A few months back I was accused of defending a man with no need of defense, one Mr Johnny Depp. Then shortly afterward I singlehandedly revived Eddie Murphy’s career with an article so fresh, thoughtful and persuasive, I hadn’t even posted it yet when the news came through that he was to host the Oscars in his first real job in years.
Nevertheless this time I have selected someone so reviled and universally hated by fans of cinema that he couldn’t be reviled more if he changed his name to Adolf Bin Laden and took a piss on Mother Teresa’s grave…
Ladies and Gents I give you Herr Uwe Boll – the two most detested syllables in cinema.
A man in more need of defense than the ozone layer.
A man with less fans than venereal disease.
A man who has inspired websites and polls that demand he cease and desist from making films.
A low budget German Michael Bay.
A man with… oh you get the picture.
Now I might point out that I loathe the films Uwe Boll has ‘crafted’ thus far in his short but controversial career, I had the tragic misfortune to watch his entire output from 2003 though 2007, a quadrilogy of ineptitude and earnest ridiculousness starting with House of the Dead, and running through Alone in the Dark, Bloodrayne and the most pompously titled Lord of the Rings rip-off, In the name of the King: a Dungeon Siege Tale.
For those of you not paying attention this is four straight video game adaptations, and he followed them up with a fifth in Postal. Now I didn’t see Postal for reasons I will explain below… unless I ever reeeeealllly need another B Movie Haiku title someday.
And now *deep breath* the defense.
It is my fault I watched the four films mentioned above, mine and the video game developers who created the titular games in the 90s and 2000s, leaving me with the misfortune of thinking “Gee that might make a decent film”. But as the saying goes fool me once, shame on you, fool me two times…
Well I was fooled four times and stopped cold turkey, now with a few years to recover having elapsed I am able to stand back and laugh as the internet explodes in anger at his every release, even those only tentatively announced.
You and I generally keep our hobbies to ourselves – you’re reading mine – behind the walls of our home. If you’re an amateur painter and you suck no-one need know, hang that dodgy tree in the study if you like. If you’re an amateur sportsman with two left feet not many would line up to berate and heckle. But somehow Boll has somehow managed to get an on-the-job apprenticeship that has allowed him to learn and develop in front of our very eyes.
Uwe Boll has a hobby, his is just a very expensive one, and his dabblings are released for public consumption.
And that’s the point. The fact is Uwe Boll is clearly an awful filmmaker, but he doesn’t demand that you watch them. He clearly enjoys what he does and thinks we the audience should too – which is fine – we all want to be appreciated and acknowledged. But Boll elicits a hatred and reaction seldom seen elsewhere.
No-one would begrudge a bad singer-songwriter if he/she managed to get an album released. Only the most cold-hearted would pan that person if they continued to find ways to finance new albums despite low sales numbers.
In that regard we should be applauding Uwe Boll for his stick-to-it-iveness and dogged determination. Here is a man with over 150,000 votes on imdb – not a great many positive – yet he has managed to secure the services of actors including Ray Liotta, Jason Statham, John Malkovich, Michael Madsen, Ron Perlman and Kristina Lokken’s titties. (On the other hand I can’t proceed further without acknowledging Steven Dorff, Christian Slater, Tara Reid, Burt Reynolds, Matthew Liddiard, Dave Foley.)
As a German Boll makes films that are not in his first language, he is savvy (or simple) enough to know boys watch films by the truckload, and boys like boobies and bullets – even though for the most part they don’t know what to do with either.
This combined with the names in his cast ensure that even if the poster blurbs told the cold hard truth he can almost guarantee a few of the bespectacled unwashed will shill their coin to watch his output.
When combined with the lucrative tax incentives and a few gullible repeat investors Boll’s films are profitable almost despite your hatred. And if you say ‘being profitable’ is not sufficient justification to continuing to release films please explain to me Transformers and Twilight…
Furthermore, it’s not like the man is taking the original scripts meant for Christopher Nolan and Park Chan Wook and making a mockery of them. The man clearly preys predominantly on video game adaptations – and usually not good ones. Now I love video games as much as the next fuzz faced teen loser, but I can’t say that when I was hanging out behind the protective sheet in Timezone playing House of the Dead thinking ‘you know this would be a great movie’.
Boll got that feeling and made the film, hoping I guess that name recognition would bring viewers. I saw the video cover, realized it was based on the game. Rented it. Watched it.
It was bad.
Ditto Alone in the Dark and Bloodrayne. It took me a few brain cells to learn, but now I do I will endeavour to not make the same mistake again.
When I was a kid I hated the taste of broccoli. My mum insisted to try it and you might like it. I did and I didn’t. I haven’t eaten it since then, even risk matrimonial discord by refusing meals with broccoli secretly hidden inside. Decades have passed and I know I still hate it. Yet I don’t sing it from the rooftops or organize online petitions trying to ban it. Some people like it. I disagree with them.
(By the way for those a little slow on the uptake you might try to replace ‘broccoli’ with ‘Uwe Boll’…)
So hopefully we can agree by now that Uwe Boll makes bad films – and has every right to do so – and that we as the consuming public really have no onus to continue watching them, nor should we worry that he is soiling Grade A material. More games will be made. More shitty adaptations will result. Uwe Boll will be responsible for some, but not all.
Now let’s look at the good things he does.
Uwe Boll keeps the industry ticking along, not by himself of course, but without guys like Boll Matthew Liddard would be spitting in your burger before handing you the bag through the window and wondering why Wes Craven doesn’t call anymore. (A byproduct of this is that established actors like Ray Liotta and Jason Statham might just read their scripts before saying yes to them (though The Mechanic and Blitz might indicate otherwise).)
Without Boll it is entirely possible that the heaving bosoms of desperate clueless starlets might not be freed from their cloth restraints onscreen for the google/image pleasure of the same guys that decry Boll’s career.
Most importantly Uwe Boll is the full stop at the end of a bad idea. Once he makes a film there is a fair chance that an unnecessary sequel will result because the first was so unreasonably entertaining and made so much money. (Though somehow Bloodrayne is up to #3 so far…)
After a particularly torrid period of negative publicity – which normally follows one of his films being released – Boll openly challenged all and sundry to put their fists up to defend their honour in the boxing ring.
Now apparently Boll is a pretty big guy and a reasonable amateur boxer, but some scribes and reviewers did just that.
And Boll punched piss out of ‘em.
It’s one thing to bag someone, anyone can in this faceless media age, but another altogether when the guy you’re criticizing can fight back. You probably should respect the guys who took Mr Boll on, but I choose to admire the balls of a man in saying ‘if you don’t like my films, put ‘em up’.
Let’s face it, the Germans have made a few bad decisions over the years, a couple of World Wars, techno music, David Hasselhoff. Now it seems that for all the mocking and mutilation their accent has had to take over the years they have exported a guy to get their revenge.
Uwe Boll has released almost two films a year in the last decade, most in a language other than his native tongue. The RottenTomatoes ratings vary between 0% and 11%, with an average of 6%. The imdb ratings are almost universally awful.
Some choose to see a terrible director. I choose to see an ambitious man who constantly manages to find work and has an output of extremely consistent quality.
But I’ll let one of Uwe Boll’s films wrap things up, and as he is credited with writing the Dungeon Siege script this is likely his very own wisdom: “There will be no room for madness. We will simply call it… power.”
Sounds to me like the words of a very powerful man indeed.