The Top Ten Quotes From Stephen Sommers's Self-Pitying G.I. Joe Victory Lap

Fresh off a resounding box-office win in which his critically savaged G.I. Joe trounced all better-reviewed comers and further established his place in the upper echelon of directors of lowbrow, but cash-generating, late-summer fare, Stephen Sommers sat down with Variety to bask in the kind of vindication only a big opening weekend can provide. But rather than flip a defiant bird to each and every critic who cravenly lobbed a rotten tomato at his latest film, Sommers instead invited the world to watch as he sullenly applied a poultice of mashed-up hundred-dollar bills to the still-fresh scars his tormentors inflicted upon him over the past few weeks. Movieline has selected the ten choicest, most self-pitying examples from Sommers' limping victory lap, so that we can all share in the lesson that money does not, in fact, heal all wounds.

1. On preemptively punishing critics who've already demonstrated they're out of touch with the tastes of mainstream filmgoers because they've refused to praise plotless, two-and-a-half-hour reels of giant robots clumsily trying to sodomize one another with their junkyard-supplied cybergenitalia as things blow up around them:

"You have to gird your loins. I don't think the mainstream critics are relevant here, they have criticized themselves into irrelevancy. `Transformers 2' got the worst reviews in the last decade, and it is the biggest hit of the year. More people will see that than any other movie. On my movie, it became so clear to us. Why not make those reviewers pay their $15 like everyone else?"

2. On not reading reviews, because critics are joyless pimps for the Cinema of Sadface, and hate all popular movies, except for the Harry Potter ones, or the Star Trek ones, or the ones with drunk jackasses stealing Mike Tyson's tiger, or the ones with old widowers who fly around in balloon houses:

"I know it sounds cliche, but I don't read them. Why would I? I make the kind of movies critics love to hate. They love dark and depressing movies. If you make those, you expect they will love you, you need them to love you. The kind of movies I make? They don't enjoy commercial or popular movies."

3. On why critics are so darn nasty nowadays:

"On the most popular movies of the last decade, the reviews have gotten more vicious, more personal. These critics have become a dying breed, and part of it is how much more vicious and personal they've become. They attack the directors, personally."

4. On whether or not critics would ever fairly review his artistic output, even if he temporarily eschewed the $200 million budgets his success gives him access to make a smaller, "Hurt Locker" kind of war movie, where the suit worn by the protagonist somewhat protects him from being destroyed by the intricate bombs he's detonating, rather than giving him super-powers that allow him to joyously hopscotch through enemy missile fire while cracking wise about all the fun he's having:

"No way."

5. On Michael Bay's theory on the genetic makeup of critics, with a reference to a lingering hurt inflicted during the formative period of his auteurial development:

"I don't get mad at all. I get it, they don't like these movies, they don't get them. It's like Michael Bay said, they don't have a fun gene. These critics remind me of my 78-year old mother. She liked the movie, but it was a little fast for mom. I would love rave reviews, but I learned early on to discount them. When I made `Huck Finn,' some reviewer in Cleveland or Cincinnati got on me about hating the mat paintings I used for the Mississippi River. We shot on the Mississippi River. My job is to please the audience. A critic's job is to be critical."

6. On not feeling professional jealousy towards a colleague currently basking in critical praise for a movie in which nothing larger than a cornish game hen is blown up, with a little note to prospective studio employers about his ability to come in on schedule and under budget:

"No, I feel good for Nora. I'm sure she took a pounding on `Bewitched,' and I know how hard it is to make those movies. I root for her. Her movie needs good reviews. As long as my wife and two kids are proud of me, it's all fine. I know what I'm making here, and I am confident I do it well. I work really hard and consider myself a professional filmmaker. I don't yell, scream at or belittle people. I came in three days under schedule, and $1.7 million under budget. Everybody thought this would be a 95-day shoot, and we would have had a budget problem unless we tried to shoot in 85 days. We shot in 83 days, and added stuff to the original plan."

