by Luke Hickman
New Zealand-born director Martin Campbell returns to theaters this week with the comic book adaptation of 'Green Lantern.' Starring Ryan Reynolds ('X-Men Origins: Wolverine') and Blake Lively ('The Town'), Campbell's latest film tells the story of a fighter pilot who is chosen by a supernatural force to be a protective guardian with unreal superpowers.
Just as we did last week with 'Super 8' director J.J. Abrams, this week we're going to highlight some of Campbell's past films that you may not realize are his.
While the majority of his work lies in television series - mostly on the BBC - Campbell has plenty of theatrically released credits under his belt, and the majority of them are pretty damn good.
Campbell's first whack at the James Bond series was awesome. I will never forget the opening base-jumping sequence off the face of a 720-foot dam. 'GoldenEye' was Pierce Brosnan's first 'Bond' film, and - if I may say so - his best 'Bond' film. This was also when Judi Dench took over the role of James Bond's boss, M.
'GoldenEye' was unique for the series because it was the first 'Bond' not based on an Ian Fleming novel or short story. The previous 16 'Bond' films were all based on his books. The modernized take on 'Bond' was well received by critics (it holds an 80 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating), and Campbell's later bout with 'Bond,' eleven years later, was rated even higher.
On a spin-off note, since I was a teenager when 'GoldenEye' opened, the only thing that held more esteem than the movie was its accompanying Nintendo 64 game. The game's multi-player mode struck video gaming gold. With over eight million copies sold, 'GoldenEye 007' held the record of highest selling game for over a decade until 'Halo 3' passed it in 2007.
'The Mask of Zorro' (1998)
Say what you want - I've always considered 'The Mask of Zorro' a fine action flick. It capitalized on Antonia Banderas during his peak and Catherine Zeta-Jones pretty much owes her career to Campbell for casting her as Zorro's feisty romantic interest.
When Robert Rodriguez dropped out from directing 'Zorro,' Campbell turned down directing 'Tomorrow Never Dies' to take over the Steven Spielberg-produced production.
While 'The Mask of Zorro' went on to earn an 82 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, it's a shame that Campbell felt the need to return to the franchise in 2005 with the family-friendly 'Legend of Zorro', which earned a rotten 26 percent. For his sub-par merits on 'The Legend of Zorro', Campbell very well could have been featured in our Bonus View Roundtable "Bad Movies From Good Directors."
'Vertical Limit' (2000)
There's only one thing I remember from 'Vertical Limit' - the opening rock climbing family outing. While I recall thinking that intense scene was awesome and (obviously) unforgettable, the rest of the movie was forgettable. Even as I read the plot synopsis on IMDB, none of it is coming back to me.
Even though my memory has 'Vertical Limit' pegged as being a sub par film, it received a 48 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, which isn't as terrible compared to 'The Legend of Zorro'.
An interesting note about 'Vertical Limit' is that portions of the movie were shot on location on K2, the Karakoram Mountain Range in Pakistan. All politics aside, can you image a Hollywood blockbuster being shot in Pakistan nowadays?
'Casino Royale' (2006)
Returning to direct 'Bond 21,' Campbell earned his highest Rotten Tomatoes rating (94 percent) with 'Casino Royale'. Not only did Campbell direct Pierce Brosnan's first 'Bond' film, he also directed Daniel Craig's first.
Telling the early story of James Bond just after reaching double-'O' status and obtaining his "license to kill", it's easy to mistake 'Casino Royale' for prequel, when in reality it's essentially a reboot.
'Casino Royale' brought everything expected from a 'Bond' movie to the table - the "Bond girls," the action, the dry humor - but it upped the quality with heightened intensity, real danger, emotional connections and completely solid story telling. In fact, the plot of 'Casino Royale' was so strong that it warranted the first-ever true "sequel" to a Bond film. 2008's follow-up 'Quantum of Solace' continued the story begun in 'Casino Royale,' picking up less than one hour after the film's closing scene.
There have been plenty of great 'Bond' movies, but it's definitely not a coincidence that Campbell was at the helm for two of the greats.
'Edge of Darkness' (2010)
I hate the term "celebrity," and the non-stop paparazzi coverage that the news media gives actors and musicians these days. When Mel Gibson's fights with his girlfriend are covered on the primetime evening "news," I get angry. But that's just my opinion. Many want to know every detail of this garbage and base their movie going and listening experiences on the talents' personal lives and not on the art at hand. Most people did not see 'Edge of Darkness' for this reason. I'm not saying it's a brilliant piece of art; it just deserves more love than it receives.
In 'Edge of Darkness', Gibson plays a single, almost-retired homicide detective, whose child is gunned down on his front porch and dies in his arms. Completely alone, he follows his only notable skill set - investigating homicides - and sets off to find his daughter's killer.
What most American's don't know is that 'Edge of Darkness' is a feature-length adaptation (courtesy of 'The Departed' screenwriter William Monahan) of a 1985 BBC mini-series that was also directed by Campbell. Watching Gibson's character obsess over finding his daughter's killer is mesmerizing, especially once he (spoiler alert) starts seeing and talking to her. No, he doesn't see her in a 'Sixth Sense' fashion - he merely goes down the 'Black Swan' bat-shit crazy route. And it's captivating.
If you haven't seen 'Edge of Darkness,' hide away those judgmental thoughts of Mel, replace them with positive ones - think back to 'Braveheart', 'The Passion of the Christ,' 'Signs', 'Payback' and 'Mad Max' - and see one of Campbell's most insanely great films to date.