In the late summer of 1993, all serious movie geeks had their eyes on two movies. The first one was Hard Target, which marked the American debut of the great Hong Kong action director John Woo (whose great Hard-Boiled had recently been in theaters), and the second was True Romance, which was the second screenplay by Quentin Tarantino, whose Reservoir Dogs had been out the year before. I enjoyed both of the new movies just fine, but I kept thinking: what if these two productions had simply switched directors? Tony Scott could have directed the latest Jean-Claude Van Damme snoozer (and hence I wouldn't have bothered to pay money to see it) and then John Woo could have taken over the Tarantino screenplay! How cool would that have been? True Romance would have been the greatest movie, ever!
Something vaguely similar happened this summer, but to a much lesser degree. I'm talking J.J. Abrams directing Star Trek (218 screens), and McG directing Terminator Salvation (81 screens). What if they had switched places? Neither one of them is any great shakes as a director, but I'd put my money on McG as the more interesting of the two. OK. Hear me out. Star Trek had a terrific script, with a really unique idea; it's perhaps the smartest series reboot I've yet seen, but Abrams' clunky direction drove the action to a dead halt at least half a dozen times. On the other hand, the screenplay for Terminator Salvation was pretty much unsalvageable, but McG put together some truly dazzling set pieces, using clean, fast gliding cameras to catch the movement and space of the action scenes.