7. On the pain of having to tell your precocious child to stop reading the websites of mean, angry producers who like to lie about their father's employment status:

"You have to ignore it all. But when your nine-year old comes up to you and says, `Daddy, did you get fired off your movie?' That is when it gets personal."

8. On how a savvy person taught him to pander to the girlfriends of the blockbuster-loving dudes who drag them to his movies, but it's not really pandering, because he totally would've focused on the romance in an epic, CGI-heavy action-adventure about reincarnated zombie pharaohs of his own volition because of his fondness for a good love story backgrounded by flesh-eating scarab beetles:

"The studio never told me anything like that, but a very smart person pulled me aside on the very first `Mummy' and said, `You'll get the boys and men to like this movie, but if you focus on a romance, you can get girls and women to like it too. I focused on the romance and girls and women turned out as much as boys and men. It's not that calculated, though."

9. On how, when the studio gives your casting budget lemons, to make ensemble-ade:

"It is funny when the studios tell me, `the movie is the star! You're the star.' I suspect what they're saying is, `we don't want to pay a star.'"

10. On filling the void of viable leading men between the ages of 20 and 35 with a former exotic dancer he's recently elevated to star status:

"On `Tarzan,' the way we're writing it, he will be mid-20s. There are many great female actors between the ages of 20 and 35 but a real dearth of male stars that age. Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Matthew McConaughey, those guys are 40 or past it. I hope `G.I. Joe' is creating one of those stars in Channing Tatum."♦

· Interview: Sommers Gets Last Laugh [Variety]


  • metroville says:

    But he knows that he's a terrible director, right?

  • Lowbrow says:

    A director who can only makes irrelevant movies would, in turn, view critics & reviews as being equally irrelevant.

  • TimGunn says:

    Well, to be fair, when I blogged last weekend about the economics behind mass-marketing a blockbuster toy movie and where the studios would be best advised to spend their money, I was hoping that Sommer's 9-year old son would be reading. I even spelled some of the words fo-o-net-i-ca-lee to help him out.

  • Colander says:

    Yeah. He knows.

  • Champoozie says:

    You know you have hit the bottom of hack-dom when you start quoting Michael Bay to support your viewpoint.

  • Delta says:

    He does know that summer blockbusters can be both commercial and decent films, right? "The Mummy" was, on a whole, received as a completely decent and enjoyable film by critics (Ebert, for example, gave it three stars). It had a coherent plot, featured CGI that was neither painful or disorienting, and was a fun film that didn't take itself too seriously.
    The truly sad thing is that he doesn't recognize what sets a "good" summer blockbuster (such as The Mummy, Star Trek, or Ironman) apart from dreck like Transformers and G.I. Joe.
    Does he not realize that, if this was actually a good film, it would have been an even bigger success, as he would attract both audiences looking for mindless fare and audiences that actually want to be entertained by a good film? Instead of sustaining itself, like Star Trek or the Hangover, it's simply going to have another 70% drop off as disastrous word of mouth spreads.

  • Reason says:

    Wait, a Tarzan remake starring Channing Tatum?! Why is that the last item in this post, Movieline? This is what you call "burying the lede"!

  • Mr. So What says:

    All I have to say is: So what?! (He made this movie for fun and the kids eat it up. He came out with possitive income from this film and that is all that counts)

  • Chilli Vega says:

    I got to hand it to Mr. Sommers; He is pretty good at what he does. Modern Cinema has its various genres and always those with divergent opinions on all aspects of the craft and the end products. As with anything, people will always have opinions on absolutely anything especially motion pictures. Critics’ criticast and those whom listen. It's just the way it is. You can't make everyone happy all of the time, but you can make big bucks making those whom entrusted you with the duty of making most of us happy, happy as well...
    Keep making the movies the way you make them Mr. Sommers, God knows we need to enjoy cinema sometimes and not always find some deeper cathartic meaning in it all the time. To those critics quick to do what their titles entail...take a break and switch off the brain sometimes...not everyone wants to break their wallets over flicks like the Hurt-Locker, which is good too, but just different.

  • Delta says:

    Excellent point, Mr Sommers. I use the same logic when selling crystal meth to 12 year olds.