The really big picture

Billion dollar summer pic to buoy sinking studios


Randolph Heard
June 18, 1997 11:00PM (UTC)

Hollywood studios have been extremely nervous about the overabundance of pricey blockbuster films being released this summer. According to the Wall Street Journal, this summer's 12 biggest movies together cost more than $1 billion to produce. Inevitably, only a few of these films will emerge as hits. The rest will flop, taking with them the heads of various studio executives.

But there is a simple solution. The major studios should have pooled their $100 million budgets, their A-list stars and their high-concept story lines into a single, fail-safe BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE -- and then divvied up the resulting megaprofits. What family in America could resist going to see a film featuring dinosaurs, aliens, multiple love stories, Peter Fonda as a stoic Florida beekeeper, Batman and Robin, and a feisty Sandra Bullock striving to save the Titanic from an iceberg?

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Here are a few of the most memorable scenes from what could have been "The Really Big Picture."

The Boarding Sequence

"The Really Big Picture" opens with a bang -- the longest one-take tracking shot in film history. We can only marvel as Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bill Paxton, Billy Zane, Sandra Bullock, Jason Patric, Willem Dafoe, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, Gary Oldman, John Cusak, George Clooney, Chris O'Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman, John Travolta, Peter Fonda, Patrick Stewart and Mel Gibson take what feels like an interminably long time to board the Titanic. They're all as happy as clams because they don't know that they're going to be ripped apart by velociraptors, bludgeoned on the head by escaped convicts, abducted and experimented on by aliens and drowned pathetically in the icy waters of the Atlantic.

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On the other side of the Titanic, we see a group of convicts in high-security cages -- Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich, Ving Rhames and Steve Buscemi -- being secretly loaded onto the ship. A jittery Buscemi hears a deep rumbling that sounds peculiarly like a T-Rex trapped in some heavily reinforced hold far below. No one else believes him. We know that they are very, very wrong.

Best Poolside Scene

As in any Hollywood blockbuster, there are a few moments of light-hearted fun before the hard-core action really kicks in. After the midnight buffet, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone, Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Patrick Stewart all get drunk out of their minds and impulsively go skinny-dipping in the pool. What they don't realize is that Mel Gibson, George Clooney, Bill Paxton, Gary Oldman and Leonardo DiCaprio have decided to pull a prank on them by stealing their discarded clothes and throwing them over the side of the Titanic. Fortunately -- in a brilliant comedic moment -- Jodie Foster, Julia Roberts and an alien shaped like a T-Bone steak are standing on a lower deck and manage to catch most of the clothing before it hits the icy water.

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Most Impressive Special Effects

In a big picture like this, it's hard to pick and choose what wows the audience most. Is it when Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones -- the Men in Black -- pry open John Travolta's face and discover that they were wrong in thinking there was a tiny alien inside? Perhaps the most impressive and elaborately choreographed sequence occurs when the velociraptors invade the ship's storeroom. In an incredible display of the film's devotion to historical detail, they greedily consume the 75,000 pounds of fresh meat, 35,000 fresh eggs, 40 tons of potatoes, 1,000 bottles of wine and 15,000 bottles of ale and stout the Titanic took with her on her maiden voyage. Batman and Robin and Glenn Close's subsequent battle with a flock of drunken, vomitacious velociraptors pales in comparison.

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The Big Climax

Of course, all hell breaks loose at the end. Sandra Bullock is bravely manning the helm, attempting to steer the vessel away from an oncoming iceberg that Arnold Schwarzenegger, aka Mr. Freeze, has vowed will destroy Nicolas Cage, who for some reason he hates. The T-Rex is busily chomping on computer-generated crowds of screaming passengers up by the stern funnel.

The convicts, led by John Malkovich, have broken loose of their holding cell and are in the luxurious ballroom battling Harrison Ford, who plays the American president, and Jeff Goldblum, who feels he should be doing something about the T-Rex. Meanwhile, the aliens, tipped off by a psychic warning from their mothership, are shoving past crowds of women and children and leaping into the lifeboats. Despite the best efforts of a couple dozen or so of our heroes, there is nothing that can be done to save the Titanic from its doom.

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The ship, along with a surprised-looking T-Rex, a live orchestra and some of the most famous faces in Hollywood, disappears into the icy, black waters. George Clooney is the last to go when the Bat-dinghy springs a leak. The only survivor is Peter Fonda, in an Oscar-worthy performance as a stoic Florida beekeeper. The spitting image of his father as he impassively watches the entire cast of "Con Air" get shredded by the propellers, Peter realizes that his interest in bees is symbolic of something and that he really should reconcile with his children. A single tear trickles down his face. As the 45-minute-long credit sequence starts to roll, we get a sinking feeling that the dinosaurs, the aliens and the A-list stars will all be back -- in next summer's trillion-dollar sequel.


Randolph Heard

Randolph Heard is the story editor for the Fox animated series "The Tick."

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