The Devin’s Advocate: David O. Russell, UNCHARTED And Fans Missing The Point

An Oscar nominated director is forced to acknowledge the discontent of video game fans. Cinema dies.

David Chen talked to David O. Russell - one of the best and most interesting filmmakers of the last decade - and he had to waste some of his interview time asking the director about the people who incessantly bitch about him taking the reins of the Uncharted movie. Based on a marginal video game franchise, O. Russell’s Uncharted will likely be a unique vision, melding some of the director’s long-held issues - including family issues - with the core concept of the game.

This is an Oscar nominated director who has made movies that aren’t just good, they’re brilliant. Films like Spanking The Monkey and Three Kings are incredible, and I love I <3 Huckabees and Flirting With Disaster. In fact my least favorite Russell film is actually The Fighter, and that’s partially because it feels like a Russell film battling for dominance within a standard Oscar film, and not always winning.

Each of those films are about, in some way, dysfunctional family dynamics. From the incest in Spanking The Monkey to the surrogate family unit in Three Kings to the zillion sisters in The Fighter, this is what David O. Russell does best, and it’s an element that he wants to introduce to his version of Uncharted. Which, of course, sends fans over the edge. Literal-minded to the end they want Nathan Fillion in the lead because he kind of looks like the character in the game. Unaware of how adaptation works, they want a transplant of the entire game into a movie. This is why machinima stuff is so popular - because it allows video game fans to have the warm blanket of their literalized video game experience.

Russell takes it all fairly in stride, understanding his place on the food chain. When asked by Chen how he feels about the fan uproar, the notoriously prickly Russell dials it down:

As far as I’m concerned, I’m very respectful as far as the core content and sprit of the game, but beyond that it’s my job as a filmmaker to make what I think is going to be an amazing movie. People have to trust that and let that go, I think. There’s not a bunch of movies you can point to that are made from games that are amazing movies, that stand up to time as a franchise or as [individual films]. I personally think it’s really cool when you see that someone like Darren Aronofsky is going to make an X-Men movie or to get someone such as myself to make this picture. You can be guaranteed that it’s going to be real, it’s going to be raw, it’s going to be intense, it’s going to be original, and it’s going to be propulsive. And those are all the things that I want when I go to watch a movie like that.

There are filmmakers who get the benefit of the doubt, and Russell is one of them. I suspect that most people who are complaining about him and his changes aren’t actually aware of his films; more of them probably saw him melt down on Lily Tomlin on YouTube than have seen his movies. If  a filmmaker of his level wants to take a shot at a video game movie and make it more his own as opposed to some generic Indiana Jones rip off, be happy. You always have your last save point if it doesn’t work out.