If there’s one thing we need in this world, it’s an HBO-produced, star-studded documentary about the power, glory and immaculate wonder of Steven Spielberg. Directed and produced by Susan Lacy, Spielberg will debut on Saturday, 10.7. I’m not saying the point of Lacy’s doc is to warm up the atmosphere and fluff up the bed on behalf of Spielberg’s The Papers (20th Century Fox, 12.22), but it certainly won’t hurt in this regard.
Lacy talked to Spielberg for 30 hours while collecting insights and recollections from J.J. Abrams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Dreyfuss, Ralph Fiennes, Harrison Ford, David Geffen, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ben Kingsley, Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, Liam Neeson, Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Zemeckis. Is there a chance that even two or three of these guys will share something that isn’t totally obsequious and kiss-assy?
Imagine if Lacy’s doc was given to brutal honesty and was titled Super-Hack, and was basically about selling the idea that throughout his life Spielberg’s default instinct has never been anything more profound than wanting to get a rise out of Joe Popcorn, and that aside from E.T., Schindler’s List, Lincoln and maybe four or five other exceptions to the rule, there’s nothing wrong with banging out commercial movies or being the most talented and financially successful hack in Hollywood history. Celebrate that! Own it! No apologies!
Spielberg knows his craft like few others, but 85% to 90% of his films have mostly been free of any kind of singular passion or deep-rooted beliefs about human nature and how the world works or an underlying current of any kind. Spielberg is a Capra-esque suburban sentimentalist who believes in the goodness of American families, small-town neighborhoods, emotional moms, chubby kids, aliens cute and ferocious, happy endings, carefully choreographed action and wow-level spectacle. For over 40 years Spielberg has shoveled and the public has bought, and that’s why honest film historians of the future will regard him in the same light as Cecil B. DeMille and Mervyn LeRoy. Which is fine as far as it goes. By the way, whatever happened to Robopocalypse?