In a recent blog post, we noted how Hollywood had taken an affinity to reviving or remaking existing films in an attempt to draw established fans back to the franchise, as well as introduce it to a new, younger audience. What’s also notable is the filmmakers who are helming these projects, and how the usually risk-averse Hollywood seems increasingly to be betting it all on new and upcoming directors.
One of the most obvious and successful examples is Colin Trevorrow, who recently directed 2015’s Jurassic World grossing over $1billion at the box office. What’s startling is that Jurassic World – a $250million Hollywood blockbuster – was only his second feature film.
His first, Safety Not Guaranteed, was a small independent movie with an estimated budget of just $750,000. It received positive reviews and made its money back at the box office, but had only a small, limited release in cinemas. And his next film after Jurassic World? – the concluding chapter of the next Star Wars trilogy! How did Trevorrow, after one feature, become one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors?
Perhaps more pertinently, it’s important to note that Trevorrow is not a unique case. Keeping things in a galaxy far far away, Gareth Edwards – who recently directed the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One – moved from the miniscule indie budget Monsters in 2009 (made for $500,000 and edited in his bedroom), to the $150million Godzilla in 2014. Similarly in 2015, director Jon Watts made Cop Car for $800,000, and is now helming one of the biggest films this summer – Spiderman: Homecoming.
In the case of Edwards and Trevorrow, the gamble paid off, with Jurassic World, Godzilla and Rogue One all financially and critically successful. So why did studios take the risk initially? In terms of the quality of the films, perhaps studios were hoping these directors would bring an indie sensibility to Hollywood, with a sharper focus on character over plot, and a creative use of the increased budget.
However it’s also important to acknowledge the time in which these directors are being called up. Trevorrow (40) and Edwards (41) will be the first of a generation of filmmakers who grew up at the same time the original Star Wars trilogy was released. Whereas George Lucas and Steven Spielberg looked back to the filmmakers of the 1930s, 40s and 50s to craft blockbusters such as Jaws, Indiana Jones and Star Wars, now Spielberg and Lucas are key influences for an entire new wave of filmmakers.
In an age where Hollywood seems to focus on sequels, remakes and revivals, it makes a degree of sense that the directors who are brought in to make these projects grew up with them, and therefore have an understanding of how and why they chimed with audiences at the time.
The critical mauling of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, which saw George Lucas return to revive the franchise he created, offers a strong argument for the injection of new blood into established franchises.
But there’s no doubt the huge financial gamble studios undertake by promoting these filmmakers so quickly with such little evidence of success.