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Richard Donner 
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Post Re: Richard Donner
MGamesCook wrote:
Tarantino called him a hack, but he has quite the string of popular films stacked up: Omen, Superman, Lethal Weapon, Goonies, Scrooged.

Anyone here a Donner fan that could rank them or name good ones I've missed? Anyone think some of his films are really underrated, like Timeline?

I've only seen Omen and Superman, and am a huge fan of both.


'Hack' may be a bit of a strong term, because it suggests a level of incompetence, but I think it's fair to say that Richard Donner is a director for hire and doesn't leave any personal marks on his movies. I've recently started making a list of all movies, which I've seen (and can remember), and I was surprised about how many Donner-directed movies I've watched, pretty much all of which could have been directed by any other competent director. In my opinion, the quality his output is quite mediocre as well, but that's less the fault of the direction and more of the material he was working with. Although ...

Ken wrote:
His work on Superman is obviously excellent. I don't know if there was something in the water at his house or if all the planets were properly aligned, but he approached it with exactly the right attitude and quality of craftsmanship.


I have to disagree with this, because I think that there are major problems with 'Superman'. First, it is a terrible idea to make the villain also the comic relief, because it robs the movie of an antagonist to despise and, consequently, a hero to root for. If I can't take Lex Luthor seriously, why should an all-powerful Superman? This approach to movie villainy can only really work in movies for children. Hm, now that I'm thinking about it, I guess 'Superman' could be regarded as a kids' movie, couldn't it? Anyway, that's not really a problem of Donner's direction but of the writing, just as Donner can be excused for the atrociously written ending, negating all potentially dangerous situations of the movie. (If Superman can turn back time, why doesn't he do it immediately when the shit hits the fan, but instead faffs around fixing chasms and so on until Lois Lane is endangered?) However, it is entirely Donner's fault that, no, nobody in their right mind would believe that a man could fly on the basis of this movie. I'm not referring to the fact that the blue screen special effects are dated. I hardly ever mind outmoded special effects. It's that these effects are used very badly: I can accept that Superman has the capablity of flight and that he can carry other people, but I cannot accept that Superman holding hands with another person (Lois Lane) would enable that person to fly as well. I can accept that Superman can lift a helicopter, but not if he's only holding on to the end of one of the skids, which would cause them to break off. And the flight scenes were the focus of the marketing of 'Superman', too!


Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:15 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
That's not entirely a Donner-era Superman issue though.

Take Man of Steel. IN one scene he labours to lift an albeit heavy oil platform. But by the end of the film he can use his strength against gravity machines.

As a human comparison, it's like being able to deadlift 200kg with a struggle - and being able to deadlift 100,000,000 tonnes with a similar struggle.

Internal consistency and superhero films are not a match made in heaven

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Wed Apr 23, 2014 9:23 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
NotHughGrant wrote:
That's not entirely a Donner-era Superman issue though.

Take Man of Steel. IN one scene he labours to lift an albeit heavy oil platform. But by the end of the film he can use his strength against gravity machines.

As a human comparison, it's like being able to deadlift 200kg with a struggle - and being able to deadlift 100,000,000 tonnes with a similar struggle.

Internal consistency and superhero films are not a match made in heaven


I don't know whether you're referring to the flight scenes in the original 'Superman', but my problems with them aren't related to their consistency from one scene to the next, but to the fact that they aren't believable for the reasons outlined above. Of course, Superman himself and his capability of flight aren't plausible as such, but if I watch a Superman movie, I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and accept that Superman can fly. I just can't accept that he flies the way he (or rather Lois Lane) does in the movie, if you know what I mean. A better comparison is the ice rink scene in Peter Jackson's 'King Kong' remake: I accept that, in the reality of the movie, giant gorillas exist, but I would expect them to weigh a few tons so any ice rink would have to crumble under their weight. Because it doesn't in the movie, my suspension of diesbelief wanes considerably.

Incidentally, I think that both, 'Superman Returns' and 'Man of Steel' do a better job than 'Superman' of showing that Superman has to exert himself to perform his superhuman tasks. The action scenes in both movies are consequently better. (Although I didn't like the orgy of destruction at the end of 'Man of Steel' because I don't think that it captures what Superman is about. Superman is primarily about helping people, not so much about fighting off alien invaders in a super-slugfest.)

