on August 16, 2000
I want to give this book 4 stars, but I just can't bring myself to do it. This book is certainly an impressive scholarly work - well researched, reasonably well referenced, and when there is analysis offered, it is thorough and insightful.
Unfortunately, the analysis is also my major complaint with the book. McBride seems to haphazardly pick pictures to analyse, while ignoring others. What possessed him to give devote more pages to 1941 than all the Indiana Jones movies combined? Further, he has a tendency to focus too much on the story of the movie - I submit that most people reading this book have seen these movies and can draw their own conclusions about the significance of the story. We'd rather hear about how they were made, etc. That is, more facts and less analysis would would make this a better book.
The first half of the book is very good, because the author takes his time explaining family connections, his amateur films, etc. It is a little repetitive (how often does McBride feel he has to tell us that Spielberg felt like an outsider growing up?), but the detail and narrative flow are very good, telling us a lot about the man behind the movies. Especially interesting is the information on S's TV work.
The second half of the book rapidly degenerates into a shallow overview of things we already know about Spielberg, and is very disappointing. It's almost like McBride had a page limit, and after spending so much time on S's childhood, he had to rush through the remaining material, save for sections on Schindler's List and Colour Purple (both deserving movies, of course). Even Jurassic Park is little more than a sideshow, wherein McBride denegrates Crichton's novel (a fate that Peter Benchley's Jaws seems to avoid, even though in my opinion JP is a work far superior to Jaws) and comments on how Spielberg worked on the effects in Poland while shooting Schindler's List. Even his fine analytical powers seem to break down. What else could possess him to comment that Raider of the Lost ark is racist and "a soulless and impersonal film", while praising Last Crusade as "a graceful piece of popular filmaking...gratifyingly free of racist overtones that blighted the two previous films." Huh? Has McBride actually watched these three movies together? Or does he really think it's okay to portray stereotyped Arabs, but not stereotyped Indians or Nepalese?
At any rate, this is an important work, recommended for anyone that wants to learn more about the early life and works of Spielberg. But I would suggest putting it down without reading the last 5 chapters.