Den of Geek dartboard: Paul W. S. Anderson

One writer. Three darts. One public figure. It's time for another Den of Geek dartboard. This time, it's Paul W.S. Anderson's turn to get pinned up...

Paul W. S. Anderson

First things first. Up to this point I’ve only written positive articles as I find it much easier to enthuse about the things I love rather than hate. However, there is an exception to every rule and upon being given the chance to vent my spleen, I immediately rose to the occasion and bagged myself one Paul W.S. Anderson.

Now I don’t normally hate. Hate is a strong word and should only be used for special occasions (like Christmas), but he is a man that inspires such bile in me that I swore a pact to myself a few years back that, should I ever bump into him, I would punch him on sight. Hard, too.

Before I get started I should state in his defence that Mortal Kombat was one of my favourite drinking movies for years (and when I say ‘drinking movie’ I mean come in drunk from a pub/club and stick it on while screaming “MORTAL KOMBAT!” at the TV). I loved the fun, tongue-in-cheek attitude of the movie, combined with the ropey CGI, Christopher Lambert and a fantastic rock/techno/industrial soundtrack. I’ll make this the exception.

Event Horizon, a movie liked by a fair few people was a big disappointment, but at least it didn’t offend me. I still feel I should re-visit it at some point and so how it fares, as at the time it suffered from a large number of friends all seeing it before me and telling me how much I’d love it and how much of a ‘Duncan’ movie it was, building it up way beyond expectation. To this day though I couldn’t actually tell you if the movie was ruined because those friends didn’t know me very well, or whether it was because they all chose to tell me a different shocking/gory moment to entice me, eventually leaving very few surprises by the time I actually came to watch it, or if it was just rubbish.

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Looking back this may have been the start of the streak of bitter letdown that would grow into pure unadulterated hatred, so let’s begin shall we?

Dart One (60 points)

Now credit where credit’s due, Anderson has skill when it comes to making a modest budget look much bigger and he knows where to point a camera. But please, for the love of God, somebody stop him from writing. Resident Evil was supposed to be a zombie movie and had potential to be a great one, so much potential in fact that George A. Romero even wrote an adaptation. Explain to me, then, how it’s possible to write one where zombies hardly feature at all? We all know that this kind of soldiers vs. zombies set up is only going to be as good as its body count, so how does he decide to kill a handful of people?

With a fucking laser beam.

A laser beam that slices them up in a ‘homage’ to Cube, Anderson happily informs us on the commentary. Well, I’d already seen Cube and loved it so his cheap rip off was not only unoriginal but also wasted valuable fodder for the zombies to tear apart and eat. Think of the zombies Paul, think of the zombies! Even Michelle Rodriguez asks him in the commentary why, if her character has a knife, she isn’t stabbing zombies in the head? Why indeed.

Part of the reason Anderson personally affronts me so much is down to his alleged fandom. With Resident Evil (as was later evident in his pre-release talks about AVP), he claimed to be the biggest fan of the games. Not just a big fan but the biggest. That’s a big claim for a man who not only missed the point of a zombie movie, but also managed to think to himself “Hmm… I love these games so much, and have so many established characters to choose from, I think what I’ll do is make up a completely new one.” So he gave the world Alice (“Alice? Who the fu…” you know where I’m going). I’m sure in his hormonal, teenage level brain he thought he was adding a strong female character into the annals of cinematic history, but he ended up giving her strength through pure physicality and all the character depth of a puddle. Sure, she was a teenage boy’s wet dream, all red dress and big guns… but she’s inane and pointless. I love trash but don’t try and dress it up as anything else when you have no concept of characterisation.

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Oh and I haven’t forgotten that the first Resident Evil game was voice acted by some of the worst actors I’ve ever heard (“I hope that’s not Chris’ blood” will forever make me smile), but at least it had its own charm and still managed to be more scary and tense than any part of Anderson’s movie.

Dart Two (120 points)

At this juncture I’d also like to remind people that the reason Paul Anderson added the W.S. to his name was because he was tired of being confused with Paul Thomas Anderson. I imagine it’s a real drag being mistaken for someone with talent and originality (wow, that sounds bitchier than I expected, so back to the beating…).

Now people may cuss Uwe Boll (not me) for making bad movies, but at least the licences he picks up don’t tend to have years of devout following behind them or tread on sacred territory, geek or mainstream. Enter AVP: Aliens Vs. Predator.

I remember finally plucking up the nerve to watch AVP, I actually made an effort to ensure that the screening took place under controlled and calm circumstances. I had a friend round, we watched a decent comedy, had a few beers and were feeling relaxed and at peace with the world, then took the plunge and put the movie in. There was silence throughout and when it finished, while the end credits were rolling, we calmly turned to each other and absolutely destroyed it.

AVP has the honour of being my second most hated movie of all time (number one for the record is Robocop 3), it managed to not only violate one movie franchise, but two. It yet again proved that when it comes to wasting an incredible opportunity, there’s no one more competent than our Paul.

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Yet again it proved the following points about his style and way of film making that will constantly prove to be a problem:

– His refusal to avoid quick cut editing. Everyone was excited about finally seeing an Alien face off against a Predator, but did we get any lingering shots of the action? No. Did we revel in every moment of this epic confrontation? No. What we got was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, badly edited mess. In the dark.

– His spineless attitude to the ratings system. Resident Evil was an unknown quantity ratings-wise, but it still made me sad that there was no decent zombie gore when Anderson should have been influenced by at least one movie of that genre, instead of stroking his copy of Cube and hoping for some second hand recognition. However, both the Alien and Predator franchises were established 18 certificate films and for good reason. I won’t go into the details as to why, but just go and watch the trailer for Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem and all will become clear. Anderson even tried the studio interference act, then released another cash-in DVD which claimed to be an Unrated Director’s Cut, but had none of the expected gore scenes that he seemed to claim weren’t his fault for being missing in the first place.

– His way of making characters ‘better’. Rather than rely on the already established strengths from the source of the material he plunders, he insists on making his own adjustments. He took the solid design of the Predator and decided that he could make it better. How? By putting bigger blades and guns on them. I despair. In AVP he also pathetically attempted to write another strong female character, only this time mistook attitude and shouting for strength of personality, making his lead just plain irritating, then had the gall to make the comparison between her and Ripley (insert own swear word here). I won’t even bother with the Pred-Alien comedy moment.

And finally for dart number two… he wasted Lance Henrikson.

Dart Three (180 points!)

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Picture the scene: A bright summer day in London, during a delightful stroll I happen to bump into Paul, my fist clenches and before either of us know what’s happened I’ve punched him in the face. Looking up at me, hurt and surprised, the last words he’ll hear from my mouth will be “I love Kurt Russell more than you’ll ever understand and Soldier’s the only movie of his I’ve ever disowned. You C…”.

Other Den of Geek dartboard victims: Leigh Whannell, Len Wiseman, Kevin Smith, Takashi Shimizu, Naomi Watts, Zack Snyder..