and not everybody has the connections, luck, or ability to sell studios on bullshit to keep themselves afloat like that. Frank Miller is a genuinely talented guy on many levels, but I don't think he's a bullshit salesmen and I'm worried that if he acknowledge reality and take some of the more obvious opportunities open to him, he may not have enough credibility and capital saved up to survive very many mistakes or failures.

Buck Rogers?

How do you produce an incomprehensibly odd movie like The Spirit, a movie that nobody wants to see in Buck Rogers, and then expect to keep being allowed to make movies? I get that people want to make the movies they want to make, but they've also got to make movies that people want to see.

Frank Miller and Colin Farrel are not making movies that people want to see, and that's going to catch up with them eventually.
in Film


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