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July 24 2006

The director as a brand. Bizarro article which tries to cite Joss as one of those directors who attach themselves to "franchise movies" instead of going for original projects.

I don't think that's quite what it's trying to say... I certainly wouldn't brand (!) it bizarro ;)
Well, he did Toy Story which was original, then he did rewrites for a bunch of movies that were originals off a franchie (like a comic book).
Btw, I loved Lady in the Water.
I disagree with the writer's ideas in two ways. First of all, in what way is "Serenity" NOT "original"? Second, I would say that if you do the first film in a series, that is "original," and it's only the people who do the sequels who are doing the "franchise" movies. So, Sam Raimi was very, very original doing Spider-Man (which really are great movies!), but the guys doing the 4th and 5th Harry Potter -- good directors, but franchise, IMO.

BTW, I would say the irony is for me that the writer says Mr. Shyamalan has a "vision" and is not a franchise director. I would say his films are all so similar, that each one feels like a remake of the previous one, and they are more "franchise" than any comic book movie could ever be, IMO! (I have not seen Lady in the Water, though I have seen all his other movies.) ;-)
I think this author makes an interesting point with regards to the film making industry but I think he missed the mark. He faults the directors for choosing to take the helm of something beloved and exciting. Maybe these Hollywood sequel's are not of the same artistic calibur or as original as The Searchers or Psycho but they are not meant to be. Plain and simple, they are entertainment. I can assure you all that Ang Lee's Hulk was different (and more artistic) than using a cookie cutter for a director. Just like Joss' Wonder Woman will be. IMHO, Bell should be pointing his sword at Hollywood for making these projects reality, not these fine directors.

(I hear they are casting an Oscar winner to play the role of Superman's father!!! Can you belive it? How could he lower his standards...from The Godfather to Superman? Surely a bomb in the making. Ha.)
I can assure you all that Ang Lee's Hulk was different (and more artistic) than using a cookie cutter for a director.


Ang Lee did try something different but The Hulk was the dullest superhero movie I have ever seen. Plus it had mutant poodles. What was up with that?
Well from the start this guy made me get all defensive over Joss, who is a fantasticly creative and wonderful director and writer, but we all already know that don't we? I get the point he was trying to make, but did he really have to use Joss as his prime example? Joss cares about his work! And I care about Joss, so as far as i'm concerned this guy deserves a slow and painful death by spider bites! Or being tied up in a cave where vampires happend to frequent. Yup.
There is no doubt in my mind that Joss will create a "WonderWoman" movie filled with originality and creativity. I also await the "Goners" movie with as much patience as I can summon. *Sighs*
Lest we forget, one of the things even the most brilliant and creative directors, including Joss, need to produce any film is the funding to make the movie the way it should be made. He managed that with "Serenity, " and I believe he will do so with any project he does. But he doesn't always get to choose which project gets greenlighted first...the moneymen have a say in it too. *Sighs again*
Neither has been greenlit yet right? For all we know Goners will come out first.
These directors have attached themselves to brand-name properties, but whatever happened to the director himself as a brand?

Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Ford Coppola, the Coen Bros. -- to name a few off the top of my head. I'm not sure Hollywood is in short supply of "brand-name" directors.

The underlying concern here is that indie-hit directors like Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi have abandoned their art by signing on to direct well-established commercial properties. The author's "memo" to Joss Whedon -- "you'll only be remembered if you stick to the bold course you started with" -- brings that concern front and center.

Does this mean one can only be bold with one's own material? If so, that eliminates Hitchcock completely, arguably the most "brand-name" director in film history. I'm not aware of any original Hitchcock screenplays. If one argues that it was Hitch's directorial vision that made him a bold original, and not his source material, then that means source material is not as critical to artistic integrity as the author seems to think. Bottom line: It doesn't matter whether Joss works from an original or an existing premise, so long as he continues to exercise his original vision as a narrative artist.
Just a side note, the Browncoat table at Comic-Con this past weekend had a flier with "Goners" on it. Joss stopped by the table and was thrilled to say the least, that we had already started promoting it, in fact he came by a second time with the cast of Goners to show them the booth, and flier. It was wonderful to be in the presence of such a creative soul. Can't wait to see it, and anything else by this brilliant man.
He had a point, but I think he undermined it by trying to use Joss as his prime example. Joss has indicated that one of the reasons he decided to do it was because WW was new territory for the movies. She was in many ways both a recognizable figure and an unknown quantity to the general public.

Joss has taken on a huge challenge that could pay off for him in recognition and status, but is not in any way an established franchise or even a remake of a previously done movie. My understanding is that he is trying to create the first successful female comic superhero movie. (If I am wrong on that one, I expect someone will tell me nicely and with finesse.) That is far from being the francise drone that this article seems to imply.

