The Delusional Arrogance of Uwe Boll

Uwe Boll is not a good director. He couldn’t be bothered to get his star a costume that fit properly for his adaptation of BloodRayne, and everything since then has been critical derision and commercial apathy. I have no reason to believe that he’s improved as a filmmaker.

But let’s take a step back. If you’ve never heard of Uwe Boll, he’s a German director that specializes in terrible adaptations of video game properties that precisely nobody else wanted the rights to. His movies are known for bad pacing, bad acting, bad action, and generally looking like hacky student productions, and since some of the people he’s worked with are good – Ben Kinglsey inexplicably appeared in BloodRayne – it seems more likely to be a Uwe Boll problem than a talent problem.

Not that he’s ever let that stop him. Uwe Boll also has a healthy self-regard, most recently taking to YouTube to tell Kickstarter – and presumably his audience – to fuck themselves for not giving him the money he wanted to make Rampage 3.

Kickstarter certainly has its issues, but it’s proven to be most effective for people with pre-existing notoriety and the ability to mobilize a loyal fan base. Boll has the former but not the latter, and for most people three failed crowd-funding campaigns would indicate a strong level of disinterest. But instead of engaging in basic self-reflection to figure out what he’s doing wrong, Boll doubled down and insulted those in a position to give him money.

Suffice it to say that I’m not shedding any tears over the loss of Rampage 3.

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Here’s the thing. Despite his abysmal track record, I do have a begrudging respect for Boll and his method. While Uwe Boll has not had a successful career if you care about ambiguous concepts like legacy or greatness, he’s done quite well if you care about steady employment. Most of what I’ve read indicates that he’s unusually adept at taking advantage of tax incentives, but however he’s doing it, the fact remains that he’s self-funded dozens of movies and kept his production company afloat. That’s far more than can be said of many directors with much loftier ambitions.

That obviously doesn’t make his movies any better. If anything, it makes him more of a businessman than a director. But he creates his own opportunities, so it’s not like he’s getting hired over better filmmakers. He gets financing. He creates work for actors and technicians. If he can keep doing it, he’s free to keep going as long as he cares to. I don’t begrudge the man his career, especially since I’m free to ignore it.

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However, I do find him morbidly fascinating, largely because he’s emblematic of a certain type of privileged male entitlement that interprets personal wealth as an accurate measure of value to other people. Uwe Boll makes movies. Therefore he must be great, and he’s entitled to a certain level of adulation just for showing up.

That seems strange when you consider that his films have almost all been flops of astonishing proportions. In the Name of the King starred Jason Statham and made $10M against a $60M budget. From box office receipts to critical reviews and now to audiences with Kickstarter, every external metric has repeatedly demonstrated that nobody wants to see Uwe Boll’s films.

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His latest rant merely encapsulates the sharp disconnect between the financial and aesthetic aspects of creativity, which often exist in entirely separate realms. The ability to get a project funded does not indicate that the project will be a work of art. Most people understand that at some intuitive level. Studios like Asylum make B-level movies, but there’s an audience for B-level movies so nobody frets about a few bad reviews and everyone seems OK with that arrangement.

Boll, on the other hand, is a C-level filmmaker who desperately believes he’s Stanley Kubrick. In bad film after bad film, he’s demonstrated zero willingness to improve his filmmaking techniques or to solicit the advice of those who might be able to help him in an artistic capacity. He genuinely thinks that we should care about his travails – that’s the entitlement – but he doesn’t believe he should ever have to do anything differently in order to receive that praise.

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That’s what makes him so reviled. As an independent filmmaker Boll is a relatively harmless sideline curiosity, but his brand of arrogance has caused considerable harm in other spheres thanks to its inability to acknowledge criticism. Every individual has struggled at various points, but the truly great ones learn from their mistakes, refine their techniques, and come back stronger. Boll is instead violently combative, challenging critics and other directors to literal fights and posting delusional meltdowns that are out of touch with reality. Maybe he can play golf for the next twenty years. That only proves that he’s responsible with his finances, not that he knows how to make a decent film.

Boll has had every advantage you could afford a filmmaker and has squandered those opportunities on everything from Alone in the Dark to Postal, and he must now confront the fact that there may be no more funding for his films. He has nobody to blame for that but himself. His stubborn, abject refusal to make something that people want to see alienated any potential backers, and either he will be humbled and improve or he will go away. Both options are better than the status quo.

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In the meantime, I’m enjoying the schadenfreude. Everybody has the right to make art, but nobody has the right to expect the world at large to care about that art. If Uwe Boll thinks he’s entitled to respect, it’s on him to find a way to earn it.

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