With the glut of superhero and franchise films that hit theatres every year, there’s a worry that they’re starting tolook lifeless or identical. And from a business perspective, the industry’s reliance on big tentpole films rather than mid-range films is making even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas worry. But Quentin Tarantino isn’t bothered.
“That’s been going on since I was born,” Tarantino told Vulture, which he spoke to for New York magazine’s fall preview issue. “You can talk about Transformers now, but you could talk about the Planet of the Apes movies and James Bond when I was a little kid — and I couldn’t wait to see those.”
Worries about an over-reliance on tentpoles have indeed been around for a long time. They surfaced most recently when Josh Trank’s “Fantastic Four” crashed and burned, making just $US25.7 million on its opening weekend on a $US130 million budget, received brutal reviews, and threatened the end of a potential franchise for Fox before it even started.
The problem is that, because a franchise film can comprise a large percentage of a film studio’s budget, if a couple of movies fail, they can theoretically ruin a studio — or at least the careers of people running them. That’s why they’re called “tentpole” films. For example, former Disney Studios chairman resigned in 2013 following the disastrous performance of “John Carter” at box office.
Spielberg and Lucas sounded the alarm soon afterwards. At a panel at the
hool of Cinematic Arts, they warned against studio’s over-reliance on tentpoles, and said that these movies are being made at the expense of smaller films.
“There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown,” Spielberg said. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again.”
Tarantino thinks the worry is overblown, even though his own upcoming movie, “The Hateful Eight,” has a $US44 million budget, less than half of the $US100 million budget that his previous movie, “Django Unchained,” had. (To be fair, “Eight” appears to be more modest in scale than “Django.”)
“I don’t know why Spielberg and Lucas would be complaining about movies like that,” Tarantino told Vulture. “They don’t have to direct them.”
“The Hateful Eight” will get a limited release on December 25 on screens that support the film’s 70mm film format, followed by a nationwide release on January 8.
Tarantino isn’t convinced that blockbusters are crowding out better movies, either. To him, the argument is recycled from the 1970s and ’90s. In fact, he thinks the worst movies Hollywood produces now are better than the worst movies studios produced in the past decades. If anything, he wishes superhero movies were this good years ago.
“I’ve been reading comic books since I was a kid, and I’ve had my own Marvel Universe obsessions for years,” he said to Vulture. “So I don’t really have a problem with the whole superhero thing right now, except I wish I didn’t have to wait until my 50s for this to be the dominant genre. Back in the ’80s, when movies sucked — I saw more movies then than I’d ever seen in my life, and the Hollywood bottom-line product was the worst it had been since the ’50s — that would have been a great time.”
The director would rather continue to write original scripts than join a franchise himself anytime soon, though. He only said he used to be interested in directing “Scream,” which Wes Craven ended up making in 1996 and which Tarantino “didn’t care for.”
The James Bond franchise was on Tarantino’s wishlist as well, when he was basking in the success of “Pulp Fiction.” He thinks his approach would have subverted the franchise.
“I tried to get the rights to Casino Royale away from the Broccolis [the family that oversees production on James Bond adaptations], but that didn’t happen,” he said to Vulture. “That wouldn’t have been just throwing my hat in the franchise ring; that would have been subversion on a massive level, if I could have subverted Bond.”
Tarantino also said that he “learned a lesson” with “Grindhouse,” his double-feature of exploitation horror films from 2007. He directed “Death Proof,” which was screened back-to-back with Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror.” The movies found only a niche audience, and grossed only $US25 million.
“Robert Rodriguez and I had gotten used to going our own way, on these weird roads, and having the audience come along,” Tarantino said to Vulture. “We’d started thinking they’d go wherever we wanted. With Grindhouse, that proved not to be the case. It was still worth doing, but it would have been better if we weren’t caught so unaware by how uninterested people were.”
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