I also have a hard time putting Lord of the Rings in that category. It was a set of books that had never been made into a serious movie...like Gone with the Wind in 1939 or any number of movies created from popular books. Apparently this article considers any movie adaptation from another medium a lesser calling than creating the story from scratch. I guess Shakespeare using all those stories from previous writers to interpret into plays means he sold out too. If that is the case, I can live with Joss in the same category. OK. It all makes sense now.

Hey! Goners has a cast? Did I know that already?
He had a point, but I think he undermined it by trying to use Joss as his prime example.

Particularly since continuing his own original 'franchise' with Serenity was never really a viable immediate option after its box office showing.

[ edited by Grounded on 2006-07-24 22:06 ]
Just thinking the same thing? Goners, a cast?
I agree with newcj. I don't see how Wonder Woman is a franchise when all we've had (apart from the comics) is a seventies TV show, while most "original" movies slavishly follow a tried-and-tested format. How many romantic comedeys / action movies / thrillers have people seen that are truly different and original? Genre movies are just about the only ones that dare to break from the mould.
Just a side note, the Browncoat table at Comic-Con this past weekend had a flier with "Goners" on it.

Oh my gosh, where were you guys? (sorry for off-topic) I was there on Saturday and was turned around and dazed by the huge crowds in the booth area, I hardly saw anything, though I made a point of stopping first at the Christopher Reeve Foundation booth. If I'd been more knowledgeable (first convention attended), I might have gotten to say Hello and found out Goners scoop. I posted my Joss sighting in the thread that's now in Archives (Joss will be signing at Comic-Con) Okay, now I'll go read the article.
"Hey! Goners has a cast? Did I know that already?"

Yeah I was just thinking that myself. Enlighten us Livewire!
I think the author is arranging the facts to fit his premise. Calling Joss Whedon a prolific director is a little odd, since he has only directed 'Serenity', but discussing Whedon's screen writing career wouldn't agree with the arguments he is wanting to make. There is no reason to make a case over the fact that the contractual obligations to the Wonder Woman project are taking precedence over Goners.
Yep, Livewire, inquiring minds need to know. Unless it's a special secret in which case just whisper it ;).

I think there is a point to be made about Hollywood's lack of originality but the Sweden fella isn't the right row to hoe if you ask me. He's made his name by treating well known characters or stereotypes in a new way. I think basically subverting (or helping to subvert since Scream was also about at the time) an entire genre may qualify as original and until we see Wonder Woman we can't know if it's going to be franchise hack-work (strikes me unlikely but you never know) or the most humane, original movie ever made. Have a pop at the execs that won't greenlight anything without the right inbuilt demographic, not the creative schmoes toiling in the trenches. Well maybe not toiling. Or trenches for that matter but YKWIM.

And, just to be clear, the author holds Kevin Smith up as a paragon of originality for doing a sequel to his own film ? Say whuh ? Writer/directors are fairly rare anyway so the most a director does is bring a unique visual style to someone else's script (and I have trouble believing even Peter Jackson could get $200 million to make an unknown commodity into a film, just not the way Hollywood strikes me as working - leaving aside the dubious nature of spending $200 million on any film).

Personally, though i'm very leery of the whole 'sell out' label. Spiderman 2 was until the (to me, undeservedly successful) Pirates sequal the 3rd biggest opener of all time. Undoubtedly a franchise movie yet it's got Sam Raimi all over it. Really, anyone that's seen his earlier stuff would peg Spidey 2 as a Raimi film within about 15 minutes (even moreso than the first film, IMO). How then has he compromised his artistic vision ? He's just doing what he's always done only with more money.
"How then has he compromised his artistic vision ? He's just doing what he's always done only with more money."

Which extends his fame, and therefore his clout to do more of whatever he wants in the future.

I mean, really. If Joss wants to have the clout to demand a no-holds-barred project called, oh, let's say "Return to Serenity", how much more likely would it be to see the light of day if it could be sold to a wider audience as the latest from "the guy who made that kickass Wonder Woman movie"?

For every Kevin Smith, there's a ton of outstanding talent that never got that extra stand out opportunity to woo financiers. F*** pride. You get a project, you do your best with it, you earn my respect as an artist.
I don't see what's wrong with Joss doing Wonder Woman at all. Like when Sam Raimi made the Spiderman films, he took stories from the comics to make two excellent films that he made his own mark on. I think that's much better than doing a sequel to a film which really doesn't require a sequel (Clerks) or a remake (as I can't actually think of a single remake that wasn't superfluous- if it wasn't good enough first time around I doubt it can be improved much, and if it was a good film, then why remake it?).

