Tag Archives: darren aronofsky

If not Aronofsky, who should direct The Wolverine?

Well, that was quick: the dream of a Wolverine prequel helmed by Darren Aronofsky appears to be over, as the visionary director drops out for what appear to be personal reasons. I’m assuming that the Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects, but also The Tourist) script, based on the 1982 Frank Miller & Chris Claremont miniseries Wolverine, is still on the table. Disappointing, especially after Aronofsky promised such great things, but salvageable. So, if not Aronofsky, who should direct The Wolverine?

The quintessential Wolverine miniseries details Logan’s exploits in Japan. It’s a tale of honor, with a realistic love triangle and plenty of berzerker action; it established the character of Wolverine that the world knows and loves. The pie-in-the-sky director would be Quentin Tarantino, but you can safely put that on the “fan boy wishlist.” Same goes for body-gore master David Cronenberg. And while Robert Rodriguez has adapted Frank Miller before, his style may be too bombastic for this one.

Bryan Singer saved the superhero genre with his X-Men films, but he is stuck in pre-production for three films (Battlestar Galactica, Excalibur, and Jack the Giant Killer) and probably can’t save this one. The same goes for Zack Snyder (300, Watchmen), who takes over the Superman franchise from Singer next year. I’m not sure that Matthew Vaughn would do another comic film after directing three in three years.

Last summer, rumored directors included Matt Reeves, Tony Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, and Timur Bekmambetov. Reeves showed promise on his remake Let Me In, and Bigelow would represent Fox thinking outside of the box; both would be good choices. Bekmambetov would work as well, but he’s tied up with the sequel to Wanted and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Pray it’s not Scott; Ridley’s brother hasn’t made a good film in over decade.

One name I’ll totally pull out of nowhere is Edward Zwick, director of The Last Samurai, Blood Diamond, Defiance, and Love and Other Drugs; his diverse body of work demonstrates the range required to bring nuance to a comic book movie.

Luckily, Wolverine will return to the screen after the disastrous Origins flick. But without the right director, this prequel might stumble down the same path.

For Your Consideration: Black Swan

Natalie Portman in Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky is an unparalleled director, whose five feature films are engrossing and epic, whether personal (The Wrestler), universal (The Fountain), or a masterful combination of the two (Requiem for a Dream). His latest effort, Black Swan, is no different.

The film follows a production of the “Swan Lake” ballet, while retelling the ballet’s own plot as a psychological thriller. Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is the prima ballerina in Swan Lake, taking the dual role of the White Swan and Black Swan. Nina is the infantilized daughter of an overbearing, obsessive former dancer (Barbara Hersey, who nails the Mommie Dearest role of Erica Sayers). Vincent Cassel plays Thomas Leroy, the manipulative, twisted and all-powerful director of Swan Lake in a role that seems written expressly for him. Mila Kunis is Lily, the dancer that is everything Nina isn’t: free-spirited, sexual and seductive.

Early on, images of mirrors and reflections redflag the major themes of the film: sense of self and dualities of identity. The imagery isn’t subtle; in the first five minutes of the film, I started the countdown until a mirror was broken (which, indeed, occurs at a pivotal moment in the final act). The same goes for the white swan / black swan symbolism, with Lily as Nina’s doppleganger.

Nina, poised and pure, is perfect for the White Swan. Predictably, she struggles with both the demands of the role of the Black Swan, and with the side of her personality that allows her to embody the role. She lives under the thumb of her mother, and her mental and emotional development is arrested. Her sense of self is tied up in being the perfect dancer, having total control of her movement. Similarly, her apparent anorexia has more to do with control than body image (true of many real life sufferers of the disorder). But as Thomas attempts to teach her, “perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

It’s the letting go, and the embrace of her dark side, that is at the heart of the film. Nina sees herself in Lily, and as her paranoia and delusions grow, she projects onto Lily those things she cannot do or be by herself. Coming to terms with her sexuality, there are two scenes of masturbation, one literal and one figurative. The first begins as a suggestion by Thomas, and at the start it feels exploitative and not at all sexual, as if we’re watching this girl discover her body for the first time. But midway through, Nina’s dark side takes over and the tone changes to raunchy (even if the jarring end of the scene is a bit predictable). Later on in the film, the much-hyped lesbian scene is nothing more than sex with self – Lily is only there as fantasy, as Nina acting out.

This is no more true than in the film’s final sequence, when Nina, spiralling out of control and further away from reality, imagines a physical confrontation with Lily. At last, I got my broken mirror, as Nina’s fragile sense of self finally (and literally) shatters. She stabs herself/Lily, taking her own life in a twisted act of control over her demons. If Nina dies, there are no more tears, no more broken toes, no more flaws: in a word, perfection.

Throughout the film, Nina has visions of literally becoming the black swan, and these scenes are mixed in their effectiveness. The manifestations are more chilling at the start, as a rash or a foreign fragment under the skin. But by the time we get to legs breaking backwards, funhouse mirror tattoos, and feathers covering her entire body, it’s a bit extreme to take seriously. After watching the (very real) bodily trauma of Nina’s physical therapy, these horrific elements are too absurd to resonate.

Still, Aronofsky crafts a psychological thriller on par with and reminiscent of Pi. Both are stories of protagonists who cannot bear the weight of their gifts and curses, and choose drastic means to alleviate their anguish. Along with Pi, Black Swan reminds me of classics like de Palma’s Sisters and Bergmann’s Persona for its meditation on dualities of self. This ground is so well-tilled because of how fertile it is, which excuses some of the heavy-handed symbolism that Aronofsky uses to tell a familiar story.