Friday, June 28, 2013

Guillermo del Toro Retrospective: MIMIC

Mimic (Director's Cut)
Starring: Mira Sorvino, Charles Dutton, Josh Brolin, Jeremy Northam, Giancarlo Giannini, F. Murray Abraham
Rated: R

Up until a few years ago, Guillermo del Toro seemed to refrain from wanting to talk about his first foray into big time Hollywood filmmaking.  When Scott Mendelson and I saw him at a Q&A in 2008, one of his stipulations before questioning began was the he would not take any questions regarding Mimic, his 1997 monster thriller.  Guillermo was always upset with this film and he almost never worked in Hollywood again.  His experience was one that was a nightmare, but shared by many a director in the mid 1990s.

What happened?  This film was made at Miramax, home to Bob and Harvey Weinstein.  These two cause trouble for any filmmaker not named Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez back during this time.  Miramax was set to be a company thriving on up and coming filmmakers, moving the indie guys up to the big leagues.  The problem being, the Weinsteins wouldn't let any of them tell their damn stories.  The two guys meddled and stuck their noses in everything.  They had to mark their territory somehow.  Its sad that this STILL happens today.  Ask Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson how much of a "joy" it was getting the band back together for Scream 4 (Williamson ended up quitting in the middle of production, btw).    Later this year, in a retrospective, we're going to get to one of their most famous botch jobs, but we'll keep this to Mimic.
Guillermo had two scripts he loved for this film.  Both were thrown out.  One was actually written by Steven Soderbergh.  In every step of production, Guillermo was being told go against what was good for the story.  Constantly be forced to alter things into heinous changes.  The bugs in the film were supposed to be beetle-like, but since some suit found it hilarious to have cockroaches attacking New York it was changed.  They also tried to make weird additions to the monsters as well.  And when Guillermo would put his foot down and stand firm against one of their requests, they would have Robert Rodriguez go out and shoot it for second unit anyway. Also, Guillermo wanted Andre Braugher as Sorvino's husband in the movie but "America was not ready for an interracial couple in a Hollywood movie" according to the execs.  Yes, things really do go like this when getting a movie off of the ground, sadly.
The movie wound up looking like one big Alien rip off.  Instead of the Nostromo it was the sewers of New York.  The film wound up underperforming at the box office, coming $5 million shy of its budget domestically.  I remember it being kind of a video store staple back in the day.  And I hadn't seen the theatrical cut since VHS and, being honest don't remember much other than the monster from the movie.  And its a film I've not revisited until this retrospective.  Guillermo didn't want to give it the time of day, why should I?

In 2011, Lionsgate approached del Toro about revisiting the film and making a cut close to his original vision.  Since the rights were no longer theirs, there would be no Weinstein communication on it.  Guillermo obliged and we now have a director's cut.  A more thoughtful, introspective and deep movie instead of just a hack and slash fest in the sewers.
As much as I thought it would be compromised, the film is VERY much a Guillermo del Toro piece.  It has his look, it has his care.  Most films of this ilk from the 90s have this sort of look and feel to them, but this one has a more timeless like feel.  It looks more artful and masterfully crafted.  Guillermo brings his fascination with gross bugs straight to the forefront of attention here.  This won't be the last time.  While still not achieving incredible greatness, its visually remarkable and a great picture on the eyes.  If you've been missing Mira Sorvino and Charles Dutton since the clock struck midnight on January 1, 2000, you'll be happy to see them here.  If you're looking for a good monster movie with a lot more care and thought, I'd definitely recommend Guillermo's smarter, better director's cut of the film.  Guillermo is now also more willing and happier to discuss this black sheep of his cinematography, now that he's produced the closest to his original vision he could.

Next Time: Guillermo goes back to the Mexican well and creates The Devil's Backbone.

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