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The Good, The Bad & The Badass: Robert Zemeckis

11.21.2016
Last week, we examined the career of the legendary Warren Beatty. This week’s subject is a director with over thirty years of major hits on his resume...
Robert Zemeckis

While he now ranks among the most successful Hollywood directors of all-time, with his movies having made billions at the box office, Robert Zemeckis’s career got off to a rocky start. Along with Bob Gale, he wrote Steven Spielberg’s 1941, and the heat off that project, which hadn’t come-out at that point, allowed him to make his directorial debut on the raunchy comedy, USED CARS. Upon its initial release, 1941 was considered a disaster (along contrary to its rep, it never lost money) and USED CARS flopped at the box office, putting Zemeckis’s career in jeopardy.

Luckily, Michael Douglas took a chance on him, handing him the reins of ROMANCING THE STONE, which become one of the biggest hits of 1984 and turned Michael Douglas, then known mostly for TV and for being a producer, into a bona-fide movie star. Yet, Fox apparently thought the film would be a disaster and actually took him off COCOON. This was a blessing in disguise, with Zemeckis immediately jumping into his passion project, BACK TO THE FUTURE, and the rest is history.

Like his other early movies, BACK TO THE FUTURE was a controversial production, with original star Eric Stoltz getting replaced by Michael J. Fox relatively late into production. When it went on to become one of the biggest films of the decade, it didn’t really matter, and Zemeckis’s reputation was made. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, despite a controversially high budget, was another smash, and Zemeckis made the then novel decision to shoot BACK TO THE FUTURE II & III back-to-back, a model that’s become very popular in recent years. His follow-up DEATH BECOMES HER was a minor flop, but FORREST GUMP won him an Oscar for best director (controversially winning over Quentin Tarantino). After CAST AWAY and WHAT LIES BENEATH (both huge hits) he started championing motion-capture CGI, but in recent years has returned to live action with FLIGHT, THE WALK and this week’s ALLIED.

His Best Work

For me, this was pretty close between BACK TO THE FUTURE and WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT. The latter was probably more important on a technical level, with the novel SFX seamlessly blending cartoon and live-action, and seeing it theatrically as a six year old was a memorable experience - one of the most formative ones of my youth. Yet, it just doesn’t get better than BACK TO THE FUTURE. While I’m not quite as fond of the sequels as most other fans are, the original is a masterpiece and something of a cultural touchstone for my generation. Michael J. Fox may have been a late addition as Marty, but he’s the perfect surrogate for Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale. Along with Christopher Lloyd as doc, Lea Thompson, the Alan Silvestri score and pretty much everything else about it, BACK TO THE FUTURE feels like a miraculous piece of cinematic art where all the ingredients fell majestically into place.

His Most Overrated Work

I’m not a fan of Zemeckis’s extended sojourn into CGI animation. I despise the Motion Capture look, which gave all the character the dreaded “dead eye syndrome”, and BEOWULF and A CHRISTMAS CAROL did nothing for me, even though I respect the craft. THE POLAR EXPRESS has since gone on to become a minor classic (although it nearly lost money in its original release) but to me, it looks pretty primitive, especially a decade later. Pixar this ain’t.

His Most Underrated Film

A lot of people are awfully fond of Zemeckis’s USED CARS. Its a pretty interesting little film, being a wild, raunchy comedy about competing used car lots. It’s interesting to see how important this was in the evolution of Kurt Russell as an adult actor (he was coming off a run of Disney movies at the time) and it was an important stepping stone to ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK. It’s one of those movies that, had it been a hit, it might have creatively been a bad thing for all involved, and Zemeckis might have gotten pigeonholed as a comedy guy. It’s a great curio and a damn fun film.

His Best Scene

It doesn’t get much better than the unveiling of the DeLorean by Doc, with the great score by Silvestri, the production design, the FX and the performances by Fox and Lloyd adding up to one of the all-time classic scenes.

5. FLIGHT/ CAST AWAY (Tie)
4. FORREST GUMP
3. ROMANCING THE STONE
2. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
1. BACK TO THE FUTURE

Up Next

Now that he’s back in live-action, Zemeckis seems hellbent on making up for lost time, having churned out three movies in rapid succession. ALLIED is a distinctly adult, sexy thriller for him, and it’ll be interesting to see how its received by audiences.

CLICK IMAGE TO OPEN GALLERY & SEE MORE PICS...

Source: JoBlo.com

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2:50PM on 11/22/2016

I've got really mixed feelings about Zemeckis

The man has turned out a ton of mediocre to poor films over the years (his career average is a 56/100 on Metacritic) but when the man' on, he's on, I just wish that were more often. Back to the Future is one of the all-time great popcorn films (though, like Indiana Jones, I think it's critical reception is kind of over inflated because of this) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a very, very good movie, the fact that it stars a bunch of cartoon characters belies the fact of just how subtle and
The man has turned out a ton of mediocre to poor films over the years (his career average is a 56/100 on Metacritic) but when the man' on, he's on, I just wish that were more often. Back to the Future is one of the all-time great popcorn films (though, like Indiana Jones, I think it's critical reception is kind of over inflated because of this) and Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a very, very good movie, the fact that it stars a bunch of cartoon characters belies the fact of just how subtle and smart it is. I'm really bummed that Allied is getting such mediocre reviews (although the JoBlo review was petty positive).
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7:51PM on 11/21/2016
Man is a legend; Back to the Future (which is pretty much a perfect film) and Forrest Gump alone gives him a free pas for life (in my opinion).
Man is a legend; Back to the Future (which is pretty much a perfect film) and Forrest Gump alone gives him a free pas for life (in my opinion).
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7:15PM on 11/21/2016
-3/10: WHAT LIES BENEATH.
-5/10: A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
-6/10: FLIGHT; WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
-7/10: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III; DEATH BECOMES HER; ROMANCING THE STONE.
-8/10: THE WALK.
-9/10: BACK TO THE FUTURE PARTS I & II; CAST AWAY; FORREST GUMP.


