Wednesday, June 1, 2016

On Reshoots

The word "reshoots" has been tossed around the internet quite a bit lately, and some heavy baggage has come along with it. It seems like when people hear that a film (usually a hotly anticipated one) enters reshoots fans seem to resign themselves to the expectation that the film will be dead on arrival. Just this week it was announced that ROGUE ONE A STAR WARS STORY will be headed into reshoots and the internet had a fit. Rumors began swirling that Disney is unhappy with the tone of the movie and are ordering reshoots to keep the film more tonally similar to THE FORCE AWAKENS. Now, before we all get into arguments about why that's a bad idea or not (and believe me, it's a bad idea), we need to evaluate how accurate the line of thinking that a movie is done for when it heads into reshoots is.

 First and foremost, the aim of reshoots is always to help the movie, not hobble it at the knees. No production has ever gone into reshoots with the mindset of "we have a great product, let's tear it down." Likely the idea behind the reshoots is that there is almost a product worth putting to market but it's just missing SOMETHING. Take it from JJ Abrams. His first Star Trek film ended up going into reshoots. And in those reshoots he found this scene:

The above scene was in the script at large, and big chunks of it had already been shot on location, but JJ felt the scene was missing something to really ground the audience in the character. It was in reshoots that he decided to try inserting a close-up of young Kirk's face so we could get a feel for how he was reading and reacting to the situation. Abrams got so caught up in getting all the action ready for print that he didn't give us a reason to care. Keep in mind, that isn't to say he's got poor filmmaking sensibilities, he just didn't have time in that location to hammer out all the little emotional beats. And that doesn't mean he's got poor time management skills. Keep in mind that filmmaking is often done on very tight calendars and its likely a production will not get to come back to a location after wrapping there. So with all that in his mind, JJ knew that it was most important to get all the bombastic, effects-heavy stuff done with a full crew on location and then shoot a close-up of young Kirk on a Paramount lot later.

Of course I know there are people reading this and screaming at their screens about the doomed productions that were Josh Trank's FANTASTIC FOUR and Zack Snyder's BATMAN V SUPERMAN (and pre-screaming about the subsequent "more jokes!" reshoots assigned to SUICIDE SQUAD) and to that I say this: Is it really a failing of reshoots or was the product just bad to begin with? No amount of reshoots can save an under/overcooked product. Trank is a rookie director with one decent film under his belt and he was likely under a lot of studio pressure to deliver a product tailored to them. Snyder is an egotist who thinks everything is Watchmen and must be treated as such. Both are examples of a creator biting off more than can chew and paying the price.

As it stands, ROGUE ONE A STAR WARS STORY and SUICIDE SQUAD are fine until they're not. And nobody will truly know when "or not" happens until after the lights go up and the credits start rolling. Jaws underwent massive reshoots because the shark looked super cheeseball and they made the decision to shoot from the shark's perspective and show you as little of the monster as possible. Apocalypse Now started as a five month shoot and ballooned into well over a year and a half just for principal photography. It's been proven that reshoots can help a movie and the knee-jerk reaction to the announcement that a film has gone into reshoots means its bad is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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