By Michael Kaye
The Neon Demon (Editorial/Review)
Who knew that 2016 would end up being the best year in entertainment for Amazon Studios. They seem to be having their cake and eating it too, not only crushing it with their online streaming service, but some of their films are also getting relatively wide releases. And even if a film's theatrical run is a bust, at least they always fall back on online streaming. Such is the case with today's film Neon Demon, the latest from one of my favorite directors working today, Nicolas Winding Refn.
Here's the story. When aspiring model Jesse moves to Los Angeles, her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will take any means necessary to get what she has.
I am not interested in writing a full review for this movie. Not only has that ground already been covered perfectly by fellow contributor Wes Ball, but there's something else that I've been meaning to write about for a couple weeks now, and that's exploring the possibilities of Nicolas Winding Refn directing a comic book movie. Don't worry, I'll explain once we get there, but for now, here are my brief thoughts on the film.
I know, I know, I've been giving far too many perfect scores lately, especially from this particular filmmaker. But as I always tell you guys, I give you my honest opinion, and in my honest opinion, I don't think Refn has ever truly made a bad film. Granted, I say that while having never seen anything pre-Bronson (I hear Fear X is pretty atrocious), but there's always at least one or two aspects of his films that are the highlights. I'm not ready to call this his best film just yet, but it feels like he's taken the strengths from all his previous films, most notably Drive's narrative structure and Only God Forgives's gorgeous visual style, and still somehow turned that into something completely original. The performances were all great, specifically Jena Malone and Elle Fanning, who's become a far better actress than her sister Dakota ever was. Cliff Martinez probably composed some of his best material for the soundtrack, which I now want to own immediately, and the cinematography by Natasha Braier is absolutely stunning. This movie is doing terribly at the box office, so if you're planning on seeing it in theaters, you better do so immediately!
Alright, I've been hyping up this editorial long enough, so let's finally get down to business.
You're probably wondering why I feel like Nicolas Winding Refn, a director whose films are far too unique and polarizing for a mainstream audience, would ever want to work on a Hollywood blockbuster in the first place. Well, the answer is quite simple: he's said so himself. According to a recent interview with Business Insider, he has gone on record saying, "God, I would love to make one, it would probably be great fun...I just don't know when it's going to happen. I very much enjoy my freedom creatively, but I also would love to make one of those big Hollywood films that costs a lot of money and has a lot of people running around with cell phones and all that insanity.”
This isn't his first time expressing this interest. Back in 2010, he wanted to direct a Wonder Woman movie starring Christina Hendricks in the leading role. Obviously that never came to pass, but when asked which hero he would like to bring to the big screen, his answer was, “You know the one I want to do? I want to make Batgirl. Let’s get Warner working on it.” All things being equal, I love the idea of Refn directing a Batgirl movie, especially after seeing how well he works with women both in front of and behind the camera. However, there are two problems I have with this.
First off, the second that hypothetical announcement is published that he IS directing Batgirl, everyone will assume it'd be a live action adaptation of The Killing Joke, which would be a terrible idea. Not only is that not the direction that WB is interested in taking post-Batman V Superman, but the DC Animated movies are already covering that ground, and it looks pretty damn great.
Second, and this is where my personal recommendations begin, what I would rather see him attached to is that rumored Harley Quinn solo movie, which sounded much more like Gotham City Sirens vs Birds of Prey film. Think about it, WB knows they clearly have a hit on their hands with Suicide Squad, and they know that their main hook is Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn. So what I would like to see is Refn re-team with his Neon Demon co-writer Polly Stenham, while Paul Dini and Greg Rucka acts as a creative consultant.
Bare with me, I have two recommendations to go. You guys know by now how much I love westerns, and what a big fan I am of the character Jonah Hex. You probably also know that he left a bad taste in people's mouth with that garbage film from 2010. So yeah, I want one of my favorite characters to have a mulligan on the big screen really badly, and I also wanna see Refn step a little out of his comfort zone. Refn's never done a western before, but I know how much of a fetish he has for violence. So why not adapt some of the best Jonah Hex story lines from Justin Grey and Jimmy Palmiotti's excellent run from 2006-2011, or at the very least an adaptation of the graphic novel Jonah Hex: No Way Back. The best thing about this idea is that even though Jonah Hex exists very much within the DC Universe, he's far enough removed from the timeline that you're given much more room to breathe creatively.
Finally, assuming WB is serious about brightening their main DC Films, why not attach him to New Line's Vertigo line? The specific title I have in mind is 100 Bullets, a film noir-inspired crime series. Why this one you may ask? For a very selfish reason, I just wanna see him work with Tom Hardy again, who was attached to produce and possibly star in the film last August. I'd also like to see Hossein Amini write the screenplay, and possibly bring on board Albert Brooks and Ron Pearlman to star in the film alongside Hardy.
So this was probably the sweatiest editorial I've ever done, and I take a lot of pride in that. I want to see Nicolas Winding Refn branch out beyond the independent scene and join the conversation of greatest directors of all time. I also want people, especially those craving original films, to go out and support Neon Demon, at least help the poor thing break $1 Million at the box office!
Now I wanna hear from you guys! Have you seen Neon Demon, and if so what did you think? Also, what are some comic book titles that you would like to see in the hands of Nicolas Winding Refn? Drop your thoughts in the comments below, and stay tuned for my next review, where I swing on the vines in the jungle with Edgar Rice Burroughs's classic character in The Legend of Tarzan!