This is where I shit on a filmmaker you probably love.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. I really can’t accurately articulate how tired I am of Guillermo Del Toro.
I know, I know… what a horrible thing to say… but really… what’s the big deal with him anyway? As a matter of immediate full disclosure I’ll go ahead and admit that I (still) haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, but I was going to omit that film out of my consideration regardless, as it’s a unanimously-praised motion picture that many believe should have won Best Foreign Language Film. So, okay… while I haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth I’m sure it’s a good film. One reason I’m sure it’s a good film is because Del Toro doesn’t seem to take anything seriously unless it’s in his native tongue. He comes off as the type of guy who would rather set up an academy for up-and-coming Mexican filmmakers than make films himself. He’s often spoke about how relatively rare prominent Mexican filmmakers are, and how he justifiably wants to change that. Off the top of my head I can cite Del Toro, Alfonso Cuarón, and the legendary Alejandro González Iñárritu as the only prominent Mexican filmmakers working today. But I’m not going to get into a cultural monologue here. Sure, it’s kind of odd that the Mexican film industry doesn’t produce an abundance of good filmmakers (but if you’ve ever watched Mexican television you can probably tell that the industry as a whole isn’t terribly concerned with being good).
What I’m tired of is how many people far too often take for granted the idea that Del Toro is some grand filmmaker. What I’m even more tired of is hearing about him doing some new project, because he rarely ever sees something through as a director.
On the issue of talent or mastery of craft Del Toro is very good at make-up and costumes, but I kind of don’t really give a shit about make-up and costumes. No one buys a movie ticket to see the make-up and costumes. Hellboy is alright, but only as far as the idea of a Hellboy movie goes—which is to say that the only cool thing about it was that no one had ever made a Hellboy movie before. The actual film itself isn’t anything to write home about, other than the fact that Ron Perlman as any kind superhero is kind of cool. But, that’s another thing… I stopped using “cool” to defend a movie’s credibility when I was 12 years old.
“It’s cool” just doesn’t work for me anymore, and all that Del Toro’s Hellboy films do is flaunt make-up and costumes and a sort of lazy nerd fad of just flocking to anything that hawks a certain brand. Nowadays you can put out complete shit; just make sure to stuff a couple of zombies in the mix and nerds will fork over their money as if it isn’t completely moronic for them to do so. Hellboy deals with, well… Hell… and the occult. For lack of a better, more apt description, Hellboy (the comic book) was an “alternative” title in the 1990’s. It was something that had it been published by DC it would have been published under the Vertigo imprint (like John Constantine, the blonde bisexual demon hunter not ready for prime time).
Del Toro’s early career consists of some short films, a couple of gothic horrors, and the Mira Sorvino horror vehicle Mimic. It was after Mimic that Del Toro would catch his break. The film was Blade II, and it sucked.
Sorry, but Blade II was a piece of shit. Nevermind that it wasn’t as bad as the third installment, it sucked. It had Ron Perlman (no surprise there), and a bunch of “cool” looking vampires opening their mouths in “cool” ways. The whole film looks as if it was shot on sepia-toned film. That kind of bland mechanical artistic execution has never caught my attention as anything but come-and-go formula. Forgettable, to say the least.
After Blade II it’s his two Hellboy flicks and Pan’s Labyrinth. That’s it, guys. That’s all he’s done in twenty years. He’s slapped his name as a producer on a whole host of productions, but he has only directed seven films, and I’d be willing to bet that the first three of those seven films haven’t been seen by at least half of those who claim to love him.
Then there’s the other thing. Guillermo Del Toro has had his name attached as a “possible director” on so many goddamn things. He’s now being mentioned as a possible director for the incoming behemoth Star Wars Episode VII; and I roll my eyes every time I hear it.
He was going to make The Hobbit, but didn’t. He was going to make the Halo movie, but didn’t. He was going to adapt Slaughterhouse Five, but didn’t. I don’t even care about his new Pacific Rim thing because, well… it’s just giant robots.
So. Fucking. What.
Giant robots? They’re cool now? Didn’t we just get done with a Transformers series that completely sucked (but everyone saw because in this new century people willingly pay for things they know they won’t like)?
Humans piloting giant robots? I’d call it original if I had never seen Robot Jox, but I have seen Robot Jox. I’ve probably seen Robot Jox at least ten times (I used to love it as a kid because I thought it was “cool”). Oh, Pacific Rim is a movie about giant monsters? Okay, so it’s giant robots versus giant monsters…
My point here is that all Del Toro can do as a filmmaker (certainly with English-language films) is take “cool” concepts like the son of Satan or a half-breed vampire slayer or giant robots fighting giant monsters… and he just seems to phone it in. Remember Hellboy II: The Golden Army? Of course you do. It sucked. His films have the cinematic depth of a commercial, and his audience is almost exclusively nerds—the same nerds who keep Paul W.S. Anderson working by paying to see every piece of shit Resident Evil movie he puts out.
Compare Del Toro to his own contemporaries. Alfonso Cuarón? He made Children of Men. Iñárritu? He made 21 Grams and Babel. Those are films that stand the test of time as artistic earthquakes that shook the very concept of filmmaking to its core. What has Del Toro done outside of his obvious passion piece, Pan’s Labyrinth? And even that goddamn movie hinges on make-up and costumes!
I’m just saying, people have soured on the Wachowskis. Why haven’t they soured on Guillermo Del Toro? I wonder, how many more people would like Speed Racer if it was the same exact movie, except directed by Del Toro?
It’s almost as if people feel that they have to like him. As if it’s taboo for someone like me to criticize him, or to go at length and write this much about how much I don’t like him. At the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con I watched as people lined up for two fucking hours just to get his autograph at the Legendary Pictures booth. He wasn’t there because he had a movie to promote, he was there to push one of his innumerable “side projects” that no one will remember in a few years. I certainly didn’t care, and I didn’t care the next day when I saw even more people line up to get Frank Miller’s autograph at the same booth. Miller’s such a prick that his suited-up henchmen wouldn’t let me take a photograph of him, and I wasn’t even in line. There’s something odd about that, considering I was just walking the floor like everyone else, but I digress.
Actually, I’ve been digressing the entire time. I just don’t get Guillermo Del Toro as a “great” filmmaker, and I certainly don’t see his body of work as significant enough to bestow upon him that title, or anything of the sort. He’s just Peter Berg with an accent and a penchant for making actors sit for 6 hours a day as make-up is applied to every square inch of their body.
I’ll see Pacific Rim, eventually. I won’t wait in line for it. I won’t be at the midnight showing, but I’ll probably see it eventually. I still haven’t seen the new Spider-Man flick, because I’m just not all that wild about Spider-Man; but I’ll probably watch it now that it’s out on DVD. I see that Charlie Day (of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame) has been cast in Del Toro’s latest. I expect him to be the saucy comic relief borderline idiot who probably saves the day in some unwitting fashion.
When it’s all said and done Pacific Rim could end up being fun. It’ll probably be “cool”… as cool as a movie about giant robots can be, I suppose. But, when it’s all said and done Del Toro’s newest venture will just be a movie about giant robots. So what?
I am so much more interested in Snyder and Nolan’s Superman reboot, or J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek Into Darkness. I just don’t give a shit about giant robots, and I don’t consider anyone who would make a film about giant robots to be that good of a filmmaker. If Del Toro was this grand filmmaker that I’m told he is then he’d have gone through with any of the more interesting projects that he has balked on/failed to deliver on over the last 5 years.
To be more succinct, if Guillermo Del Toro was a great filmmaker he wouldn’t be doing a movie about giant robots.