Quentin Tarantino’s 10-Movie Retirement Plan Has Some Flaws (2024)

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For several years now, Quentin Tarantino has been adamant that he plans to make a single 10th and final movie — which will no longer be The Movie Critic. Some of his fans were relieved when this news broke yesterday. The Movie Critic originally sounded like a nostalgic character study (“more epilogue-y,” as Tarantino once put it), while his fans particularly love the director’s more pulply, genre-driven fair. The result would have almost certainly been great. But would it have been great enough to be Tarantino’s last film?

More details about this decision are likely still to come. Still, one wonders: Would Tarantino have abandoned the movie if there wasn’t so much riding on it? His many statements about quitting film directing have suggested he’s extremely focused on protecting his legacy, which seems like a downright masoch*stic way of putting an enormous amount pressure on yourself. A “10th and final film” should not just be good, but career-capping fantastic.

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In a way, the retirement idea has always seemed ill-fitting. Tarantino is — for all of his obvious artistic talent — a crowd-pleasing filmmaker. Yet it’s hard to find a Tarantino fan who loves the idea of him hanging up his hat. Many are skeptical he’d stick with it. If you really love to do something, and you’re insanely talented at doing it, would you really just walk away forever? Stephen King declared he was retiring in 2002 and has since published 26 novels (and seemingly billions of tweets).

Many ponder what movie Tarantino will make instead. There are a lot of choices available just from projects that he’s previously developed.There’s that Star Trek movie (but should he really end his career with a franchise film?). There’s Kill Bill: Vol. 3 (but should his final movie be the third entry of an already satisfying story rather than something new?). You’re seeing the problem, right? The “10th and final” label adds so much weight, and when you have a career as stellar as Tarantino’s, what can ever be enough? “What is my next movie?” is a challenging decision. “What is the last movie I’m ever going to make?” is a crushingly difficult decision.

Arguably, the best way to make 10 movies and end your career is not to tell anyone your plan until after the movie comes out. This way you can be sure the film is loved and you don’t have to make another to try and end your career on a high note. Announcing “10th and final” before you even have a shooting script, well, that’s a real high-wire act — though, admittedly, genius marketing; nothing excites consumers like scarcity. Who wouldn’t line up to see the last-and-final effort of a beloved filmmaker?

So that’s one problem with Tarantino’s retirement plan — the unreasonable pressure it adds to everything about it and to Tarantino most of all. But let’s also take a look at the logic underpinning Tarantino‘s argument: He has said great directors’ films invariably decline in quality. “I don’t like working to diminishing returns,” he’s said. “I knowfilm history and, from here onin, directors do not get better.” It’s like Sick Boy’s universal theory of life in Trainspotting: “Well, at one time, you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever — all walks of life.” Sick Boy wasn’t wrong. While there are many exceptions, creatives of all stripes generally peak and then decline (example: every band you’ve ever liked).

But Quentin Tarantino has not shown any signs of decline. In fact, some consider his latest movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, to be his best.

Moreover, the idea that 10 movies is a correct cutoff is just plain silly. If Christopher Nolan stopped at 10 movies, he never would have made Oppenheimer, which finally nabbed him best director and best picture Oscars. Tarantino seems to consider Martin Scorsese the best living filmmaker. But if Scorsese had stopped at 10, he never would have even made Goodfellas — let alone The Departed and The Wolf of Wall Street. If Steven Spielberg stopped at 10, he wouldn’t have made his Oscar-winning masterpiece Schindler’s List, and forget about fan favorite Jurassic Park.

Scorsese, Spielberg and Nolan are arguably three of the best of the best directors alive. All made their best movies after their 10th.The same can be said for some of the yesteryear filmmakers Tarantino adores — Billy Wilder would have never made Some Like It Hot or The Apartment if he’d stopped at 10.

So as a figure to end your career on before falling into sad hackery, 10 is demonstrably not a magic number. Tarantino’s age, 61, admittedly, makes for a better argument — and he has cited his age as a factor in the decision, saying a 30-year career seems ideal. Spielberg was comparatively a spring chicken, 46, when he made Schindler’s List. But being in your 60s is not what it used to be compared to the days of Tarantino heroes Douglas Sirk and Sergio Leone, both of whom had a modest number of directorial credits. And while the ravages of age are a forceful factor that we all must fight against, it’s also inarguable that a filmmaker’s style matures and evolves as they make more movies.

All of this isn’t meant to be a quixotic attempt to badger Tarantino into changing his mind. OK, it’s probably exactly that. Tarantino has said, correctly, that’s it’s unfair for the industry and fans to have an attitude like: “We’ll tell you when you’re done; you don’t tell us when you’re done.” The man doesn’t owe us anything, and only he truly knows how much gas is left in his tank.

Still, there’s one last point to make, an admittedly superficial one, and it goes like this: The whole “10” thing. Tarantino is a rebel filmmaker, and there’s nothing rebellious about the number 10. Ten makes one think of online top 10 lists and the Ten Commandments and Olympic competition scores. Ten is mainstream and conformity. Ten isn’t even the coolest number in its numeric neighborhood. You know what number is more cool? Twelve — as in The Dirty Dozen, one of Tarantino’s favorite films. Or 13, which has some black magic quality. While 10 is so … suburban. And when you think of what would have happened to the careers of great modern filmmakers if they quit at 10, it’s like what Sean Connery as Henry Jones Jr. snarked to his son, Indiana Jones, in The Last Crusade: “You left just when you were becoming interesting.” A great line, and one that wouldn’t exist if Spielberg had retired at 10.

Quentin Tarantino’s 10-Movie Retirement Plan Has Some Flaws (2024)
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