Steven Spielberg is set to re-take over the world, both in cinemas (as executive producer of J.J. Abrams’ critically well received (so far) “Super 8” and as director of both “The Adventures of Tintin” and “War Horse” in December) and television (executive producer of both TNT’s new alien series “Falling Skies” starring Noah Wyle and FOX’s ambitious dinosaur time travel drama “Terra Nova”). This column could focus on his great achievements, his Oscars, or his humanitarian work for Holocaust victims … but it doesn’t. Instead, it focuses on how when Spielberg makes a bad decision (2010’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, also discussed here), he immediately bounces back. The man is a machine.
Falling Skies (Starting soon on TNT)
To prove my point, let’s go back to 1989 when Spielberg directed “Always”, a sappy romantic drama that made the second least money of any Spielberg movie in the past 25 years. He also started work on “Hook”, the Peter Pan drama starring Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts (when she was in her “crash and burn” career phase). While I thoroughly enjoyed “Hook,” (RUFIO! RUFIO! RU-FI-OOOOO!) it had an extremely high budget for the time and ranks as Spielberg’s worst reviewed film in his 40-year career. Undeserved low praise, but the man needed a rebound.
Then came 1993, the greatest year ever for a film director. Spielberg directed both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” and proved he could be commercially and critically untouchable in two movies within a single year. This is an impressive feat and one Michael Bay likely aspires to but will never reach.
Spielberg then took a 4-year break from directing before “The Lost World” in 1997. Is the movie horrible? No (it’s certainly not “Jurassic Park 3”). Is the movie anything close to the smartly written Michael Crichton novel? Oh god no. Spielberg threw away the novel and remade the classic “The Lost World” movie about a dinosaur running rampant through a city. Akin to, and less successful than, “King Kong” (and without the racial commentary about bringing a big, black ape in a cage to America on a boat), it lost a lot of the wonder of “Jurassic Park.” As in 1993, Spielberg also released a ‘prestige’ film in 1997, but “Amistad” + “The Lost World” came nowhere near to the commercial or critical successes of “Schindler’s List” + “Jurassic Park.”
So, what did Spielberg do? Did he give up? No. He directed “Saving Private Ryan”, one of the greatest films of all time. Still, he must have pissed off someone because I will never forgive the Academy for giving best picture to “Shakespeare in Love” instead. Just embarrassing.
What does this all amount to? Well, even if you all tell me Indiana Jones 4 sucked (which you all did here), I know that Spielberg is set for a heck of a rebound.