Features and Columns · Movies

Joe Dante’s Divine Comedy: Highs and Lows of Studio Filmmaking

Wow, if you leave talented creatives alone, they tend to create good art! Who’d a thunk it?
Joe Dante Studio Filmmaking
By  · Published on August 13th, 2021

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on three films that tell the story of Joe Dante’s struggle with big studio films.

It’s something of a truism that the vast majority of “production nightmares” boil down to power struggles over who, exactly, has creative control. We’re talking behind-the-scenes legends that sublimate into book deals, documentaries, and myth itself. Like Wener Herzog pointing a gun at Klaus Kinski on the set of Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Or untethered projects like Cleopatra, Ishtar, and Heaven’s Gate spiraling out of financial control.

Studios care about a film’s marketability and this is not always true of directors. The results of this tension can be disastrous, but we’ve all heard those horror stories before. What’s more interesting is a slightly more nuanced narrative: a collection of one particular auteur’s experiences with studio filmmaking, and what they taught him.

The following video essay takes a look at three studio films directed by the genius genre Joe Dante. While Dante’s early films emerged out of the energetic “get it done” approach of Roger Corman, his later experiences with studios were less than straightforward. The essay takes a look at the hybrid live-action animated feature Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), the sci-fi coming-of-age flick Explorers (1985), and the marvelously chaotic blank check that is Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). In the essay, each segment parallels the three parts of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise, respectively). The result is a much more measured portrait of studio relations, from the hellish to the divine.

Watch “Joe Dante’s Battle With Hollywood”:

Who made this?

This video on Joe Dante’s battle with Hollywood is by Andrew Saladino, who runs the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society. You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).