While he’s still far from being a household name, director Guillermo del Toro is rapidly becoming more familiar to mainstream audiences. The Mexican filmmaker, who’s perhaps best known for his “Hellboy” films and the Academy Award-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth,” has been making headlines lately regarding his growing number of highly anticipated projects.
He’s currently serving as creative consultant for Dreamworks Animation, where he’s received executive producer credits on their recent hits “Kung Fu Panda 2” and “Megamind,” and is also set to direct the blockbuster monster-epic “Pacific Rim.” The recent Katie Holmes-starring horror film, “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark,” flaunted del Toro’s executive producer credit about as much as its highly publicized star in the film’s ad campaign.
Yet, prior to becoming the current in-demand creative type in Hollywood, del Toro was better known for critically acclaimed films, such as “Cronos.” An innovative take on the vampire genre, it is a forgotten early gem in his career that was released last December on DVD and Blu-Ray from the Criterion Collection.
What sets the quality of del Toro’s “Cronos” apart from his proceeding English language film “Mimic” is that the latter became a generic product of the very Hollywood system del Toro is now injecting with his unique sensibilities. Starting your career off with a film that was initially only popular abroad is no way to earn clout in Hollywood, and it seems as if del Toro learned that lesson when “Mimic” producers unceremoniously ripped the film from his hands, deciding to change the director’s unique vision into your standard monster movie.
Del Toro has long been silent about his experience working on “Mimic,” stating only that he felt the film had been shaped into something far different than his original vision by Miramax producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein before its release in 1997. It was late August of this year that del Toro broke the news he’d been given the chance to recut the film into a version he told Deadline New York’s Mike Fleming that he was finally “happy about.”
Lionsgate Home Entertainment releases that version of the film exclusively on Blu-ray today, and while there are some noticeable changes in del Toro’s new cut, it still feels like a disjointed tale in the oeuvre of a masterful storyteller. Thankfully, what does make the disc worth purchasing, especially for aspiring filmmakers and del Toro enthusiasts, is that it also provides an introspective look at the makings of a cinematic mess.
The film is, at its heart, a monster movie concerning a deadly race of cockroaches bred to rid the world of a virulent disease, only to come back years after they’ve served their purpose to take revenge on the human race who seemingly disposed of them with little thought.
Many of the hallmarks of del Toro’s best films lay within the frames of “Mimic,” from creatures brought to life through the magic of practical effects to surrealist imagery that provides this potentially bland affair with a dose of visual flair. Unfortunately for fans hoping this new cut would make the film more satisfying, even del Toro describes “Mimic” simply as the “film that got away” on the disc’s commentary track, stating that the “Mimic” he wanted to make will never exist again.
While del Toro insists that this is the closest “Mimic” will ever come to being the film he envisioned, the fact that the film serves as a time capsule for many recurring horror tropes of tawdry, late ‘90s films like “Phantoms” and “The Faculty” reminds us that this is not entirely the work of del Toro.
The special features offer a vintage, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with a baby-faced del Toro happily discussing his creative process, along with shots of actress Mira Sorvino and “No Country for Old Men” star Josh Brolin, long before his breakout role in that film. There’s also a 14-minute long featurette entitled ” Reclaiming Mimic,” where del Toro maps out just what his intent was with this new cut, even stating that he sees the disc as a cautionary tale for anyone looking to make movies.
The centerpiece of the entire “Mimic: Director’s Cut” has to be the commentary track with del Toro, which is quick to get right into the details of the film’s eventual unraveling. Del Toro speaks at-length about what works, what doesn’t work, and how he walked away from the experience unable to make a film for four long years.
While the actual director’s cut of “Mimic” takes a backseat to del Toro’s ruminations of his filmmaking experience on his first film for a major studio, this is a release that will please those looking to trek back through the resume of a talent who’s quickly becoming a precious commodity in the film industry.
It’s clear del Toro is saddened that he’ll never truly get to make the film he spent several years bringing to fruition before eventually disowning prior to its release, yet the fact that he’s taken the time to provide this viewing opportunity for fans of the film and his work is serviceable enough on its own.
“Mimic” hasn’t been fully resurrected into a new masterpiece like director Ridley Scott did with his “Blade Runner: The Final Cut,” but the film is given a new coat of paint that should last long enough for del Toro fans to see the film that helped form the career of one of modern cinema’s most distinguished voices.