There's been a trend in Hollywood lately where alternative or indie film makers are given the reigns on mega-blockbusters with astronomical budgets. Names like Rian Johnson, Shane Black, Gareth Ewards, Josh Trank and Colin Trevorrow are names that many film fans will know, but lately they'll be know to a larger fanbase because they've either made or are making big franchise movies. Here are the films you should watch before you watch their franchise movie
Rian Johnson is writing and directing Star Wars VIII. However, before that he made the wonderful film noir Brick, which you should definitely check out before you see his take on Star Wars. Brick is a reawakening of the genre, a subversion of what you expect of it, but played straight as a razor. Every nut, bolt, and washer of Brick's architecture breathes the Film Noir genre, only translated to teenage modernity. And despite, the nutty premise of a teenage underworld, Writer/Director Rian Johnson approaches the material with complete solemnity. And Joseph Gordon-Levitt proved to everyone that he was a fantastic actor, and much like Johnson is going to, he cracked into Hollywood and deservedly so.
Before he got the opportunity to helm Jurassic World, Trevorrow made Safety Not Guaranteed, which is just delightful. Safety Not Guaranteed isn't a traditional sci-fi film. There may be time travel, there may not be...but the point of the screenplay isn't finding temporal paradoxes nor playing with historical chronology, but gradually discovering the nature and interaction between interesting characters, each one of them focused into their own adventure. It's a science fiction film based on real people and it's a refreshing watch. It's funny, engaging, interesting, character-driven, heart-warming independent film shot on a shoestring budget that touched the part in me that longs to believe in the unbelievable, that wonders if the impossible might, just might be possible after all.
Now, isn't Josh Trank a lucky boy? Not only is he directing The Fantastic Four reboot, but he's also set for a galaxy far, far way with one of the Star Wars spin-offs. Trank managed this off just one film. That said film was Chronicle, a superhero film on a minuscule budget that used completely hand-held cameras. Chronicle was a pleasant surprise. It's the kind of film you hope to walk into. As a fan of comic book films, it was especially pleasing as it really shakes the genre and tries, successfully I might add, to do something very different. It could have been a complete disaster with typical hand-held filming and a typical story. But the smart and creative take on the genre showed off Trank's capabilities and I believe in him to do a good job on both of his franchise films.
Gareth Edwards is another director who has been chosen to direct a Star Wars spin-off. Not only that, but he also brought Godzilla back to our screens a couple of months ago and impressively so. The film that got him the Godzilla gig? That would be Monsters – a fantastic film with a lying title. You see, the film isn't about Monsters, it's about the humans during an alien invasion. It takes such an unusual approach to the giant monster movie genre by treating its genre trappings in a low key, almost subordinate way. It feels very real. The giant squid like monsters are very impressive in the few scenes where they do make an appearance and the characters and story were involving enough to draw me in. And it was made for $500,000. For real. Edwards has massive talent and I'm glad he's reaping the rewards of it.
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