Nearly 30 years ago, John McTiernan was one of Hollywood’s hottest directors. His 1986 film Nomads, despite being a financial and critical bomb, caught the attention of uber-producer Joel Silver, who hired McTiernan to helm Predator. He was on a roll for a few years but some poorly received films did not help; 1999’s The 13th Warrior had negative reactions with test audiences and Michael Crichton, who wrote Eaters of the Dead, on which the film was based on, took over and directed a number of reshoots. Along the way, McTiernan got into some illegal wiretapping, hiring a private investigator to spy on the 2000 Rollerball producer Charles Roven; McTiernan basically made a false statement to an FBI agent and in 2006, that incident caught up with him. After lengthy court battles, McTiernan surrendered to authorities and went to prison on April 3, 2013, to serve a year sentence; however, he released on February 26, 2014 and spent the remaining 34 days at his private ranch in Wyoming. McTiernan’s legal problems, a vicious divorce and liability claims over a 2011 automobile accident plunged him into financial problems and he filed bankruptcy – and he might lose that $10 million ranch.
His last hit film was 1999’s The Thomas Crown Affair.
So, it would be a valid assessment to say that McTiernan might be a tad bit . . . cranky.
When asked about George Miller’s film, McTiernan’s response was: “Pffff . . . . Corporate product.”
Many would – and will – disagree with that. Mad Max: Fury Road is an action film against the Mad Max mold, especially with Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa (Yes, Tina Turner was fine as Auntie Entity in Beyond Thunderdome, but Furiosa was more kick-ass action). It’s an action film with multilayered themes and off-the-hook stunts and practical effects. It was fraking insane. You can’t really call it “corporate product.”
Then, McTiernan unleashed on superhero films, Captain America in particular:
“These are films made by fascists. Comic book heroes are for businesses. Captain America . . . . The cult of American hyper-masculinity is one of the worst things that has happened in the world during the last fifty years. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of this stupid illusion. So how is it possible to watch a movie called Captain America?”
Here’s the thing about the Captain America films: Steve Rogers/Captain America is one the least “hyper-masculine” action heroes in some time. He doesn’t ooze arrogance like characters played by Steven Seagal or Chuck Norris. Cap’s story is the ultimate underdog story. Even when he’s injected with the Super-Soldier serum and exposed to vita-rays, Steve is still emotionally unchanged. He’s still that guy from Brooklyn and he doesn’t lash like bully; from fighting the Red Skull, Hydra, Chitauri, even one of his best friends – Cap isn’t the poster boy for “hyper-masculinity,” he still keeps to his values and the code he follows. At the end of Captain America: Civil War, Cap is still looking out for his friends: Bucky, Sam and the other renegade Avengers . . . And Tony Stark. Despite their difference, Cap still consider Tony his friend and is loyal to him and the beliefs the Avengers were originally built upon. Not a gram of hyper-masculinity fueled arrogance, anger, or bitterness there. No, Cap isn’t like that.
McTiernan could learn something there.
When Chris Evans took the role, he said this in an interview:
There’s a kid that I grew up with named Charlie Morris. He’s the best kid I know. He was an Eagle Scout. And being an Eagle Scout is not easy – you’ve got to really do it for a long time. But he’s just such a good man, and he genuinely, genuinely puts himself last. He lives by a code. And so when I took the role, I told Charlie, “Listen. I’m modeling this after you.” And it’s such a great character to aspire to be.
Those who embody “hyper-masculinity” don’t have a code that Cap follows; now, they tend to be selfish and arrogant – yes, Tony Stark can be like that but, when you get past that, he’s a good man, albeit intense and prone to dark moods.
Fascist directors? Joss Whedon?! Whedon a fascist? Ponder that for a moment. Youi look at all the directors on the Marvel films or Christopher Nolan. They’re not fascists. Zack Snyder? Well, he’s bad director but not a fascist.
It’s like this: McTiernan is a bitter man. And, a bit hypocritical. Look at his films: Predator. Die Hard. The Hunt for Red October. The Last Action Hero. Rollerball. Basic. Those films could easily be labelled as “corporate products” or “hyper-masculinity” – especially Predator. McTiernan was talented but he peaked a bit too soon. He peaked too soon, with 1990’s Red October and faltered, beginning with 1992’s Medicine Man. Then along came 1993’s The Last Action Hero . . . . All right, people . . . . The Last Action Hero – can you say “corporate product?”
When the man who helmed the Rollerball remake complains about Mad Max: Fury Road or the Marvel Cinematic Universe films . . . can you really take him seriously?