Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
August 7, 2012
Good news: We won’t have to see Baz Luhrmann’s take on “The Great Gatsby” without the kind of elaborate 3-D effects and pop music soundtrack F. Scott Fitzgerald surely would have wanted.
Sure, Luhrmann’s (“Moulin Rouge”) known for his visual style, and a re-imagined version of a classic can often best a dully straightforward adaptation that only treads water until the next, virtually identical remake of the story comes around a few years later. I suppose I give Luhrmann credit for having a vision, though it’s debatable if filmmakers should always bend material to their whim, rather than adapting their skills based on what the movie demands.
It’s worth considering in light of Warner Bros.’ announcement that Luhrmann’s “Gatsby” won’t, as previously expected, arrive Dec. 25, positioned for a high-profile holiday release and considerable Oscar candidacy. Rather, the film, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton, will arrive summer 2013, reportedly so Luhrmann has enough time to finalize the movie’s 3-D effects and soundtrack (the trailer features tracks by Jack White and Jay-Z). Since this movie clearly “looks like an Oscar movie” (we all know what that means), I’m surprised that the studio isn’t pushing to wrap up “Gatsby” for the attention it would receive at the end of the year, as opposed to a summer release that may have difficulty sticking in people’s memories by the time awards season rolls around many, many months later.
Films are delayed all the time, and the reasons rarely inspire confidence. The Chicago-shot Superman flick “Man of Steel” has already been pushed from Dec. 2012 to June 2013, for reasons that haven’t been made public but may or may not have had to do with fear over competing with “The Dark Knight Rises” and “The Avengers” when reflecting on the year’s superhero flicks. Kenneth Lonergan’s “Margaret” spent six years on the shelf due to, among other things, conflicts over the movie’s running time; I haven’t yet had a chance to watch Lonergan’s three-hour-plus extended cut, but the long-delayed, contractually agreed-upon 149-minute theatrical release screamed, “Here’s a good version of something that could have been better if the director had gotten to make the movie he wanted to make.” So maybe that’s a reason to celebrate Luhrmann having the time and freedom to do “Gatsby” his way.
Most of the time, when a movie's release date changes it speaks to problems with the studio, the movie or both. “A Thousand Words,” “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Cabin in the Woods” recently suffered years-long delays largely due to studio complications, yet the finished products indicate that only “Cabin in the Woods” deserved to see the light of day in the first place. “Fanboys” experienced much-documented complications involving extensive changes to its terrible plot, the upcoming "Red Dawn" remake shot in 2009 but suffered development setbacks, and “Case 39” emerged four years after it was shot simply because Bradley Cooper became a star in “The Hangover.” Oops--by that time “Case 39” co-star Renee Zellweger was well past her peak.
You get the idea. Movies that experience issues like this rarely turn out well. Some people liked “Shutter Island" (also starring DiCaprio), which was pushed from a November to a February release; I thought it was one of Scorsese’s weaker efforts, and the studio probably knew it wasn’t likely to register during awards season.
Maybe that’s what execs suspect about “The Great Gatsby.” Maybe not. Regardless, I suppose we should be glad the movie’s not being held from public sight in order to beef up a role simply because of an actor’s star power, as was reportedly done for Channing Tatum when “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” was bumped from summer 2012 to March 2013. What, people aren’t hungry for maximum Tobey Maguire these days?
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