C'MON HOLLYWOOD: Wolverine, Aronofsky and the sad state of Fox
Last week, Darren Aronofsky; riding a career high after the tremendous critical and commercial success of BLACK SWAN, stepped down from 20th Century Fox’s upcoming X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE sequel, appropriately titled THE WOLVERINE. In the wake of his recent separation from actress Rachel Weisz, Aronofsky apparently re-prioritized his family commitments somewhat, and opted that the year-long production, slated to be shot on location in Japan was too long a separation. Fair enough. A movie is a movie, and family is family, and no one can fault Aronofsky for stepping down if that;s the reason.
That said, over the last few days, there’s been a lot of speculation that Aronofsky decided to step down due to BLACK SWAN’s success, which has made him bankable for the first time in his career. WOLVERINE was supposed to be the paycheck job that would do that, but instead audiences seem to have finally embraced Aronofsky’s work in its most undiluted form. Instead of WOLVERINE, I imagine he’ll be signing onto something less commercial, and more in line with his own interests as a filmmaker.
If that’s the case, then it’s still probably for the best that he’s stepping down, as who really wants to see a diluted Aronofsky film? Fans are understandably upset that he won’t be tackling the character, but how edgy would Fox have let Aronofsky make the film?
Since about 2005, 20th Century Fox, once one of the best studios in town, has made some of the worst “tentpole” films on record. Both FANTASTIC FOUR films, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, ERAGON, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, HITMAN, both ALIEN VS. PREDATOR films, THE HAPPENING, MEET DAVE, X-FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE, BABYLON A.D, MAX PAYNE, THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN LI, DRAGONBALL EVOLUTION, ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS, THE A-TEAM, the list goes on and on. Other than the occasional fluke like TAKEN (produced by Luc Besson’s Europa Corp), AVATAR (credit that one to James Cameron alone, rather than the studio) and WALK THE LINE, their output has been atrocious.
Of course, this doesn’t include Fox Searchlight, with them consistently putting out good films. But as far as the high-profile blockbusters go, what the hell is going on? Considering their full production slate, at least a few of the films I listed should have been good, but none of them were. Why? I think the big problem is the infamous way that Fox seems to make these films by committee. Many of the films I listed, including HITMAN, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, X-FILES, BABYLON A.D, and WOLVERINE were apparently butchered in the editing room, with many of the directors going on record stating that Fox ruined their films by insisting on PG-13 ratings, and a 100 minute running time.
Gavin Hood’s been a scapegoat for the failure of X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE, but I doubt anyone working under the same circumstances could have made that into a good film, and that includes Aronofsky. The budget looks like it was nickled and dimed (Wolvie's claws are some of the worst CGI in memory), and I've heard a lot of the film was reshot by the studio in the hope of "saving it" but likely making it even worse (although, that's purely speculation on my part). Under Aronofsky, WOLVERINE might have been a tight superhero flick, but would they have allowed him to make it truly unique? Remember when Ridley Scott was forced to cut an hour out of KINGDOM OF HEAVEN?
Perhaps we’re to blame, as Fox many not be good at making good movies, but they sure are good at making money. If we had taken a stand and boycotted X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, or the FANTASTIC FOUR films, maybe they would have seen the error of their ways- but they still made a mint off each film, no matter how bad they were.
To give Fox a modicum of credit, they are improving somewhat. Despite his experience on KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, Ridley Scott is returning to the studio to make the intriguing sounding PROMETHEUS. Whether or not they allow him to make a good film remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. Matthew Vaughn was brought on board to make X-MEN FIRST CLASS, which seems to be an inspired choice, but once again- whether or not it ends up being a good film remains to be seen.
As for WOLVERINE, I’m convinced it’ll get made no matter what. It’s as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning, as it’s all but a guaranteed hit no matter how bad the film might end up. My hope is that greed won’t rule the day, and that they’ll wait for someone with a unique take on the material to come along, rather than assigning it to one of their resident hacks like John Moore. My choice would be for them to wait for Bryan Singer to wrap JACK THE GIANT KILLER, or give it to an interesting up-and-comer like Duncan Jones, or better yet- someone like Edgar Wright, who could probably make a killer comic book film. Sadly, I’m not too optimistic, as they likely want someone who’ll jump in right away and get the production rolling by the fall so they can make a summer 2012 release date.
|Extra Tidbit:||Of course, there's also the whole question of whether or not the film will still be shot on location in Japan in the wake of the Earthquake/reactor crisis. Hopefully, the studio will go through with their plan to shoot on location.|