And career wise, although Serenity was an artistic triumph, and is probably making a profit now, it wasn't quite the breakout success we hoped it would be. So it is safer for Joss to work on a Wonder Woman film from which he has source material to draw upon, and heavy support from the studio, in order to make an excellent film to improve his clout in Hollywood so he can continue to bring his own original stories to the screen. Sometimes you just have to collect the paycheck. But that's not to say that Wonder Woman won't be a good film or that Joss doesn't respect the source material.

I don't think Joss is the best example of this supposed problem, though. Okay, he is doing Wonder Woman but that is the only existing popular franchise he is working with at the moment. Serenity, although following Firefly, was still approached very much like a completely new idea and hadn't exactly entered pop culture quite like WW. Goners is a completely new story. And anyway, someone like Peter Jackson took a previously unfilmable set of books and translated them into a living, breathing universe which was fantastically able to please the fans of LotR and capture a very wide mainstream audience. I think they're every bit as artistically impressive as any original films even though they are based on books.

I actually think that the only connection between a lot of these "sell out" writers seems that they have worked on comic book films- Singer, Nolan, Raimi, Lee, that these comic book franchises are particularly univentive and lazy, which is a pretty unfair assessment. The only one I would maybe agree with is JJ Abrahms. I loved Alias and Lost and I was kind of disappointed that he was going to go straight into doing a second sequel that was also a Tom Cruise vehicle. It seems that one might have backfired a little because I've heard it wasn't as successful as anticipated, but I think he probably still has the option of bringing some of his own original ideas to the screen. And I'm guilty of unfair bashing now, I haven't even seen MI3, maybe it is good for all I know.

Basically, I think the past has shown that there can be amazing sequels that can improve upon their predecessors, and people can take books or comics books or TV series and make them into great films and bring some of their own ideas to the table. So I don't see why either of these operations should be looked down upon unless they do fall into the trap of being lazy and derivative.

The only films I almost always have contempt for are remakes. As I said before, I think they were either not good enough to remake or too good to remake. I think essentially the idea has the potential to be artistically satisfying, if a film is reinterpretated intelligently or made more relevant to a modern audience whilst retaining the original values, but sadly few seem to try to attain these ideals, instead the huge number of horror and comedy remakes we've seen in the last five years have alost universally been awful.
Please forgive my impulsiveness. I am trying to verify the information on the "cast" rumor. I overheard that it was the cast and saw two women and one man with Joss. If verified I will post.
Well Razor, I'd say amen to your position on remakes of films which were Hey! quite good the first time they were made, which is a big bugaboo for me, but I'd be preaching to the choir.

But let's see. Who would I rather see do yet another take on a comic book franchise? Michael Bay or Joss Whedon. Renny Harlin or Joss Whedon. It's such a hard choice to make.
I must be one of the few who actually liked Hulk. It middles in the pack of superhero movies but it's a better film than Elektra, Catwoman, those Schumacher Batmans, and even (dare I say it) Superman Returns and X3.

In case anyone is wondering, Lady in the Water is not the horrible train wreck the critics are making it out to be. M. Knight may or may not have brought this negativity upon himself but not via Lady in the Water, IMHO. It seems the critical community has a definite axe to grind regarding him as an outspoken director.

His worst film is still The Village. Lady ties with Signs for third place in the M. Knight pantheon.
All wonderful insights, people. I hope Josh Bell reads some of this.
1starbuckstown: "Does this mean one can only be bold with one's own material? If so, that eliminates Hitchcock completely, arguably the most "brand-name" director in film history."


Oh, well done, 1starbuckstown, right on.

I'm excited about Joss's re-creation of the archetypal "Wonder Woman" and intrigued about "Goners" -- which, if my math is correct, leaves us with one movie ("Serenity") produced based on his own original material, and two scripts, one adapted material ("Wonder Woman") and one of his own original material ("Goners.") I'm not, you know, like a math expert or anything, but that's how it adds up to me.

So, anybody want to see Joss adapt & create "The Watchmen" for the big screen? I mean, I know it's in and out of development hell all the time, but, seriously, seeing such a combo would be the proverbial died-and-gone-to-heaven-if-I-thought-there-was-such-a-thing.
"or a remake (as I can't actually think of a single remake that wasn't superfluous- if it wasn't good enough first time around I doubt it can be improved much, and if it was a good film, then why remake it?)"

The Hills Have Eyes. Much better film as a remake.
It seems the critical community has a definite axe to grind regarding him as an outspoken director.

Perhaps this has something to do with him making the "villain" of his new film a book/film critic... and casting himself as a writer who is destined to change the world? The arrogance of the man.

I have no sympathy for a director who claims to be the next Speilberg, when he comes up woefully short. Not that he has no talent (see: Kevin Smith), just that his strengths lie in beautiful visuals and his stories are becoming increasingly inane or ridiculous.

