I wrote an article listing ten actors who are often good but are likely to squander their talents in bad movies. That logic can apply to directors as well. These directors behind the camera are capable of delivering classic work, and sometimes have done so. However, they’ve made enough bad films to be particularly disappointing when they fail. These are ten directors that often display some great talent, but who more often make movies that waste it too much.
Allen’s main strengths are in writing, but that too has gone downhill. Ever since Mia left, almost every film Allen’s made since “Husbands and Wives” has lacked real laughs, and real actual drama. Allen’s tone has gotten a bit too light, and stale as well. And Allen’s most recent attempt to shift to erotic crime drama, “Match Point”, was really just a retread of his earlier, funnier work from “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” But Allen seems to be more committed to making films for Scarlett Johansson than getting back on track as a director and writer.
Burton is a Gothic director who was more on fire than anyone in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Burton creations like Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Jack Skellington perfectly complimented borrowed characters like Batman and Ed Wood. But when “Mars Attacks” came out, it began a string of Burton films that lacked his earlier touch as a director. Burton’s later movies like “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” were occasionally hits, but paled in comparison to Burton’s best. “Sweeney Todd” got Burton back on track, but that may or may not stick to Burton in the future.
One can easily say Emmerich has never been a good director. Emmerich is the modern day Irwin Allen in creating modern day disaster movies, with non special effects related plots that are so easy to mock. But Emmerich does have strength in special effects stuff. Even Emmerich’s biggest critics of “Independence Day” had to get some chills in the famed destruction of three major cities. And “The Day After Tomorrow” proved Emmerich still had the touch for mass destruction. But Emmerich’s failed “Godzilla” remake is not something to so easily forgive. Neither is Emmerich’s lame attempts to make a global warming message in between “Day After Tomorrow”‘s destruction. And “10,000 B.C” seems like Emmerich is remaking “Stargate”‘s action spectacle in an ancient society, minus the time travel and James Spader.
A big puzzle of a director, Levinson was a big star in the 80’s and 90’s with “Diner”, “The Natural”, “Good Morning Vietnam”, “Rain Man”, “Bugsy”, and “Wag the Dog.” But Levinson has nothing much to speak of in the last 10 years. Flops like “Sphere”, “Bandits”, “Envy”, and “Man of the Year” have diluted Levinson’s past successes. Levinson is one of the most up and down directors in the business to begin with, but with emphasis on the down lately.
A director who made the submarine genre profitable with “Das Boot”, Petersen also captivated with hits like “The Never Ending Story”, “In the Line of Fire”, and “Air Force One.” But “The Perfect Storm” was a wash until the waves came, “Troy” was Greek camp instead of Greek drama, and “Poseidon” ripped off “The Perfect Storm”‘s big wave and the original film. Petersen has reduced himself to the director level of a Roland Emmerich, offering some special effects wows and not much else underneath.
M. Night Shyamalan
Shyamalan is the most obvious director to put on here. Shyamalan is not a complete one hit wonder, as his “Sixth Sense” follow-ups “Unbreakable” and “Signs” were flawed but fascinating. But Shyamalan became a lost cause as a writer, with “The Village” and “Lady in the Water” becoming quick flops. Shyamalan used to be a director whose name could be the drawing power for a movie. Now, Shyamalan will likely be reduced to a B movie director if he doesn’t get another hit quickly. It would help if Shyamalan would remember how to write a good, non twisty movie again.
Another director who can reach the highest of heights, then squander his talents. “Sex, Lies, and Videotape” threatened to be Soderbergh’s one big hit until “Out of Sight” gave him a second wind. “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic” made Soderbergh the biggest director of 2000, but he has not reached those artistic heights since. The “Oceans” franchise gave Soderbergh a franchise, but not much street cred. And Soderbergh’s experimental films like “Full Frontal”, “Solaris”, and “The Good German” did not appeal to people, even as Soderbergh continued to partner with George Clooney.
A skilled cinematographer, Sonnenfeld broke out as a director with hits like “The Addams Family” films, “Get Shorty”, and “Men in Black.” But Sonnenfeld came back to Earth with “Wild Wild West” and hasn’t recovered as a director since. “Men in Black 2”, “Big Trouble”, and “RV” have not put him back on the A list. However, Sonnenfeld may have better luck as a producer, as critics warmed up to him again for producing the new cult series “Pushing Daisies” on ABC.
Spielberg’s classes are too numerous to mention, so why is Spielberg here? Because Spielberg has such a high standard of success that it’s really annoying when he fails. After E.T, Spielberg struggled for 10 years to make another hit until “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List.” The mediocre “Amistad” and “The Lost World” followed until Spielberg made “Saving Private Ryan.” Spielberg’s endings to “A.I”, “Minority Report”, and “War of the Worlds” derailed what would have otherwise been nearly perfect films. And “Munich” was not quite the “prayer for peace” Spielberg wanted. Now Spielberg will either have another summer hit, or risk snide jokes at his expense, or both for bringing “Indiana Jones” back with 65-year-old Harrison Ford.
Stone was on top of the world in the 80’s with “Platoon”, “Wall Street” and “Born on the Fourth of July.” But when “JFK” came along, his directing style took an ultimately aggravating turn. Stone’s style of pointless color schemes and a camera that wouldn’t stay still reached a nadir with “Natural Born Killers.” And Stone’s famed political films, as great as they could be, were almost as hard to trust as the government of the 60’s and 70’s that Stone was exposing. “Any Given Sunday” and “Alexander” further knocked Stone down a peg. And although he finally got back to serious work with “World Trade Center”, the sentimental tone was odd coming from a radical like Stone. But Stone’s upcoming project about George W. Bush might turn things around.