...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

James Bond versus James Gatz



This may be the first time in cinematic history wherein the $200million action behemoth will induce fewer headaches and seizures than the period piece novel adaptation.

The Daniel Craig era of Bond has so much melancholy blended with its painful ass-kicking, so count me in for this next chapter.  Also RALPH FIENNES!!!!  That is all.  Okay, and Javier Bardem is probably the bad guy.

Meanwhile, there hasn't been a Baz Luhrmann film that I've enjoyed upon first viewing.  His excess of style often distracts from the storytelling and calls attention to itself.  BUT his visual choices are never boring.  For The Great Gatsby it looks like he's cranking up the party scenes and adding flashbacks in order to make a very novelistic tale cinematic.  The issue is that the story in the Gatsby novel is a quiet interpersonal exploration of identity, which makes for a very independent film that would bring in limited revenue.  The answer?  Turn up the violence, the partying, the CGI, fluff up the love story, and add Leo.  I sincerely hope this works.

The use of contemporary pop music with period piece visuals is quickly gaining traction as a legitimate artistic choice.  Which sucks.  It's not post-post-post modern.  It's distracting irrelevant shorthand.  I happen to like Jack White's cover of "Love is Blindness", but it's a modern song.  Its inclusion in the Gatsby trailer seems to signify that though this is a period piece it's okay for people of all ages to watch.  Yes there's a bunch of screaming, but does it really tell the story and set the tone better than would an erotic flapper song from the '20s?  It reminds me of the weird-crummy Budweiser commercial that uses a Flo Rida song over visuals of Prohibition ending.  Just seems like a cheap shill to try to bring in a younger audience, without the consideration that this same audience's taste in music is ever mutable.

Even though I try not to judge an entire film by its trailer, with some of the casting choices and garish CGI shown here, none of the Gatsby film looks like what I had pictured either time I read the novel.  I still think the book's story is too damned awesome to be crushed under the weight of short attention span filmmaking.  So I'll be in theatre for this.  Maybe even with 3D glasses.

Skyfall's trailer is pretty lean and basic, almost 40% shorter than Gatsby's.  It plops some intrigue at the beginning, then rains down the fire and shadows and exotic locales and explosions and pained handsomeness.  It sells the product.  It doesn't have the period piece burden that Gatsby carries, so it can use contemporary tunes as long as it incorporates a couple seconds of the Bond theme.

But they do need to remind everyone at the end that this is a 007 film.  On the surface it looks like a bunch of action that could be tied into any international intrigue script.  Plus the film's title doesn't have the Hyperbole to a Verb sound often deemed necessary for Bond.

Perhaps the producers of Skyfall's trailer were under less of a challenge than Gatsby's.  Bond is an existing franchise.  Gatsby is a famous old book.  There's more setup needed for the latter.  Plus it's tougher to get people to watch the old book.

Conversely, Skyfall has to get more butts in seats in order to break even.  Probably needs to gross a half-billion worldwide.  Meanwhile, The Great Gatsby......had a production budget of $130mil?!  Throw in the marketing costs and they'll need a third of a billion to call it a financial success.

Whew, I guess the burden really is on Gatsby.  Good luck with that trailer.