Another film, another dream project. Dinosaurs had always been something that fascinated Steven Spielberg and he counted Ray Harryhausen as one of his earliest influences. But with Jurassic Park there was also a sense that Spielberg was going back to his first proven success. He wanted a monster movie Summer blockbuster, like Jaws had been. And that's what he got.
Generally speaking I've enjoyed writing these SpielBlog posts. Even a flop like 1941 had something to recommend it. But Hook was deeply tedious and took me a good three tries to watch. Following on from Always, it was the first time in his career that Steven Spielberg made back-to-back stinkers.
Always is a first in more ways than one. All of the films I've watched so far for SpielBlog I've already seen. Most of them at the cinema. And most several times. And all of them - even 1941 - have had something worth watching. But I'd never seen Always and now I have I wished I hadn't.
Along with many others I watched Solo with a growing sense of disappointment. Here was an iconic Star Wars character, a hero, who didn't really need an origin story. And yet here we were. And the fact was the origin story of another Harrison Ford hero had already been done and done well. It comes in the first ten minutes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
There's a rhyming in the posters of E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial and Empire of the Sun. The big moon is replaced with the the big sun; the silhouetted child on the bike is now a silhouetted boy and the Michelangelo inspired contact between the alien finger and the human finger is now a near meeting of the boy's toy airplane and the kamikaze fighter returning to the Earth in flames.
I've never really understood this idea that Steven Spielberg felt it necessary to move into serious films. To me Jaws, Close Encounters and E.T. qualify as serious films. Yes, they also happen to be hugely entertaining and popular, but that's beside the point. The Seven Samurai was successful as was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Vertigo also. And they're also highly entertaining and serious films. But it was Spielberg himself to some extent who wanted to move on to more weighty material. To prove that he was an artist and not simply a money maker. And so we come to his 1985 adaptation of Alice Walker's breakout novel The Color Purple.
Indiana Jones came from a conversation that Steven Spielberg had with George Lucas. He was expressing his disappointment that he had been turned down for a gig making the next James Bond movie. Why would he want to waste his time on Bond, Lucas wondered aloud. Lucas had a better idea for an action hero: Indiana Smith.
In the 1980s, the TV spin off movie was relatively rare. Star Trek: the Motion Picture and its sequel The Wrath of Khan had been moderately successful but in general TV stayed where it was. The idea of a portmanteau film likewise wasn't hugely popular. Grand Hotel had launched the genre in 1932 but with the exception of the British horror film Dead of Night, there were few glowing examples. So a TV spin off and a portmanteau film? It sounds like a bad idea, right? Well, things were to get much worse.
I don't cry watching movies. I weep. Sometimes inconsolably. Certain classic movies can press my buttons in a way that isn't affected by repetition. It's a Wonderful Life always hurts me. Weirdly, the bit that is the most 'I'm not crying, you're crying' moment is when Old Man Gower hits George and then realizes he's made a a mistake. Other films get me all lachrymose and I couldn't tell you why. Even adverts at times. Re-watching E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial it was embarrassing. My daughter told me to pull myself together.
Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first Steven Spielberg film I saw on the big screen, at The Astra cinema, Barrow-in-Furness in July 1981. I was 9 years old. And it changed my life.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.