So, anybody want to see Joss adapt & create "The Watchmen" for the big screen?

No, because anyone who tries to adapt this to the big screen is doomed to failure. It couldn't be done justice on the big screen, so it shouldn't be done.

"The Watchmen" uses the comics medium so perfectly, any adaptation to another medium is going to suffer.

[ edited by Keith G on 2006-07-25 07:54 ]
I really don't care what this guy says about Joss because I know better. I am glad though he called Wonder Woman a tent pole movie for Warner Brothers. That implies that it will be a big success and it's nice for a change after people making predictions that it will fail.
That implies that it will be a big success and it's nice for a change after people making predictions that it will fail.

No, a tentpole means that Warner Bros hope it will be a success - that they will market it and position it as one of their great hopes for the year. Calling it a tentpole movie, does not imply the writer thinks it will succeed.

Although where have you heard people predicting its failure? It's way too early for that. Besides, there's lots of big budget superhero movies coming out with low mainstream name-recognition, so at least the general public have heard of Wonder Woman!
Maybe these Hollywood sequel's are not of the same artistic calibur or as original as The Searchers or Psycho but they are not meant to be. Plain and simple, they are entertainment.

Well, Psycho was based on a book, you know that right? In fact, many Hollywood movies are derived from non-original sources. When sound came into movies, there was a rash of producers buying the rights to books and Broadway plays to make into movies. Some of the most enduring classics of the screen were not originated by the filmmakers, from Wizard of Oz to The Godfather movies. And while those movies are now considered "great" movies, when they were made, the filmmakers just wanted to make entertaining movies. Heck, Paramount had to force Coppola to make The Godfather because he wanted to do "high" art movies, instead of this shlocky Mafia bestseller. The artistic history of Hollywood is people doing things for entertainment and the dollar and incidentally creating art.

My problem with the article is that it lacks a sense of American film history; you could make this argument much much better if you threw in Bunuel's name, for instance (and even his most famous movie, Belle Du Jour, was based on a book), but in the American movie industry, adaptations and sequels are the rule. We forget that fact, 50 years later, because the movies are so much more famous than the novels or source material they came from.

(and a side note: I'm not a huge expert on Hitchcock, but while he never took a writer's credit, he always always always re-wrote at least half the material to suit his own needs. That's why there is a remarkable consistency in the kinds of movies he made, and why no one else has made such movies. He would take on a pre-existing script and then alter it to reflect his sensibilities, and voila! you have a Hitchcock movie.)
Hear, hear, dottikin. In fact, I collect these books (among others) in particular -- the ones that were made into movies, and which few people remember (or ever knew) were novels first: Escape by Ethel Vance, About Mrs. Leslie by Vina Delmar, Gentleman's Agreement by Laura Z. Hobson, Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain, My Man Godfrey by Eric Hatch, The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers, Spartacus by Howard Fast, Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum, The Cobweb by William Gibson, and on and on...

Although, looking at this list, there's probably a few on it that most people don't know or remember are even movies.

It's hard for a book-lover to let go of the particular details of a book, which usually must change drastically to make any kind of a movie, but in the hands of a good screenwriter, the story can be enriched and enhanced. It frequently isn't, but I think that's because the producers or writers may not always know why they bought that bestselling title, rather than the story & its particular appeal.

Wow, way to go O.T., much? I'm just going on about source material. A good screenwriter (Joss) can use other source material to tell the story he wants to tell -- if he's in synch with the material and his purpose, it will be seamless and original.

To the extent that any art is.
Maybe these Hollywood sequel's are not of the same artistic calibur or as original as The Searchers or Psycho but they are not meant to be. Plain and simple, they are entertainment.

- Well, Psycho was based on a book, you know that right?


And so was 'The Searchers'. I haven't read it (or don't think I have) but it's by Alan Le May who (I think) gets a credit in the film. BTW, OT but if anyone has any time for westerns i'd recommend the novel 'True Grit'. Much better than the film (though I still like the movie) and written with a unique, likeable and tough female voice.

In a sense there really is nothing new under the sun, just new implementations of older ideas.

(I also share the general dislike for remakes. 'Get Carter' and 'Psycho' stand out for me as two that were just so unnecessary it's almost insulting)
*blinks* Y'know, I'm pretty sure Joss can do both Goners AND Wonder Woman. He's a comic book fan, of course he's going to do what he loves. It doesn't exclude him from also directing his own material.

I'm not sure that the author of this article knows exactly what his point is, but just wanted to get across his frustration that Joss isn't directing material that's from his own ideas. He's trying to take that very personal frustration and make a point that doesn't quite make sense.
[INSERT FLATULENT RESPONCE HERE]

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