Where Donner's 'Superman' excels is in the romance and screwball comedy aspects of the relationship between Clark Kent/Superman and Lois Lane. Whenever the movie isn't about that, it fails, in my opinion.


Wed Apr 23, 2014 11:32 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
There are liberties taken with the physics of a flying man and his human companion for the sake of romance. The scene plays out like a dance, rather than one person physically hauling another through atmospheric friction.

If this is the sort of thing that causes you to check out of a movie, I'm not sure what to tell you. The same goes for the ice rink scene in King Kong. The same goes for the dogfighting scenes in Star Wars, or the fights in a Bruce Lee movie. Sometimes movies ask us to accept something that's unlikely, or even impossible, simply because there's a magic to the image that it couldn't otherwise have. Movies would be poorer without this sort of thing.

This reminds me tangentially of something Erik Larsen said on Twitter recently: "When you start asking how Superman flies and why the Hulk's pants still fit you should stop reading comics--not start writing them."

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Wed Apr 23, 2014 12:31 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Ken wrote:
There are liberties taken with the physics of a flying man and his human companion for the sake of romance. The scene plays out like a dance, rather than one person physically hauling another through atmospheric friction.

If this is the sort of thing that causes you to check out of a movie, I'm not sure what to tell you. The same goes for the ice rink scene in King Kong. The same goes for the dogfighting scenes in Star Wars, or the fights in a Bruce Lee movie. Sometimes movies ask us to accept something that's unlikely, or even impossible, simply because there's a magic to the image that it couldn't otherwise have. Movies would be poorer without this sort of thing.

This reminds me tangentially of something Erik Larsen said on Twitter recently: "When you start asking how Superman flies and why the Hulk's pants still fit you should stop reading comics--not start writing them."


Disagree. The answer is simple. Have problems with the destruction in Man of Steel? Then yeah, watch Donner's film. Have a problem with sacrificing believability for romance? Then Steel is probably the better bet. The dog fights in star wars are incomparable. The spectacle in empire strikes back is way, way ahead of that in Donner's Superman. I think Man of Steel succeeds in being physically coherent, more or less. And although it's mixed with considerable destruction, Snyder's film actually does have a good bit of romanticism running through its veins. Frankly, Donner's version may be slightly more cynical than Steel.


Wed Apr 23, 2014 10:03 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Ken wrote:
There are liberties taken with the physics of a flying man and his human companion for the sake of romance. The scene plays out like a dance, rather than one person physically hauling another through atmospheric friction.

If this is the sort of thing that causes you to check out of a movie, I'm not sure what to tell you. The same goes for the ice rink scene in King Kong. The same goes for the dogfighting scenes in Star Wars, or the fights in a Bruce Lee movie. Sometimes movies ask us to accept something that's unlikely, or even impossible, simply because there's a magic to the image that it couldn't otherwise have. Movies would be poorer without this sort of thing.

This reminds me tangentially of something Erik Larsen said on Twitter recently: "When you start asking how Superman flies and why the Hulk's pants still fit you should stop reading comics--not start writing them."


I agree that the "romantic flight sequence" in 'Superman' is deliberately designed this way, because, as you have aptly put it, it is meant to play out like a dance. I don't think the same applies to the helicopter rescue scene, which I have mentioned above, though. Also, I don't think that it works, at least it doesn't for me.

By the way, it's not that I automatically lose interest in the movie entirely because of scenes like this, but they do impair my enjoyment, particularly if I'm not won over by the movie in the first place. In the case of 'Superman', I have outlined other reasons for my opinion that the movie isn't particularly good and the fact that I find some of the flight scenes very unconvincing is just one of them. (Likewise, my main problem with 'King Kong' (2005) is that it is bloeated and overlong at three hours.) Of course, it also relevant that 'Superman' focusses on the flight scenes quite a bit, which were also emphasised in the marketing of the movie. To vaguely get back on topic, my reason for mentioning them was that the discussion was about Richard Donner's merits as a director, and I think that, contrary to your opinion, his work in 'Superman' isn't excellent throughout, for which the flight scenes are an example.

