Few directors are as varied in genre as Sam Raimi. Most find one or two things they do well and they stick to them for their entire career, never venturing outside their comfort zones. From his origins in horror, to comedy, to westerns, to comic books, to children’s classics, Raimi has brought his own distinctive artistic style to each film he makes. Of course, like many of us who have people we like working with, Raimi often collaborates with other directors (like the Coen Brothers in The Hudsucker Proxy) and actors (like Bruce Campbell, lead actor of the Evil Dead trilogy). And while his most recent work, Oz: the Great and Powerful was a success, he has had to work his way up to this level from the humble beginnings of low budget horror to the expensive box office successes of some excellent adaptations. This week’s two films look at the directing style of Sam Raimi across genre boundaries.
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours
Up until 2002 and the release of Spider-Man, Sam Raimi mainly had a cult following. This was due to the horror trilogy which started with The Evil Dead. Furthermore, since Raimi couldn’t get the rights to some famous superheroes, he created his own with Darkman, which was also a cult film. With Darkman, he started getting more funding for his future projects, which eventually culminated in being tapped for a film adaptation of Spider-Man. After the success of the first film, a sequel was inevitable. And yet, some small tweaks from the original made Spider-Man 2 to be regarded as one of the greatest superhero films of all time. Unfortunately, this sentiment did not carry over into Spider-Man 3, which was not as well received as the first two installments.
Balancing two different lives can be quite the challenge. And if one of these lives is that of Spider-Man, the challenge increases. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is having doubts that he can support both lifestyles as his personal life becomes damaged from his responsibility as a superhero. At the same time, Doctor Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina) has been trying to create a fusion-based energy source. His experiment goes awry, thus killing his wife and fusing four robotic arms to his spine. The arms convince Octavius to finish his experiment, which causes him to start rampaging throughout New York City. With crime on the rise, Peter sees the necessity of Spider-Man and makes the difficult decision to resume his hero work. Will this decision eventually kill him, or will it reap some unintended benefits?
The Quick and the Dead
Length: 107 minutes / 1.78 hours
Between the success of his horror/comedy films and the superhero films of the 2000’s, Sam Raimi tried out a bunch of different genres. Along with the crime drama, A Simple Plan, and the baseball-themed romance, For the Love of the Game, he directed a western known as The Quick and the Dead. While Raimi tried to reproduce some of the same thematic elements that made the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone popular, often the result comes off a little cliché. And yet, the visual style that Raimi brings to his films really accentuates the action that might sometimes be missing from many westerns. As such, the film feels different from other westerns, but is still an entertaining film nonetheless. I mean, it’s essentially a bunch of gunfights and explosions. What’s not to like?
Redemption is the name of a little town in the old west, and is fitting for the gun slinging tournament about to take place there. A woman with no name (Sharon Stone) shows up ready for revenge against the town’s current ruler: John Herod (Gene Hackman). As it turns out, a lot of people want a piece of Herod, including a former henchman of his who has since found God, Cort (Russell Crowe); a bounty hunter out for Herod’s head, Clay Cantrell (Keith David); and Fee “The Kid” Herod (Leonardo DiCaprio), who wants John Herod to recognize him as his son. John kills Clay after learning that he was sent to kill him, and changes the rules of the tournament to be that of a fight to the death. Who will survive and be the last man (or woman) standing?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Sam Raimi sensations
Bacon #: 2 (Spies Like Us / Dan Aykroyd -> She’s Having a Baby / Kevin Bacon)