The first Red Dead Redemption rivals many blockbusters. Here are the directors we think should take on the live-action, and the ones who shouldn't.
The narrative of the first Red Dead Redemption (RDR) rivals many a blockbuster. Rockstar's Wild West reimagined took five years of development and became one of the most expensive videogames ever made. So a Red Dead Redemption film adaptation could be a heavyweight in the film industry if it's done right. One thing every fan dreads is a lousy Hollywood concoction of their favorite game.
And they have a good reason to. Street Fighter, Hitman, Doom, you name it, it's a silver screen disaster. Either the directors don't have a strong understanding of the game they're adapting. Or they borrow the title and the world and disengage the film from the original. With that in mind, here are five directors who could pull RDR movie off. And five who should take a pass.
The Taiwanese director proved that LGBTQ hardships could be the focal point of a Western film. In the 2005 Brokeback Mountain starring Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, Lee paints a sincere picture of two closeted gay cowboys battling their inner conflicts. The personal note of the Brokeback Mountain demonstrates Lee's ability to get in the face of the characters and capture the unseen turmoil.
John Marston has to juggle bounty hunting and being a family man. These implacable lifestyles must leave more than literal scars on the former outlaw. And if there is a man capable of translating Marston's inner demons to screen, it's Ang Lee.
The Pittsburgh native has some seriously enjoyable stuff under his belt. His 2015 boxing drama Southpaw and 2014 action thriller The Equalizer comes to mind. Fuqua's films have powerful set-ups and show skill in the execution of the scenes.
But, they never scratch beyond the surface and the cliché. His 2016 remake of a Western classic The Magnificent Seven stays in the lines of a good old shootout. The film doesn't pretend to be anything else. And everybody enjoys a good old shootout from time to time. However, RDR deserves a bit more finesse.
The meta-story of RDR talks about the Old West way of life disappearing. Pinkertons swarm towns, and what evades them gets picked out by bounty hunters. The industrial revolution arrives. Railroads zigzag once virgin land, and the Wild West dies under its frets. Powers that be shift and Marston gets caught up in the middle. Cuarón's 2006 apocalyptic pilgrimage Children of Men nails a tormented man estranged from the world he lives in.
Cuarón knows how to handle an intricate redemption story. The vindication of the main protagonist Theo portrayed by Clive Owen plays a pivotal role during the film. And, like Marston, Theo dies as part of his absolution.
The king of slow motion, Snyder, is all about the frame. His 2007 film 300 profits from this approach and leaves viewers with a cathartic experience of pure cinematography. Yet, the prolific DC director shoots himself in the foot with this tactic in most movies after 300.
The 2015 comic book adaptation The Watchmen is a titular example. Snyder can't quite drag the audience into the world enough, and so the story remains flat in many instances. The reason RDR stomped pretty much all the competition out of the Western genre is the very thing this director fails at. Epic camera angles and intricate slo-mo sequences can't substitute a compelling narrative with excellent characters.
This Canadian filmmaker has been on a roll for the last few years. With 2015 Sicario, 2016 Arrival, and 2017 Blade Runner 2049 in his portfolio Villeneuve knows how to milk that mise en scene. He uses the worlds surrounding his protagonists to give the stories that extra oomph effect.
Villeneuve also knows how to create the right mix between visceral action and psychological advance, as seen in Sicario. Not everyone is keen on the Tros-Riviéres born director. But one thing is for sure; he is a top gun when it comes to immersive filmmaking.
Now, this man has some cult classics to his name. From 1992 El Mariachi to 2005 Sin City, Rodriguez knows how to pull off an entertaining budget flick. For the most part, that is. He follows every good movie with at least one flop.
It's a hit and miss at best. And even if it's a hit, not counting Sin City, Rodriguez never raises above B director status. Without a doubt, Rockstar's Western needs some crazy weird to stay true to itself. Rodriguez, however, might be just a little bit too crazy weird. So don't let the hat fool you. This Texan should steer clear of directing an RDR film.
Speaking of crazy weird, Ethan and Joel Coen are masters of spicing their films with the right amount of ludicrous. Their 1998 The Big Lebowski takes a complete bum of a character and makes the audience stick by him through thick and thin. More recently, in the anthology of Wild West stories The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, they bring the extraordinary out of the ordinary. It's played both for laughs and cries.
The Coen Brothers know how to write a tight journey. But they also know how to hide gold nuggets in it. These unnecessary yet character-giving moments also keep RDR alive years after its release.
Creative vision Tarantino has for his films, as bizarre as it can be, rarely comes down in flames. Plus, he stuffs his movies with the Old West as much as possible. The 2013 Western Django Unchained proves he can do it well too.
It's less about whether Tarantino could pull the live-action RDR off and more about what kind of film it would be. The danger Tarantino's take on the RDR faces is the complete overhaul of the original. He is a filmmaker with a very distinct style. The world might gain another Tarantino movie, but it might not be the RDR one would recognize.
That Red Dead Redemption is a high impact content goes without saying. High impact also defines films of this Californian director. Bigelow's most renowned film, 2008 The Hurt Locker, earned her an Academy Award. But, she preceded and followed it by a stream of top tier quality work.
In terms of RDR adaptation, the most standout film is her 1987 Near Dark. The word of God says that she wanted to make a full-blooded western. But, there was no market for it at the time. So Bigelow went and made a Horror Western. And it still holds water after 30 years. If someone can do vampires and Western, they can also make a good RDR adaptation.
Eastwood made his name shooting and acting in Westerns. His expertise in the genre almost landed him as the voice of John Marston. But, maybe he knows it a little too much. If The Good, the Bad and the Ugly star got his hands on RDR, the adaptation might face the exact opposite issue to Tarantino.
Without a doubt, Eastwood would shoot a well made Western. Whether he would retain the weird, the funny, and the quirky that makes RDR stand out is up for debate. Rockstar's masterpiece isn't another Unforgiven, as good of a film the latter is.
Klara Chmelarova is a writer, videogame junkie, and filmmaker based in the Czech Republic. She worked as a cultural journalist and later as a culture section editor for student newspapers and magazines. A graduate of Falmouth and Anglo-American Universities, she now works as a list writer for TheGamer. If she's not writing, she's probably on set or traveling. Would sell her family for a glass of good wine and Rammstein golden circle ticket.
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