I don't want to derail the thread even further, but I'd like to clarify again that iI don't have a problem with fantastical scenes which defy the laws of physics. I do have a problem, though, when a movie creates its own reality with its own set of rules and then violates its own rules(*). This problem doesn't exist with the dogfight scenes in 'Star Wars' or the fights in a Bruce Lee movie.

(*) For example, I don't believe in the existence of vampires, but I can watch and enjoy a vampire movie. I'm fine with a movie's conceit that vampires cease to exist when they are exposed to sunlight as well, although it doesn't really make sense. It only becomes a problem if such a movie would then show vampires in bright daylight without further explanation.


Thu Apr 24, 2014 2:51 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Unke wrote:
or the fights in a Bruce Lee movie.


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Thu Apr 24, 2014 5:11 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
I haven't seen a lot of his work - most of it doesn't really interest me.

Superman and Lethal Weapon are two of my favorites from through the years. I've seen both numerous times and still enjoy them. Almost feel the same with number 2 for both of those. For that I'm willing to credit Donner for directing some of the movies that stand out most in my memory and stick with me the most. I also thought Radio Flyer was good when I saw it, but I've never watched it again since.

I'm a bit inconsistent when it comes to realism in movies. Anything can go for me in most movies, and particularly with most fanstasy movies. Some few have taken me out. The one I remember most is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. When those people appeared to take flight while running up trees and such I lost all interest in the movie. Not sure why it bothered me, but it did. With Superman I just sort of assumed that he could transmit whatever magical force that allows him to fly and levitate to other objects he's touching. I just figured anti-gravity had conductive properties for some reason. The turning back time sequence was somewhat silly since the rotation of the earth is just a means of measurement and not the source, but I didn't really view it as some sort of crutch. I assumed that the idea just came to him in a moment of despair and it had not occurred to him that he could do that before. Also might not be a remedy that he'd want to repeat often since the new future could prove to be more dire than the reversed event. But what could be worse than life without Lois?

I also really enjoyed the Hackman portrayal of Luthor. Not only didn't it bother me that his character was as much or more comedic than menacing, I think it set the character apart and above. My feelings are similar for Nicholson's Joker.

I did like Man of Steel quite a lot, but for me the Donner version will stand above it.


Thu Apr 24, 2014 8:55 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
I mostly like Donner's work, but Radio Flyer was just horrible, that one had me seriously scratching my head in how studio execs possibly thought the premise was a good idea. The way the issue of child abuse was handled was just all wrong, basically the message was "it's better to run away then to actually tell authorities about said abuse", which is a terrible message to send to kids suffering through the same thing in real life.


Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:45 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Vexer wrote:
I mostly like Donner's work, but Radio Flyer was just horrible, that one had me seriously scratching my head in how studio execs possibly thought the premise was a good idea. The way the issue of child abuse was handled was just all wrong, basically the message was "it's better to run away then to actually tell authorities about said abuse", which is a terrible message to send to kids suffering through the same thing in real life.


I don't think the film is good, but I'm not sure I agree that that's the message they're trying to convey, and I'm definitely not sure it's a terrible message to send, because the bottom line is that our system for investigating allegations of abuse is massively flawed and simply too protracted. Again, though, it's not a good film. I have not seen a film that is about abuse that handles it very well other than Once Were Warriors. It's just a very tough subject to get right, and it is inherently so personal that films either go too broad or two narrow in depicting the experience, or even worse, they make it lighter than it really is. Tough subject.

I think Donner is one of the type of artists who has directly inspired others who have surpassed anything he has done, so I commend him. It can't be overstated how hard it is to maintain a career in a director's chair.


Thu Apr 24, 2014 1:52 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Shade2 wrote:
Vexer wrote:
I mostly like Donner's work, but Radio Flyer was just horrible, that one had me seriously scratching my head in how studio execs possibly thought the premise was a good idea. The way the issue of child abuse was handled was just all wrong, basically the message was "it's better to run away then to actually tell authorities about said abuse", which is a terrible message to send to kids suffering through the same thing in real life.


