Quentin Tarantino has no range. I’ll say it again. Quentin Tarantino has no range. Sure, he works in a variety of genres, but he uses them like people use clothes. He wears them for a bit and discards them for something else. His films are pastiches of the genres, but they are always unmistakably Tarantino. Now, distinctiveness is not always a bad thing, but it is not always a good thing.
In this instance, it is a bad thing because it is just Tarantino being Tarantino ad infinitum. His work is exactly the same now as it was 20 years ago. He has not developed as a film-maker, he has not improved. He has hit upon a formula that works and is going to follow it until he (inevitably) runs it into the ground.
I’m not saying I do not enjoy his films, I do. However, I think he is a far more talented film-maker, capable of creating some deeper, more original films but he doesn’t because they would not be as commercially successful. So instead, he keeps doing the same old thing and “referencing” all these films that he has seen.
I write this because the early comments about his next film, Django Unchained, strongly suggest this is going to be exactly the same sort of thing. Ultra-violent, highly funny with a 70s soundtrack. Textbook Tarantino. That it is a Spaghetti Western is neither here nor there.
He did once deviate from this way of film-making and it was a commercial flop, though a critical hit. That film was Jackie Brown, possibly the best film he has ever made. But following that he disappeared for six years before reappearing with Kill Bill, a movie straight out of the Reservoir Dogs/Pulp Fiction World. He even went so far as to state it was a film the characters in Pulp Fiction would go to watch.
And it was a huge success.
It was actually going to be released as a four-hour epic, but then it was decided it should be to be cut into two, two-hour films.
He does not take failure well. When his collaborative project with Robert Rodriguez, the double-film Grindhouse, bombed, they completely abandoned the idea. They took the films, added some previously cut footage and released them separately in the hope of salvaging something. But they didn’t.
Tarantino is afraid to take commercial risks and it has stunted his development as a film-maker. In some ways he is like The Beatles in their early years, churning out album after album of the same kind of sound. Yet after a while they grew tired of it and started to develop their sound, culminating in the creation of one of the greatest albums of all time.
Somewhere inside I think Tarantino has a Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. All he needs is to take a chance and try something new.