Despite reports that 47 Ronin was taken away from first-time feature director Carl Rinsch because of a budget that swelled to $225 million, I can tell you that Rinsch has been in the editing room all week, working side by side with the studio on the challenged Universal picture. And studio sources swear the budget will not cross the $200 million mark, despite a reshoot (that Rinsch himself directed) and despite the fact Universal has twice moved the release date of this Keanu Reeves-starrer.
At the risk of seeming like a studio apologist, I hate how difficulties in the process of putting together big-budget movies has been turned into bloodsport reporting, particularly when it is sort of accurate but exaggerated. Look, we all know that when stories crop up about films that do reshoots or extra shooting, it is not a good sign.
Sometimes, as was the case on Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, a rumored tough shoot and post-production process manifests itself into a remarkable film. Exaggerating the situation on a movie, when it is in production or in the editing room, seems unfair, almost like criticizing an artist’s painting before it is finished. I think that it encourages reviewers and audiences to discount the movie, even subliminally, and they evaluate it at least a little bit on the basis of perceived troubles.
Universal was not commenting but here’s what’s going on now: The studio has taken a more active hand in the editing process on the Universal lot, which is unusual for that particular studio but hardly unheard of with a first-time director who doesn’t have final cut. Rinsch, a respected commercials and short film helmer who had the job of directing the Alien prequel until Ridley Scott took it and turned it into Prometheus, has opinions as strong as his visual sense. That doesn’t endear one to the crew, which is probably how these rumors get started. He’s new to the game of mounting a huge film and the studio has every right to protect an investment that is at least a $175 million 3D film. But the reports he has been removed from the editing room and that he had 47 Ronin taken away from him are wrong, as far as I can see. And the studio is hardly trying to hide a bomb, not when it chose December 25, 2013 as the new release date.
Now, this craze of entrusting gargantuan budget films to first timers is one that studios might be rethinking after 47 Ronin and John Carter (Andrew Stanton is an accomplished animation director, but I think he was in over his head). Rupert Sanders did okay with Snow White and the Huntsman, as did Joseph Kosinski on Tron: Legacy. And Disney has gone all in with VFX wiz Robert Stromberg on the Angelina Jolie-starrer Maleficent, which seems to be going well. I just wonder if it’s better to let a budding director take on an indie or mid budget film to hone feature storytelling chops before jumping in the deep end with a tent pole. Like Tate Taylor did on The Help. But I can tell you with confidence that Rinsch is still swimming in the deep end and splashing as hard as he can, and it is difficult to judge a film nobody has seen yet.
All first time directors lamenting whether their career will be over because of a difficult first film need only to look at David Fincher, who survived the nightmarish struggle to mount Alien 3 on his first outing, and seems to be doing pretty well for himself.