Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The New Next Nothing

A few weeks ago, Movieretreiver.com posted an article about who the "new next Spielberg" is, after Time's bold acclamation that M. Night Shyamalan held the title went bust after his recent string of failures (for what it's worth, I think he's a fine visual director, capable of giving his films the perfect atmosphere of heightened, creepy reality; he just needs to get out of his own head and stop using the same gimmicks over and over). The article has some very interesting choices, ranging from Joe Johnston to Neill Blomkamp to Pixar, but I personally disagree with all of them.
Why is that? I honestly can't stand it when something is hyped as "the next [insert film title/director/actor here]." That's why I disagree that Shyamalan is the the next Spielberg, or why Blomkamp or J.J. Abrams don't hold that title either. None of these directors will ever be Spielberg; only the latter can hold that. Sure, the influences he had on Abrams and Shyamalan are more than evident, but those directors also have their own unique style that differs from Spielberg's. No one can be the next Spielberg because no one can be exactly like him, and that's not a bad thing. Perhaps that's why Shyamalan's career has been in free-fall: people expect Spielbergian films from him, whether they consciously mean to or not. That pressure to deliver may have prevented him from making the films he truly intended to make (of course, it could be that he just ran out of freshness in his work. That's very plausible as well.).
Two men, two singular talents.
And this doesn't apply to directors. When a film is called "the next 'Ring'" or "the next 'Twilight'" or, in the case of Twilight, "the next 'Harry Potter,'" it irritates me to know that people will go into those films expecting the films they're being compared to. There are huge differences between Twilight and the Harry Potter films, just as there are huge differences between The Ring and something like The Uninvited. Taylor Lautner is not "the next Tom Cruise", either, because their respective careers and talent are markedly different.
The point of all of these is that films, directors, and actors should be weighed on their own merits, not how they're "the next" anything. Everyone's got a unique level of talent and career, and should be viewed as such. Of course influences are present, and to be influenced by another director/film/actor is certainly worthy of being pointed out, but to call Christopher Nolan the next Stanley Kubrick doesn't do justice to either man.
PS Speaking of Christopher Nolan, I want to take a minute to justify the use of close-up in the action scenes of Inception rather than wide shots. Cinema is art. Therefore, the director is the artist, creating on his canvas the vision that he has. The close-ups are justified by Nolan's effort to add tension to the scenes. Yes, there's more spectacle to be had from wide-shots, where one can see everything that's happening. But with the close-up you can't see everything, placing you in the action. As a result, the tension increases, and the film works better on a whole as an action film. That's not to say that all action sequences should be in close-up. I'm just saying that its the director's (and cinematographer's) decision, and if it works for the benefit of the film, then it's acceptable.

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