World of Westfahl | Encyclopedia Introduction | All Entries | Acknowledgements
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

X–Z Entries
George Worthing Yates
Irvin S. Yeaworth, Jr.
Michael York
Robert Zemeckis
Terri Zimmern
George Zucco
 
ZEMECKIS, ROBERT
(1952– ). American director and producer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Directed: Back to the Future (and co-wrote with Bob Gale) (1985); "Go to the Head of the Class" (1986), episode of Amazing Stories; Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1987); Back to the Future II (1989); Back to the Future III (1989); "And All Through the House" (1989), episode of Tales from the Crypt; Death Becomes Her (and produced) (1992); Forrest Gump (1994); Contact (1997); What Lies Beneath (and produced) (2002).

Produced or co-produced: Tales from the Crypt (tv series) (1989–1996); Demon Knight (Gilbert Adler and Ernest R. Dickerson 1995); W.E.I.R.D. World (tv movie) (William Malone 1995); Bordello of Blood (Adler 1996); The Frighteners (Peter Jackson 1996); Perversions of Science (tv series) (1997); House on Haunted Hill (Malone 1999); Thirteen Ghosts (Steve Beck 2001); Ghost Ship (Beck 2002).

Wrote: "Chopper" (story with Gale; script Steve Fisher and David Case) (1975), episode of Kolchack: The Night Stalker.

Created: Back to the Future (animated tv series) (1991).

 
He is the director of the most striking and disturbing fantasy film of the 1990s, and I am most certainly not talking about Death Becomes Her or Contact. Rather, the film in question is Forrest Gump, that bizarre alternate history of postwar America suggesting that we could have placidly coped with the turmoils of the 1960s and 1970s if only we all had been ... a bit stupider. What is especially disquieting is that Robert Zemeckis is downright enthusiastic about that thesis, placing him in conflict with star Tom HANKS, who recognizes perfectly well how painful and tragic his character's plight is—a person who can never really figure out what is going on—and he imbues the film with scattered moments of affecting pathos. Meanwhile, Zemeckis blithely toodles along as if he were making the feel-good movie of 1994, the heartwarming saga of a simple but saintly soul who triumphs over the system in the face of overwhelming odds.

As a director, Zemeckis is all right, as long as you're not looking for depth. He first attracted attention, and deservedly so, for co-writing and directing the charming Back to the Future, a well-constructed and diverting time-travel adventure marred only by the annoying shtick of mad scientist Christopher LLOYD. Then came Who Framed Roger Rabbit, an energetic blend of live-action and animation perfectly recreating the spirit of the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the 1940s. Teen comedies and cartoons Zemeckis can handle, and handle very well indeed. It is his subsequent efforts to broaden his horizons and diversify his output that suggest an inability to go beyond those genres.

His two sequels to Back to the Future had their moments, but subtly shifting the focus of the story from the capable Michael J. FOX to the inept Lloyd was an early indication that he wasn't always going to be making the best decisions. Death Becomes Her was largely an embarrassing misfire, suggesting that Zemeckis couldn't deal with comedy which had even a hint of sophistication. Contact further proved that he was clueless when it came to science fiction: completely unable to relate in any meaningful fashion to the cosmic vision behind Carl Sagan's stimulating but flawed novel, which manifestly required dramatic revisions in order to work on the screen, Zemeckis cautiously followed precisely in Sagan's clunky footsteps, did nothing to inspire a talented cast to extend themselves beyond the perfunctory in their performances, and ended up presiding over the most stunningly dull and vapid film about alien contact ever crafted.

So, with the Back to the Future franchise exhausted and the projected sequel to Who Framed Roger Rabbit now lost in development hell, what is Zemeckis to do? One of his answers is to increasingly focus on his second career as a producer, where he has specialized in another genre he can't quite master, horror. While The Frighteners, helmed by the unusually talented Peter JACKSON, was passably entertaining, Demon Knight, Bordello of Blood, House on Haunted Hill, Thirteen Ghosts, and Ghost Ship were all ghastly in ways that were not intended. His one directorial venture in this arena, What Lies Beneath, was better than the horror films he produced, though still crippled by a foundational absence of conviction and an inability to extract outstanding work from decent actors. His only recent success, Cast Away, was another clumsy project heroically rescued by Tom Hanks, who must be realizing by now that, despite his expressed affection for this director, he always has to work a lot harder than usual whenever Zemeckis is in the director's chair. Please, can someone dig up one of those rejected scripts for Roger Rabbit Part 2 and once again give Zemeckis a job he can handle?

To contact us about encyclopedia matters, send an email to Gary Westfahl.
If you find any Web site errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to our Webmaster.
Copyright © 1999–2014 Gary Westfahl All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Hosted & Designed By:
SF Site spot art