Opinion, Reviews

Steven Spielberg: A Great Filmmaker

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.) – Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation and possibly even of all time. Even those not familiar with the film industry have heard his name, or at least the names of the movies he’s worked on. Whether he’s worked as director or producer, he has been a part of some memorable movies. To list out every single one would be a long list. A few examples would be “Jaws,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “E.T.,” “Jurassic Park” and many more I’ll mention later.

Before I begin, I would like to emphasize that films are a collaborative effort, meaning there are countless people that work on each and every movie. So giving full credit to Spielberg for the films mentioned in this article would be unfair. Also, it should be noted that not every film Spielberg made has been great. Some are mediocre and some are actually bad — every filmmaker has made at least one flop.

Now how do I write a brief article about probably the best filmmaker working in Hollywood today? After all, many before me have written about his work and tried to analyze it. Well, I guess, I should explain why I like him.

What I truly admire about Spielberg is his ability to defy expectations both for his films and himself as a filmmaker. “Jaws” is considered to be a great film, but it has a B-movie plot. A monster shark is on the loose, attacking a beachside community during summer break; that sounds like a B-movie, doesn’t it? On top of that, the movie was nightmare to film, because they couldn’t the stupid, mechanical shark to work. And yet, “Jaws” is fantastic. It’s suspenseful, well-acted and filled with memorable characters. In addition, “Jaws” is also thought of as one of the few movies that is actually better than the book – yes, “Jaws” was adapted from a book of the same name. To be honest, I didn’t know that either.

But “Jaws” wasn’t Spielberg’s first film. Like any other filmmaker, he began from the ground up. One of his first times as director was a made-for-TV-movie called “Duel.” It was a thriller about a motorist on a remote highway being pursued by a menacing tractor trailer driven by an unseen truck driver. The made-for-TV-movie was so good it was given a limited release to theaters in the states and abroad. To this day, the movie is considered a master thriller, especially because it made a truck seem just as scary as a great white shark.

When coming up with the idea of “Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark,” both Spielberg and his good friend George Lucas took inspiration from pulp adventure comics that they read while growing up. One may think of that as an almost ‘childish’ place for inspiration, until realizing how great the movie is. “Indiana Jones” is probably the best adventure franchise of all time — especially if you exclude the fourth film.

Despite being known for his more ‘family friendly’ work, Spielberg has made movies that were mature and even brutal. “Munich” followed the true story of the Israeli government trying to punish terrorists that were involved in the Munich Massacre of 1972. Spielberg took creative care when directing “Schindler’s List,” a hard-to-watch movie that depicts the horrors of the Holocaust, which was responsible for the deaths of several of Spielberg’s own distant relatives.

Spielberg was also very passionate about making “Saving Private Ryan.” In the past and even still today, World War II has been highly misrepresented in Hollywood. Movies about it are usually action blockbusters portraying the war as heroic and glorious. Spielberg wanted to create a better representation of the war that defied his generation.

In 1998, Roger Ebert interviewed him about the film. “‘This is me being 51 years old and my dad being 81, and he fought in Burma,’ he said. ‘And my wanting to acquit his war with honor, as opposed to just using his war as the backdrop for a big action adventure picture.’” While “Saving Private Ryan” may be overly patriotic, it still portrayals one of the most authentic depictions of WWII. Its opening sequence of the D-Day landing is one the most brutally realistic battle scenes ever filmed.

Spielberg would continue to depict WWII by later executively producing the miniseries “Band of Brothers” and its spinoff “The Pacific” – and yes, I also think it’s ironic for me to be writing about “Saving Private Ryan.”

Spielberg has had several connections with people within the film industry throughout his career, and still does. As mentioned before, he’s a friend of George Lucas, but it may be less known about his friendship with Stanley Kubrick. Like Spielberg, Kubrick is also considered to be one of the great directors, he made classics such as “Dr. Strangelove,” “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining.”

Although their styles of films were nothing alike, the two were friends and admired one another’s works. “Spielberg often longed to be the art house risk-taker that Kubrick was and Kubrick often longed to be the audience pleasing sentimentalist that Spielberg was,” according to Channel Awesome’s Nostalgia Critic.

They planned to collaborate on a movie called “A.I. Artificial Intelligence,” which was Kubrick’s attempt at making fairytale. Sadly, Kubrick passed away before the project could officially begin. In his honor, Spielberg decided to finish “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” himself. The movie received mixed reviews, but Spielberg did stay close to his friend’s original vision.

While much of Spielberg’s work may be on films meant as entertainment or as crowd-pleasures – I wish he made less of those – that doesn’t mean his movies are generic. After all, Mark Twain once said, “My books are like water; those of the great genius are wine. (Fortunately) everybody drinks water.” Many of Spielberg’s movies have pleased both audience members and critics, which is hard to do.

Spielberg has created movies that I’ve really enjoyed, some of which are my favorites: such as “Jaws” and “Indiana Jones” – “Raiders” or “The Last Crusade.” I’d also recommend watching “The Adventures of Tintin” – a great animated movie. He has inspired a generation to take an interest in cinema, myself included.

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