I don't think the film is good, but I'm not sure I agree that that's the message they're trying to convey, and I'm definitely not sure it's a terrible message to send, because the bottom line is that our system for investigating allegations of abuse is massively flawed and simply too protracted. Again, though, it's not a good film. I have not seen a film that is about abuse that handles it very well other than Once Were Warriors. It's just a very tough subject to get right, and it is inherently so personal that films either go too broad or two narrow in depicting the experience, or even worse, they make it lighter than it really is. Tough subject.

I think Donner is one of the type of artists who has directly inspired others who have surpassed anything he has done, so I commend him. It can't be overstated how hard it is to maintain a career in a director's chair.

I'm sure that wasn't the message Donner intended to send, but that's how it unintentionally came across because of how badly written it was. It's a bad message to send to kids because they're taught to trust authorities(and they generally are pretty good about investigating abuse when it comes to kids), and teaching them to run away from their problems is most definitely NOT a good thing any way you look at it.

Also wasn't a big fan of Once Were Warriors.


Thu Apr 24, 2014 2:18 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
NotHughGrant wrote:
The Goonies is my wife's favourite film, and also, for my money, a film that has aged really very badly indeed.

I'll admit if it came out today I probably wouldn't give it a second glance -- ditto most movies I enjoyed from my childhood. They're nearly all very much products of their time (then again, ALL art is; it's just that some themes/sensibilities don't change much over time), but as a pretty nostalgic person, I can't help but still have a soft spot for the vast majority of them. :ugeek:


Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:43 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
The Goonies was a filmic hole from my childhood (youth) that I recently filled... and I thought it was awful. I suppose I might have had the same nostalgia as most had I seen it 30 years ago, but seeing it today, I just don't understand what the fuss was (is) about. Ridiculous story, horrible acting... just terrible.


Fri Apr 25, 2014 11:14 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Having not grown up in the 80s myself, I tend to see those films differently. I thought The Goonies was merely OK, but not really worthy of a sequel.


Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:18 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
CasualDad wrote:
With Superman I just sort of assumed that he could transmit whatever magical force that allows him to fly and levitate to other objects he's touching. I just figured anti-gravity had conductive properties for some reason.

Not that it really matters, but this has indeed been the explanation for how his powers work in the comics since the mid-'80s. He has a low-key telekinetic field around his body that extends to whatever he happens to be carrying.

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Sat Apr 26, 2014 12:35 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
That scene when Supes and Lois are flying is meant to be romantic and joyful but for me, having a fear of heights, I was clawing my seat thinking she's nuts for letting Supes do that her as she's going to fall. And she does indeed fall at one point. And yet she lets him do it again. All I can think of for that was: dumb bitch. If she falls again, she deserves it. :lol:


Sat Apr 26, 2014 4:36 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
Anybody seen Inside Moves? I seem to remember it getting generally good reviews when first came out.


Mon Apr 28, 2014 12:44 am
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Post Re: Richard Donner
MunichMan wrote:
The Goonies was a filmic hole from my childhood (youth) that I recently filled... and I thought it was awful. I suppose I might have had the same nostalgia as most had I seen it 30 years ago, but seeing it today, I just don't understand what the fuss was (is) about. Ridiculous story, horrible acting... just terrible.

I'm planning on filling my own filmic hole from childhood one of these days with, aptly enough, "The Black Hole," Disney's cheap Star Wars knock-off (complete with talking robots! :P ). I'm not expecting much from it, but I think my nostalgia will be strong enough to get me through it.


Mon Apr 28, 2014 9:15 pm
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Post Re: Richard Donner
H.I. McDonough wrote:
MunichMan wrote:
The Goonies was a filmic hole from my childhood (youth) that I recently filled... and I thought it was awful. I suppose I might have had the same nostalgia as most had I seen it 30 years ago, but seeing it today, I just don't understand what the fuss was (is) about. Ridiculous story, horrible acting... just terrible.

I'm planning on filling my own filmic hole from childhood one of these days with, aptly enough, "The Black Hole," Disney's cheap Star Wars knock-off (complete with talking robots! :P ). I'm not expecting much from it, but I think my nostalgia will be strong enough to get me through it.


Yeah, I was curious about that one. Post your thoughts.


Mon Apr 28, 2014 10:37 pm
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