[Spoilers ahead]


Best scenes:
-MARTY MCFLY's (successful) attempt to go... well, back to the future.
-CHUCK NOLAND says "Goodbye" (not literally) to WILSON.
-PHILLIPE PETIT does... the walk.
-3/10: WHAT LIES BENEATH.
-5/10: A CHRISTMAS CAROL.
-6/10: FLIGHT; WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT?
-7/10: BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III; DEATH BECOMES HER; ROMANCING THE STONE.
-8/10: THE WALK.
-9/10: BACK TO THE FUTURE PARTS I & II; CAST AWAY; FORREST GUMP.


[Spoilers ahead]


Best scenes:
-MARTY MCFLY's (successful) attempt to go... well, back to the future.
-CHUCK NOLAND says "Goodbye" (not literally) to WILSON.
-PHILLIPE PETIT does... the walk.
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6:34PM on 11/21/2016
One of my favorites. I don't the guy has ever made a movie I disliked (of those I've seen). Even his CGI films are decent (Beowulf being the best), and some are classics (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future trilogy, Roger Rabbit). I respect him for refusing to let studios try to reboot Back to the Future or force additional sequels.
One of my favorites. I don't the guy has ever made a movie I disliked (of those I've seen). Even his CGI films are decent (Beowulf being the best), and some are classics (Forrest Gump, Back to the Future trilogy, Roger Rabbit). I respect him for refusing to let studios try to reboot Back to the Future or force additional sequels.
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3:31PM on 11/21/2016
Zemeckis is one of the all-time greats. Hard to pick a favorite, but if my feet were held to the fire, I'd go with Back to the Future. Simply a perfect movie.
Zemeckis is one of the all-time greats. Hard to pick a favorite, but if my feet were held to the fire, I'd go with Back to the Future. Simply a perfect movie.
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2:10PM on 11/21/2016
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Back to the Future are both textbook examples to me of movie magic. WFRR had a particularly big impact on me (my avatar wasn't chosen at random), especially for being kind of an introduction to the detective genre, one of my favorites, but also, no movie has so successfully married live-action and cartoons, and had the story to back it up. BTTF was a movie I always liked, but it's not until I was older that the craftsmanship is really apparent. Not to mention that
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Back to the Future are both textbook examples to me of movie magic. WFRR had a particularly big impact on me (my avatar wasn't chosen at random), especially for being kind of an introduction to the detective genre, one of my favorites, but also, no movie has so successfully married live-action and cartoons, and had the story to back it up. BTTF was a movie I always liked, but it's not until I was older that the craftsmanship is really apparent. Not to mention that next to George Lucas and James Cameron, Zemeckis has been one of the most technically groundbreaking filmmakers of the past 30-odd years (whatever you think of Forrest Gump, seeing Tom Hanks next to JFK and John Lennon is still impressive). When I saw Flight, it was not only a great return-to-form for Zemeckis, but also for Denzel Washington, who for all his badassness, it first and foremost a great actor.
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1:23PM on 11/21/2016

Flight is so underrated

And I kind of think Forrest Gump is a bit overrated.
And I kind of think Forrest Gump is a bit overrated.
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12:04PM on 11/21/2016

My whole purpose in life is to make... people... laugh!

One of the best in the business. All the Back to the Future films are classics, and Roger Rabbit is one of my all time favorite films. Used Cars is hilarious, and I enjoyed Death Becomes Her as well. I don't think he has made a bad film. Plus Contact should be on that list of best and probably most underrated, I think it is an amazing film. Although Forrest Gump was an instant classic from the start, I do think Pulp Fiction should of won that year because it was a game changer.
One of the best in the business. All the Back to the Future films are classics, and Roger Rabbit is one of my all time favorite films. Used Cars is hilarious, and I enjoyed Death Becomes Her as well. I don't think he has made a bad film. Plus Contact should be on that list of best and probably most underrated, I think it is an amazing film. Although Forrest Gump was an instant classic from the start, I do think Pulp Fiction should of won that year because it was a game changer.
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10:46AM on 11/21/2016

THE WALK was amazing in IMAX 3D

Although the movie has it flaws, the experimence in IMAX 3D was just breath taking, of course I am talking about the scene between the towers, I remember people in the audience yelling and feeling dizzy...
That scene was the most fantastic piece of interactivity I ever had in a movie my whole life... We will never experience it again in 3D home video...
Although the movie has it flaws, the experimence in IMAX 3D was just breath taking, of course I am talking about the scene between the towers, I remember people in the audience yelling and feeling dizzy...
That scene was the most fantastic piece of interactivity I ever had in a movie my whole life... We will never experience it again in 3D home video...
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10:37AM on 11/21/2016
Badass indeed. Of course, his best work is Back To The Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And I totally forgot that he directed Used Cars. Need to re-visit that movie some day. Actually Beowulf isn't that bad as well. I hated it the first time I watched but upon repeated viewings on television it's actually alright.
Badass indeed. Of course, his best work is Back To The Future and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. And I totally forgot that he directed Used Cars. Need to re-visit that movie some day. Actually Beowulf isn't that bad as well. I hated it the first time I watched but upon repeated viewings on television it's actually alright.
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