Gaming | Film | TV
Gaming | Film | TV

What went wrong with Robert Rodriguez?

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From selling his body to science for his art to … well, not.

Oh Robert, Robert, Robert. Whatever has become of you old friend? Remember back in the day when you were so full of vim and vigor. Anything was possible as long as you had a camera in your hand. So full of creativity, so full of enthusiasm. A pure, unbridled love and devotion to filmmaking. A love so great you sold your body to science just so that you could finance your own movie, which you not only directed but produced, wrote, scored, edited and shot as well. You were a ray of light in the dark and bleak monotony of faceless puppets. And now look at what you’ve become; a director whose style more resembles that of a fourteen-year-old boy with one hand clutching his dick and the other desperately fumbling for the Kleenex.

It really is quite an abusive relationship I have with Robert Rodriguez. Because for all the crap he’s been churning out these past few years, I will defend that man to the death, right up to the moment my brain shuts down and my heart ceases to pump. Now I don’t give my life up idly but Rodriguez is a rare case. With the possible exception of the likes of Del Toro and Cameron, there are few working directors who can demonstrate the same kind of raw, devastating creativity he can.

There’s also something very honest about his films. He doesn’t make films to highlight important socio-economical issues or to comment on political posturing. He does it for the enjoyment. To make films that entertain the audience. They don’t have to be uber-realistic or gritty and grimy. They’re wild and outlandish and full of giddy, childish glee. It’s cinema in it’s purest form. To this very day the moment when El Mariachi spins around, swirling the Mexican flag, and kneecaps Marquez with a shotgun in Once Upon a Time in Mexico is one of my favourite moments in film. It’s the stuff of childlike imagination. It’s unadulterated fun, and good fun at that and that’s why he gained so many fans. Unfortunately it’s probably that very same lunacy that has led to his barren spell.

A director whose style more resembles that of a fourteen-year-old boy with one hand clutching his dick and the other desperately fumbling for the Kleenex

There’s something quite comic-book-like about the career of Robert Rodriguez. A man blessed with a great talent to help others. To make them laugh, shout, jump and applaud but now, ultimately, to make them scream for a whole different reason. He’s not the hero who saves the day rather he’s the villain. A man blessed with unnatural talent but turned evil and corrupt by bitter circumstance.

You could argue that his back catalogue isn’t too dissimilar to his current work, what with the likes of his Spy Kids trilogy but those films are a lot more acceptable when starting out. For one, as he has readily admitted, those films were very important in helping his understanding of special effects which no doubt helped him on his best film, Sin City. However he shouldn’t have to make these films anymore. After Sin City he could pretty much do whatever he wanted. So why make Sharkboy and Lavagirl? Why make Spy Kids 4?

Maybe he got vertigo. Maybe his rapid ascent left him dizzy and he needed to feel the solid earth beneath his feet once more. It’s not uncommon for people who are maybe a bit scared or unsure to revert back to the security of what they know. And with Machete you can draw easy parallels to his El Mariachi trilogy, it’s nothing new, just rehashed. He appears stunted, as if unsure where next else to branch out to. So instead of trying something new he’s just going bigger; packing the screen with enough guns to make even the reddest of rednecks weak at the knees. The problem is he’s trying too hard, trying too hard to be the old (or young) Robert Rodriguez, trying to make the kind of films he made a decade ago. That’s an approach that never works and with all the boob blasters and crotch cannons in Machete Kills, his trademark wacky set pieces have given way to sexism and crude exploitation. It’s fair enough to make the same kind of films, most directors do stick to a particular genre, but there’s normally an evolution, at least in their filmmaking, Rodriguez just appears to be going backwards.

Can he do it? Can he fix his evil ways? Only Rodriguez knows the answer to that. Only he knows why he appears obsessed with wasting his talents on flimsy B-movies. Maybe he’s rebelling against Hollywood. Maybe he’s just doing what he wants. Maybe he reigned himself in during his early career to allow himself carte blanche now. Who knows? One thing is for certain however, with Sin City 2 coming out next year (although they’ve been saying that for years now), it’s an opportunity to show he’s still got it and I really hope he has.


Image: thomascrenshaw via Flickr


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