What I liked most about Rick Famuyiwa”s Dope was the energy of the film. It felt young and authentic and fun, even in its craziest moments. As stories go, it was a little thin, but that didn”t matter. Famuyiwa attacked the material, and he did it in a voice that was his, something that”s not always easy.
And don't be fooled… Famuyiwa's no kid. He's been making films for over 20 years now. Dope was, in many ways, a reinvention for him, a breakthrough after years of making solid films that didn't quite generate the kind of buzz that pushes you to the next level. If you”re the kind of guy who is driven enough to keep getting your indie features made, you”re probably the kind of guy who loves and watches tons of movies. You have to be crazy about them in the first place to want to push that rock up that hill. When you're starting out, you absorb a lot of tricks from other filmmakers, and sometimes, you end up using their film language in a way that is more obvious, more overt. Famuyiwa has been doing this long enough that he has honed his own voice, presumably while shooting fast and making every penny count, and those two things do not always go hand-in-hand.
So when you see directors making the jump from something like Dope or Cop Car or Monster or The Babadook to a big-canvass event movie, it”s not out of the blue. It”s because those filmmakers have demonstrated some kind of voice, and they”ve managed to make something on limited resources that shows off a larger skill set. It makes sense. Not everyone can make the jump. Not everyone does everything well. Sometimes, you are surprised by just how well someone takes to the larger stage. Ultimately, until they do it, it”s a question mark, and I think that”s why voice matters. That”s what a studio bets on. As studios struggle to figure out what the best version of the modern model is, the bets that seem to pay off the most richly are the ones where you bet on someone whose voice you like.
This is what DC Films has said they wanted, this cultivation of voices. It was behind the hiring of Patty Jenkins for Wonder Woman, and it”s certainly part of the decision to back James Wan on Aquaman. Seth Grahame-Smith may be off of The Flash, but his script is still going to be used, based on the Chris Miller/Phil Lord outline, and so for Famuyiwa, it becomes about how he interprets that blueprint. I would think that anyone working on a film like this would want to start with a foundation as solid as a Miller/Lord script. They”ve become one of the most reliably clever and inventive mainstream guys working, and it”s because they find a reason to tell these stories. It”s never just about the hook or the plot points; they write to theme, and they find surprising ways to make the material more than it seems on the surface. Famuyiwa”s sitting in the catbird seat here, and it will be interesting to see how they claim the character as their own, considering just how well the source material”s being mined on TV right now. There”s plenty of room to get it right, though, and it certainly feels like Warner is aware that they have to bet big if they want to win big.
The Flash is set to speed into theaters March 16, 2018.