Jon Favreau, the man at the helm of Disney’s live-action Jungle Book (2016) is well-known within Hollywood for being a writer, producer, and an actor, but it’s his role as director that I’m going to focus on today. Of course, only feature-length cinematic releases are included, so I’m sorry Bad Cop, Bad Cop fans but his TV movies won’t count on this occasion. Therefore, 7 movies over a period of 14 years will be ranked from worst to best in this article. As always, I’ll be around to respond to any and all queries or comments, so sign in via your Facebook, Twitter, or email account at the bottom of this piece to leave your thoughts. I promise I’ll get back to you. Now, without any further ado… let’s get started.
7 – Cowboys & Aliens (2011)
Coming off the back of two huge superhero films (that will feature later in this list), excitement was running high for Favreau’s sci-fi western crossover, but it failed to deliver. Despite featuring James Bond (Daniel Craig) and Indiana Jones (Han Solo… Uhh, I mean… Harrison Ford) as the main characters, Cowboys & Aliens suffered from a major case of the snores, for its plot was thin at best and the movie felt too slow. What’s more is that the action was hardly as entertaining and creative as was expected. The film was loopy, and indeed too loopy for most people’s liking, but void of real entertainment, and thus became a forgettable if not disappointing presentation of what was a pretty cool idea.
6 – Iron Man 2 (2010)
The sequel to Marvel’s game-changing superhero action movie was another of Favreau’s projects filled with promises that it simply did not deliver. The casting of independent movie hero Sam Rockwell in one of the lead roles suggested that Iron Man 2 would further the franchise as a distinctive and memorable part of Marvel’s bigger picture, and the introduction of man-of-the-moment Mickey Rourke – who was fresh off his success in The Wrestler and in the midst of a resurgence – only boosted expectations further. Unfortunately for fans, Favreau, and all involved, Iron Man 2 was a bit of a dud. It’s not that it was bad, it’s more that it didn’t live up to expectations nor brought anything as fresh and interesting to the table as its predecessor did. We’ll chalk it up to the ‘studio intervention’ that forced Favreau to give up the gig before Iron Man 3.
5 – Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
Zathura belongs to a very particular type of film: the under-appreciated kid’s flick. Managing a cast of children, not least 12 year old Josh Hutcherson (of Hunger Games fame) and 15 year old Kristen Stewart (Twilight), can’t have been easy, yet Favreau still managed to prove that he was capable of directing a fantastical adventure movie that was, probably, a little bit before its time. By no means was the movie a masterpiece, but it was a lot of fun (especially for something based on a board game) and it really managed to showcase some of Favreau’s more creative talents with regard to CGI and special effects; each being key elements in his making of the Iron Man films and The Jungle Book.
4 – Made (2001)
At our halfway point is the film that introduced the directorial talents of Jon Favreau to the world. Made, released in 2001, was one of that generation’s Favreau and Vaughn pics – the first being Swingers (1996) – and truly established Favreau as a noteworthy talent courtesy of its deep themes and dark humour. What had made Swingers such a success was Favreau’s script that was unapologetically critical of the movie industry and self-conscious in its references, plot points, and so on. Made was along the same lines, with Favreau receiving a lot of praise for time-stamping the film courtesy of some excellent contemporary references. This of course leaves Made, much like Swingers, feeling dated, but it should certainly be acknowledged as a successful and important picture with regard to this director’s career.
3 – Chef (2014)
This movie about a chef who quits his job and moves to Florida to start his own business is another film, like Made, that is very of its time. In fact, the whole plot revolves around Twitter. But, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. What Chef does is tell a story of now… the contemporary west; the recession hit social network loving America… and yet still, somehow, it makes you smile. In my review of the movie, I was very critical of it being neglectful of the traumas that being out of work has caused so many people living beneath the poverty line, and presented how I felt it worked only to reinvigorate the dominant Americanisms of heteronormativity, the white middle-class and capitalism that are replayed and rebranded time and time again in the contemporary market, thoughts I still adhere to, but I also mentioned how it’s a good “watch with food” movie that doesn’t require much attention, will leave you with a smile on your face, and probably encourage the majority of its watchers to at least try some cooking (courtesy of its food porn scenes). It’s tightly put together, with seemingly very little time wasted on filler material, and John Leguizamo is a pleasure to watch, making this movie the bronze medal winner in this week’s ranked.
2 – Elf (2003)
If ever there was a feel-good and funny Christmas movie, then Elf is it. Perhaps the greatest Christmas movie of the 21st century, Elf is a movie that has touched the lives of millions of young people around the world, and probably their parents a little too. Filled with quotable lines, and featuring such a memorable performance from Will Ferrell in the lead role, Favreau’s 2003 picture is sweet, magical, and most importantly filled with Christmas spirit. It is undeniably one of the high points of the director’s career and certainly helped to open the door to his role as director for number one on this list…
1 – Iron Man (2008)
What Jon Favreau’s presentation of Iron Man did for Marvel can not be understated. The studio, not to mention the company, wasn’t performing very well after a string of less than impressive releases and ill advised business decisions, but then Jon Favreau came along and changed everything… with a little help from Robert Downey, Jr. (and Kevin Feige) of course. Iron Man was fresh. Its comedic tone and generally light-hearted take on superherodom was entirely the opposite of Christopher Nolan’s darker but equally as successful Batman movies, and the sarcastic charm of its resurgent star made for smirks and laughter throughout. If ever there was a high point for Favreau’s directorial career it was here. Iron Man was truly a game-changing release that well and truly announced Favreau’s arrival as a tour de force in the industry for what will likely be many years to come.
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