Director John Landis has delivered some huge successes in his long and storied career, such as The Kentucky Fried Movie, An American Werewolf in London, Animal House, Blues Brothers, Three Amigos, and Coming to America. He's also produced a few duds, like Oscar, Blues Brothers 2000, and Max Landis. But when Landis gave an in depth interview to the Irish Bleeding Cool, Entertainment.ie, he had nothing but hot fire to spit about… well, pretty much everything.
When asked to speak about shared cinematic universes, Landis pointed out that they weren't invented by The Avengers.
First of all, it's not a new idea. If you remember with Universal back in the '40s, once they made all their classics, they started cross-pollinating. House of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets The Wolf-Man – you know what they used to call those? Monster rallies! (laugh) And then of course, one of the great ironies is what was considered… OK – it's over now!… was Abbot & Costello Meets Frankenstein, which is actually a very funny movie and very respectful of the monsters.
Landis had some trash to talk about Universal's attempt to bring that shared universe back from the dead:
I think, y'know, maybe that's one of the problems with Universal's Dark Universe is that it isn't respectful of the monsters. Y'know, when they want to reinvent and sometimes it works great – look at David Cronenberg's The Fly or John Carpenter's The Thing. It can be done.
And he also had some unkind words for the Marvel Universe (though he did seem to like Wonder Woman):
I'm just… truthfully, I'm bored shitless with the Marvel Universe now. All the superhero movies tend to be interchangeable, you always have these mass destruction of cities and huge computer-generated extravaganzas to the point where you could take a reel from any of the Marvel superhero movies and put it any of the others and nobody would notice. They're very well-made, it's just they're the same thing over and over again. But, I don't know, people are showing up. One of the reasons Wonder Woman has been received so well by the critics is that it doesn't destroy cities! (laughs) Even the superhero stuff is on a very human scale, it's the gods! We're not seeing skyscrapers tumbling! (laughs)
Later in the interview, he turned his attention to the Dark Universe again:
What's happening is the studios now will make a film for $150, $200 million but they're afraid to take risks. You asked me about the Dark Universe, if you're gonna make a movie of The Mummy, why the fuck do you need Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe?! As soon as you announce that Tom Cruise is in The Mummy, you know you're not going to see a horror picture! It's not gonna be The Mummy, it's going to be the Tom Cruise Show. I don't know.
What no one understands, ideas are a dime a dozen. An idea has no real value. It's all about the execution of the idea.
Landis says the reason things are different (I.E.: suck) nowadays is down to corporations:
The best film in two years is probably Moonlight. I thought that was fucking brilliant. It didn't need a big budget. It was an independent, they were working with less money, but it didn't need it. You look at a studio. Moonlight, with all its acclaim, what it's gonna make? $25 to $30 million? They're not in that business. What's happened, and it's complicated, it has to do with all the studios are now part of huge conglomerates, they're multi-national corporate entities, they take less and less risk. In retrospect, I realise how lucky I am to have worked in the '70s and '80s when studios were still run by individuals.
And the fact that none of them are willing to take risks:
One of the reasons why Hollywood is so extraordinary, you had RKO, Paramount, MGM, Fox, all these major studios and each company produced 50 features a year for close to 50 years. You look at old studio movies, half of them are great! (laughs) It's incredible how good of most of those movies are. It's remarkable! But the economics were completely different.
It's that famous thing that Irving Thalberg insisted on was that, he said, "We make 52 features a year here at Metro, countless shorts and newsreels, but fifty-two features a year. I'm going to make forty-nine features for the public and three features for me." (laughs) Meaning we can afford it. So they'd try to make three, y'know, unusual and artistic films. They'd spend the money. They'd take the risk. Now, no company would take the risk – because they can't afford it.
Which they can't do because everything is different (I.E.: sucks):
In the old days, the studios… there's this misnomer that the studios own the cinemas. The cinemas own the studios! Loew's Theatres owned MGM. Fox Theatres owned 20th Century Fox and the reason for that was that they had to keep stocking the shelves! New movies came out every week, you needed the movie. The other model that's different, very different, there was no television so people went to the movies!
Now, not only television, but you've got the internet and the internet is… it's great, but it's also insidious for many reasons and one of them is that it's kind of destroyed the idea of intellectual property. You have two generations of people, my children certainly… if you got a link from someone to the new Star Wars movie, you would click that link and watch the movie, and it wouldn't occur to you that you're stealing! People don't think of it as theft. If someone got a black market copy of Game of Thrones from next season, and you had the opportunity to see it, you wouldn't think that I'm stealing from HBO or taking money out of the hands of those Irish workers, it doesn't even occur to people! It's just reality.
It's a pretty great read and believe it or not, those are only a few choice excerpts from it. Read the full interview here.