In the spring of 1969, newlyweds John Lennon and Yoko Ono decided to turn the nonstop coverage of their unavoidable celebrity into something worthwhile. They invited the press to join them in Amsterdam for their honeymoon, where they sat in bed for a week and talked about peace. “Yoko and I decided that we knew whatever we did would be in the papers,” Lennon would later explain, so they determined that if they were going to be in front of reporters, they might as well talk about something important. This general perspective has led countless subsequent celebrities to use their fame as currency to speak out on issues they care about — which is, in many ways, admirable. But they’re often blissfully unaware of the full context for Lennon’s influential use of his celebrity.
It seems safe to bet that deep inside every filmmaker, there lurks a burning desire to make a movie in the exact style of his or her favorite director. It’s the best way to explain the scores of filmmakers doing mini-Scorsese movies in the ‘90s; young filmmakers of the late ‘90s and early ’00s gave us plenty of junior Woody Allen pictures. And when a certain kind of filmmaker (most likely one who was a kid in the 1980s) gets access to a big budget and a summer berth, they apparently want to make a Spielberg movie. J.J. Abrams did it a few years back with Super 8; Colin Trevorrow is reportedly making his Jurassic World, due next month, less a sequel than a Spielberg homage. And then we have Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, with enough nostalgic golden glow, characters gazing off in a wonder, and John Williams-esque music cues to seem, in spots, like a Spielberg cosplay. Yet Bird seems to have learned the hard way what Abrams did in Super 8: the aesthetics are easy to ape, but one should never underestimate the value Spielberg places on tight, clear, logical storytelling.