Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Brothers in Arms

I've just got back from seeing Christopher Nolan's INCEPTION. I admired it more than actually loved it. It has a pretty complex plot and arcane themes to do with dreams, guilt and manipulation that are handled well. It's just there's nothing here that's not been done before in various films to with reality and simulacra. It's a shame you don't really give a shit about what's happening to the characters in INCEPTION because none of them are fleshed out, satisfactorily. There's no sense of emotional connectivity to it and that's primarily the fault of Christopher Nolan because he's far too cold a filmmaker to infuse an adequate sense of humanity to proceedings. (I saw TOY STORY 3 as well which has no problem with bringing a sense of heart to everything and is a damn near perfect experience.)

Whatever my minor grievances with INCEPTION are, the American movie going public went crazy for it and it scored a dynamic $60.4 million over the weekend at the US box-office. The UK was as eagerly enthusiastic for INCEPTION and it grossed a mighty £6 million over the weekend. INCEPTION reportedly cost $160 million to produce (although it is claimed it actually cost in excess of $200 million) and according to the LA Times has a marketing budget of $100 million-plus. Having seen INCEPTION, it's debateable if the movie will recoup its wholesale budget, but as always, I could be wrong. What is in no doubt is Warner Bros. commitment to Nolan and his filmmaking talents. Nolan first directed Insomnia for Warner Bros. in 2002 and followed it with Batman Begins, The Prestige and The Dark Knight; all for the same studio. Nolan originally pitched INCEPTION to Warner Bros. 10 years ago and had originally envisaged it on a much smaller scale but as his track-record became more established and The Dark Knight generated more than $1 billion in revenue, Warner Bros. were more than willing to take a chance on Nolan's complex celluloid conception. After all, the studio is desperate for Nolan to sign on for BATMAN 3 and has done the right thing in bankrolling any project he wants to do, especially considering how much he's made for them. What this highlights is the filmmaker-friendly outlook of Warner Bros.

In 2009, Warner Bros. became the first studio in history to gross more than $2 billion domestically in a single year. It has a great history of being home to legendary filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick who made all his post-2001 A Space Odyssey films at Warner Bros. Directors like Clint Eastwood and Wolfgang Peterson have made the bulk of their movies with Warner Bros. and their commitment is assured. There's a new generation of visionary directors like Zack Snyder who has made his last three movies at Warner's and will release SUCKER PUNCH (described as Alice in Wonderland with guns) through them next year. Todd Phillips made last year's record-breaking comedy The Hangover with Warner Bros. and has stayed with the studio for DUE DATE which will come out this Autumn.

Although Warner Bros. are risk takers, their current success is derived mainly from fanboy fare. In 2007, Jeff Robinov- Warner Bros. President of Production- stated, "We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead". Thomas Tull is the founder of Legendary Pictures and ponies up 50% of the budget for all the movies he partners up with Warner Bros. in return for 50% of the profits. With Tull's help, Warner Bros. revived both Batman and Superman franchises and look set to score very big with upcoming projects like a reboot of GODZILLA, CLASH OF THE TITANS 2, JACK THE GIANT KILLER, THE SPOOKS APPRENTICE, WORLD OF WARCRAFT and AKIRA. In short, these movies are high-concept bloke orientated fare designed to dazzle male minds, though perhaps not emotionally engage them. The times when Warner Bros. and Tull have attempted to make softer films like We are Marshall, Lady in the Water and Where the Wild Things Are, the profits were lacklustre while costs were huge. Warner Bros. has a well-heeled companion in Tull and through its Legendary Pictures partnership has produced 17 movies that have earned more than $4 billion combined. But the duos aversion to drama pictures is disappointing. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. is a movie juggernaut and through its boutique affiliations with production companies like Alcon has produced female-skewing hits like The Blindside, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Lake House and P.S. I Love You.

Warner Bros. is a movie industry in itself. It believes that almost every great movie comes from a singular vision so lets directors run with their creative ideas, even if that means letting films be dark in tone or R-rated when they need to be. They make exceptional commercial films that many other studios wouldn't dare to. Their film development arm will option books like mud to throw against a wall to see if it'll stick and then attach exceptional talent to bring them to completion. Not many studios would have given Christopher Nolan such creative breadth even with his unblemished record, but Warner Bros. has and will no doubt continue to. Let's just hope their creative and financial decisions remain more omnivorous than what Robinov will have you believe.

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