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DISSECTING THE DIRECTOR: Jonathan Liebesman

03.20.2012by: Marcey Papandrea
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"JONATHAN LIEBESMAN"

Jonathan Liebesman is a fairly recent addition to the genre, his first feature length film was released in 2003 and he has been working steadily ever since. His films are all different from one another; he doesn’t stick to doing the same thing over and over. He hasn’t had the best reception from fans, but is he really all that bad? Are his best days still to come? Well let’s take a look at the man …

BEST WORK


Get Battle: Los Angeles on DVD here
Get Battle: Los Angeles on Blu-ray here

Hands down BATTLE: LOS ANGELES is the best film he has made. When I first saw it last year in theatres, it made an impression on me for a few different reasons. Visually it is great, the action is packed and I really liked the tension that it built-up. The look really felt like a real like video game, I dug it. The let-down however was the script; plot holes, bad science and dialogue which really messed it up.

The technical side really worked and I felt Liebesman had a great understanding with structuring the action and handling all the special effects. This is where he shined, and most of the action scenes worked extremely well. It was nicely shot and as I said it really felt like a video game, except you aren’t playing it, you are experiencing it. It is done on such a grand scale and managing to keep the action and the tension up was no easy task but he really pulled it off.

The downside is really the script; it really isn’t that good and there are many flaws. While the actors do a decent job, there is only so much they can do with the bad dialogue. I didn’t really have a problem with anyone, it follows the usual pattern and in the end I just didn’t care. I don’t watch a film like this for character development, I watch it for the action and I think Liebseman had this in mind too. It is a pretty fun film and I liked it a lot more on re-watch.

WORST WORK


Get Darkness Falls on DVD here
Get Darkness Falls on Blu-ray here

His absolutely worst is DARKNESS FALLS, and it isn’t hard to see why. This film went through a lot; changes and studio interference basically ruined what could have been a solid film. Instead we get this piece of nonsense, it is so silly and it is honestly too short to even make a real impact.

There isn’t much to say here, the first few minutes are promising but it goes down hill from there. The plot holes are terrible, things don’t make sense and it feels like either no one read the script or it was being rewritten as it was being shot. The monster isn’t scary, and the way it works is just incredibly stupid.

You know I place zero blame on this mess on Liebesman, the film he intended never saw the light of day. The studio got want they wanted and it was an epic fail, I’d rather see what the director intended, but instead I was subjected to this studio mockery. I feel for directors when this happens and in short this has now become his worst and he basically had no hand in it. Oh yes and the studio did such a great editing job they had to have 12 minutes of credits so it was long enough to release theatrically, well done …

TRADEMARKS


Get The Killing Room on DVD here
Get The Killing Room on Blu-ray here

Liebesman is very much a visual guy, which is his trademark. He uses his visuals to set the mood and atmosphere, and this is something he often does right off the bat with his work. I noticed this right away with him, and this is quite evident with the opening scene of DARKNESS FALLS, and its more decent elements are really his visuals and the mood that was created.

As with THE KILLING ROOM as well and this is a great example, it has great visuals and a very eerie atmosphere, the tension is also high in this one and the formula was repeated with BATTLE: LOS ANGELES. His flair for creating thrillers is evident, and he certainly has aimed to add this with all of his films. While he doesn’t stick to too many trademarks, these are certainly ones that distinguish him from the rest.

HIDDEN GEM


Get The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on DVD here
Get The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning on DVD here

I actually chose to go with THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING because I was actually quite surprised by this. I only saw it recently, and after all the horrible things I had heard, I expected to absolutely hate it. But I didn’t, In fact I thought it was quite good and entertaining and even surpassing a few things that Nispel did with his remake. This is a prequel to that remake, and it actually felt like this should have been what they made in 2003 and have that version come out later. It did feel like a prequel, actors and characters returning, bringing things in together.

I really liked the visuals with this, it had that same raw and gritty feel as Nispel’s but it was less stylised and I actually liked that. It had a really nice solid flow, and the characters here weren’t as annoying. The guys faired better than the girls, who really were reduced to eye candy but when you have Jordana Brewster and Diora Baird, you kind of can’t help but show off their beauty. The star is of course R. Lee Ermey, he stole the show in the remake and the same can be said here. Andrew Bryniarski was great once again as Leatherface. My only gripe really with this film was it was too heavy on the extreme and didn’t utilise enough natural fear and panic. This came out when the ultra gory was popular, which is a shame because it could have easily fully surpassed the remake.

NEXT PROJECT

Next up for Liebesman is WRATH OF THE TITANS, the follow up to 2009’s CLASH and star Sam Worthington has been singing its praises as being a much better film. The visual elements here are fantastic and Liebesman certainly seems in his element, the fit seems good and I am curious to check this out.

Synopsis: A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus --the demigod son of Zeus --is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity's lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon.

The triumvirate had overthrown their powerful father long ago, leaving him to rot in the gloomy abyss of Tartarus, a dungeon that lies deep within the cavernous underworld. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus' godly son, Ares, switch loyalties and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans' strength grows stronger as Zeus' remaining godly powers are siphoned, and hell is unleashed on earth. Enlisting the help of the warrior Queen Andromeda, Poseidon's demigod son, Argenor, and fallen god Hephaestus, Perseus bravely embarks on a treacherous quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus, overthrow the Titans and save mankind.

Also as we found out recently, Michael Bay is producing a full reboot of the TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES with Liebesman apparently on board to direct. We shall see how this one pans out, but a release has been set for late next year.

OVERALL

As I mentioned with Nispel, I think Liebesman hasn’t given us his best yet and I think he’ll surprise us with his worth. I certainly don’t wholly agree with his reputation as being a hack, he works with what he has been given and I think he has done a decent job for the most part. He is going to have a long career ahead, WRATH will no doubt bring in some good business and he’ll go on to other things. If he plays his cards right, his reputation will change to something much better.

Is there a director you hope to see Dissected? Feel free to send Marcey your suggestions to marcey@joblo.com

Extra Tidbit: Jonathan Liebesman has directed a number of well received short films in addition to his feature work.
Tags: dissecting

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8:05PM on 03/20/2012
Excellent dissection!
Excellent dissection!
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7:15PM on 03/20/2012
Dude has a great eye, is a class act in real life, he just needs better scripts IMO
Dude has a great eye, is a class act in real life, he just needs better scripts IMO
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5:34AM on 03/21/2012
I agree with you there.

I am curious to see Wrath, scored a nice early IMAX screening, woohoo!
I agree with you there.

I am curious to see Wrath, scored a nice early IMAX screening, woohoo!
6:00PM on 03/20/2012
TCM: The Beginning is a guilty pleasure of mine (much like the 2003 film).
TCM: The Beginning is a guilty pleasure of mine (much like the 2003 film).
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3:49PM on 03/20/2012
I've seen the above films and I enjoyed them all. So for whatever it is worth, I think he's pretty good. (I haven't seen Wrath of the Titans, it isn't out yet, but I will.)
I've seen the above films and I enjoyed them all. So for whatever it is worth, I think he's pretty good. (I haven't seen Wrath of the Titans, it isn't out yet, but I will.)
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11:16AM on 03/20/2012
Another good dissection Marcey. I agree in digging Battle: LA. It was fun for what it was. Darkness falls was indeed shit, and I actually haven't seen his TCM flick I'm going to have to check it out. On the Wrath of the Titans front, well it looks better than Clash.
Another good dissection Marcey. I agree in digging Battle: LA. It was fun for what it was. Darkness falls was indeed shit, and I actually haven't seen his TCM flick I'm going to have to check it out. On the Wrath of the Titans front, well it looks better than Clash.
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