It is happening again: There’s a big franchise movie in the works, and Hollywood has turned to a lowly white guy to direct it. First there was Colin Trevorrow, who went from a cute little indie about time travel (“Safety Not Guaranteed”) to helming frickin “Jurassic World.” (If that weren’t enough, he was then given the keys to “Star Wars: Episode IX.”) Then there was Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who made the low-budget comedy “Kings of Summer,” so of course he wound up on a blockbuster about a giant ape (“Kong: Skull Island”). Now that franchise’s next offering, “Godzilla vs. Kong,” will be helmed by another dude from the indie world: horror filmmaker Adam Wingard.
Granted, Wingard has more on his CV than either Trevorrow or Vogt-Roberts. (He also rocks a goatee, not a bushy beard.) When Hollywood courted those two, they only had one feature under their belt apiece. By comparison, Wingard’s a lifer. He’s been making shorts since 2004, and has six features under his belt. He’s been one of the bright lights of the indie horror scene, breathing new life into the genre with resourceful and clever titles like “A Horrible Way to Die” and “You’re Next,” as well as the dynamite thriller/Dan Stevens vehicle “The Guest.” He’s even already had a box office disappointment, last year’s unloved “Blair Witch,” while his next film, the star-studded “Death Note,” is due on Netflix this summer.
Still, Wingard’s part of an annoying trend that won’t die: He’s another white male from the indie world handed the keys to the kingdom. You don’t see execs stalking black and/or female filmmakers who’ve had Sundance splashes. This heartbreaking New York Times story shows how the lives of directors like Justin Simien (“Dear White People”), Sara Colongelo (“Little Accidents”) and Kat Candler (“Hellion”) didn’t change after wowing audiences in Park City, Utah. (At least Simien was able to turn his hit into a brilliant Netflix show, one of the year’s best. Still, let this peerlessly bright guy make something different.)
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Not that we want to see people as talented as Simien, Colongelo or Candler suddenly standing on a massive studio lot, commanding a crew of thousands and waiting around for months, maybe a year while CGI artists render their effects. Which brings us to another complaint: The lack of the mid-budget movies means people like Trevorrow and Vogt-Roberts don’t get to let their talents evolve, baby-stepping their way to blockbusters. As such, movies like “Jurassic World” and “Kong: Skull Island” wind up feeling feebly realized, tonally incoherent — in a word, under-directed.
All that said, at least Wingard has put in his time. Maybe he’ll have a firmer grasp on things when he finds himself on a $100 million-plus set. Then again, who thinks a guy who’s made a movie where Dan Stevens seduces a teenager should helm a movie about a giant ape fighting a giant lizard?