After all the recent running around of Catch Me If You Can and the chasing of Minority Report, it was perhaps understandable that Steven Spielberg wanted to take breather, but The Terminal is a thumping stop, almost a collapse into feel good whimsy.
Catch Me If You Can is possibly Steven Spielberg's last absolutely great movie. There are movies to come which have a lot of things which I like, but Catch Me If You Can is almost perfect.
There's something fresh and invigorating about Minority Report. Based on a short story by Philip K Dick, the film was Spielberg's second consecutive science fiction drama after A.I. Artificial Intelligence and would begin a two film collaboration with top movie star Tom Cruise. Originally conceived as a direct sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Total Recall in the early 90s, there were extended delays until it saw the light of day in 2002.
Steven Spielberg has not been shy about his dads. One of his most winning qualities is his enthusiasm for the people he admires in his craft. Whether it's David Lean and his love of Lawrence of Arabia, or his peers George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, or even his own estranged father whose experiences in World War II gave the impetus for Saving Private Ryan. Stanley Kubrick was another of these daddy figures and Spielberg's admiration and indeed love for the bearded auteur led him in 2001 (fittingly enough) to complete a project which had been gestating for decades.
The first word of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan is 'Dad!', as an old man visiting a war cemetery in Normandy is overcome with emotion and staggers, causing concern to his devoted but otherwise mute family. It is the grown son he gets the only line in prologue and it serves as a kind of dedication to Spielberg's own war veteran father who he would frequently site as a motivation for doing the film.
1997 saw Steven Spielberg rerunning 1993. Following his longest hiatus after Jurassic Park and Oscar-winning Schindler's List, it was pleasingly symmetrical that he should return with Lost World paired with Amistad, one of the very few American films to deal with the slave trade.
"Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that's how it always starts. Then later there's running and um, screaming," so says Ian Malcolm, chaotician and franchise survivor. It's a nice note of Jeff Goldblum's smooth self-awareness and although there's something unnecessary about the sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park is a thoroughly enjoyable old fashioned piece of entertainment.
If you've been following the SpielBlog you'll have noticed a significant gap between entries and that might be a good place to start. I was reluctant to re-watch Schindler's List for a number of reasons.
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.
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.