An open letter to Max Landis:
Let me preface this by saying Max Landis is a great writer. He knows story structure and character development more than many of the professionals working in the industry today. The stories he has told have given me absolute shivers. When he went on the Nerdist podcast and pitched his Captain Hook feature, I absolutely flipped out. Not only did it capture the essence of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Smee, the lost boys, and the crocodile; it also brought a whole new perspective to the property without degrading the original source material. But he didn’t stop there, after that he recounted his take on James Bond. And it was a legacy story! It showed a linear succession of all the bonds, paying tribute to the entire cannon of the Bond franchise.
What’s more is that, not only is Max Landis himself a big geek (a term he vigorously disputes) but he is a critical geek. Long has he had a YouTube channel that he uses for inane videos of nonsense—but also, he films little shorts that examine critical failures in the comic book and film industry. “The Death and Return of Superman” has encapsulated a mounting problem within the comics industry and was damn funny to watch. “Chronicle”, Max’s screenwriting debut proved a script can have super powers and not be a super hero movie. Not only that but he is a famous geek who understands other geeks. Meeting him in person is really fun and often uplifting. Not only does he make himself visible in the convention scene but he does things like “Nerf War Turf War”, an outing of Nerf gun fights and having fun conversations with Max. Personally I met Max at SDCC, I spotted him on a bench and I sat down simply intending to tell him what a huge fan I was. Instead, the man took a genuine interest in me, asking about me. I told him about a past novel I was working on and not only did he listen to me gush over my own work, he offered advice and things I could add to the piece to make the novel even more compelling. It was absolutely incredible and unhampered by the fact that he was slightly tipsy at this point. To me, this was a man who knew how to craft a story giving me credence and confidence.
But, despite all these fantastic attributes, there began to be a problem with Max Landis. It started when he took to Twitter to disparage “The Dark Knight”. Now, out of all of the Batman films, I would argue that “The Dark Knight” was the best. But, perhaps I shouldn’t be so absolute in my tastes so I let it go; after all, this man knew story and characters like I never could. It was some time later that Max tweeted his dislike of the reboot of “Godzilla”. And you know what? I can readily admit that it isn’t for everyone. But then he went one step further, comparing the 1998 “Godzilla” more favorably. Really? Really Max? Which part was better? When a dinosaur the size of an apartment block stealthily escaped to Madison Square Garden? Or when the film ripped off the raptors from “Jurassic Park”? That one hurt but I’m a big boy so I licked my emotional wounds and pressed on, Max still commanding my respect even if he could no longer be considered an arbiter of taste. Then later, Max tweeted about the film “Snowpiercer”. Now I love “Snowpiercer”. It was different and complex, it had faith in the intelligence of the audience, and it was jam packed with action. But here was Max, tweeting that all of his friends were raving about the movie and he didn’t know what they were talking about. Even now this elicits a heavy sigh from me. For not only does this disparage the film but it is critical of those who do like it. This is a statement that dismisses anyone who enjoyed the movie as an ignorant fool.
As I said earlier, Max Landis as a story teller is great, as a person even better. But there is a problem with Max Landis and I want to address him on this problem. Max? I think you have problem. And I think the problem is that whoever is running your Twitter is an asshole and I have a sneaking suspicion that man is you. And perhaps Twitter isn’t your only problem. Just recently you posted an essay to reddit in an effort to describe the climate in the film industry for screenwriters. It was actually really commanding and inspiring, a real call to action. The essence of the message being that the studios were clinging to what’s safe, gobbling up intellectual property like Skittles. It helped describe what to expect and the system aspiring filmmakers would be expected to work in. There’s just one problem with that, how do you hope to inspire screenwriters when every movie is apparently garbage?
You spend so much time on Twitter picking apart these films, describing how you could have done better but then you turn around and tell those out of the industry to work towards those kind of films. It’s as if you’re guiding us all where to stand so we can be in line for your firing squad. It makes me feel disparaged from two directions, not only is the industry impenetrable but once I’m there the best I can expect is to be fodder for Max on his Twitter for two minutes. And what if I do end up making something artistic and outside the studio system? What can I expect once I overcome that herculean feat? Well if “Snowpiercer” is any judge, I’ll be riddled for inconsistencies and my off putting tone in spite of my craftsmanship or artistic meaning.
Max, you are a problem. You have four films coming out with your name on them. That is impressive. But Hollywood is an incestuous place, do you think you can maintain your career with all the mud you sling? Because from what you wrote, the best a writer can hope for is they will be a faceless plebeian working for a studio on a film they don’t care about that will cut out all artistic integrity if it will earn them a great opening box office. If that’s the case, Los Angeles is full of plebeians willing to work who haven’t spent the better part of a year cutting apart every big box office release.