In two weeks, filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tetro” hits theaters. The “Godfather” director stopped by MTV’s offices to chat with Josh Horowitz in advance of the release, and he had some enlightening opinions to share on his contemporaries, and his old pal George Lucas in particular.
“I knew him as an experimental filmmaker,” Coppola told MTV. He first came to know Lucas in the early 1970s when he hired the then-young man as his assistant. When Lucas released his formative effort “American Graffiti” in 1973, it was Coppola who produced it.
Speaking in the here and now, Coppola still has faith in the architect of the “Star Wars” franchise. “The one that probably has the most potential to shock is George Lucas.” Coppola believes strongly that one of his so-called contemporaries will “make a film that changes the rules.” He doesn’t have a problem with the modern-day blockbuster, but he also hasn’t observed much of a change. For Coppola, he sees people today “going to the movies on Friday night… seeing over and over again ’Star Wars’ and ’Jaws.'”
Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws,” the film that many consider to be the prototypical blockbuster, continues to work as a formula even today. Ideas such as “spectacle” and “high concept” have endured because, like the blockbuster as a whole, they are simple ideas that scale well against epic backdrops.
A beautiful damsel-in-distress needs to be rescued? That’s “Star Wars,” that’s “Pirates of the Caribbean,” that’s “X-Men” and so on. Or maybe the world is falling apart because of some “act of God” level disaster. “Deep Impact,” “Armageddon,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “I Am Legend”… shall I continue?
Coppola is definitely onto something when he says the rules will change, though I would argue that we’re already seeing such a change. The melodramatic idea of a “Hollywood ending” has given way in recent years to darker, more realistic conclusions. “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” are particularly noteworthy, popular films that take a decidedly atypical route. They’re not alone either; “I Am Legend” was criticized heavily for its neat & tidy ending. The alternate ending-equipped DVD/Blu-ray fared far better, skewing far closer to Richard Matheson’s — the source novella’s author — own themes and ideas.
What’s your take on the current state of the blockbuster? Do you think change is in the wind? Is that wind already blowing? Can you see George Lucas informing that change, as Coppola predicts?