Jun 04 2009

Five Directors Who Have Really Gone Downhill

Published by at 10:00 am under Lists,Movies

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When I wrote my Five Worst Working Directors in Hollywood list last week, everyone kept asking why the man above wasn’t on the list. Well, that’s because I was saving him to sit atop a different list I was working on, this one. Some directors started as legends, but over time their projects have declined more and more and now they’re mediocre at best and Uwe Boll-esque at worst.

Hit the jump to see who has tumbled downhill, and how far:

1) Roland Emmerich

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Many may argue that Emmerich has always been bad, but I would say that you can make “good” bad movies and “bad” bad movies. That’s the transformation we see here, don’t you agree?

Progression:

Independence Day (1996) – “Welcome to Earth!” *punch* Yes, Independence Day was extremely cheesy and nonsensical, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t one of the most awesome sci-fi movies ever. This was my favorite movie for years growing up.

Godzilla (1998) – Ugh, I had to put this in, even though it doesn’t really fit the pattern, or else you’d yell at me. It’s a sign of things to come: shitty movies about destruction on a large scale. His only success with that theory really was ID4.

The Patriot (2000) – Many hated this movie because it was grossly historically inaccurate, but I actually thought it was pretty great at the time. Heath Ledger does a great job in one of his first roles, and this is just about the last time we saw a coherent performance from Mel Gibson for a long time.

The Day After Tomorrow (2004) – As historically inaccurate as The Patriot might have been, The Day After Tomorrow might be the most scientifically inaccurate movie ever made. This movie played on the Al Gore induced fears of climate change, showing the worst case scenario that could never, ever actually happen.

10,000 BC (2008) – A movie about cavemen that was perhaps one of the biggest throwaway action movies I’ve ever seen with the most nonsensical ending (she’s alive? What?). I did like the CGI sabertooth tiger though.

Next: 2012 (2009) – Emmerich is destroying the world yet again. I’m not exactly sure how, but all we have so far is a giant tidal wave hip-checking a mountaintop monastery.

2) Bryan Singer

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Once hailed as a directing prodigy, Bryan Singer’s career has taken some extremely odd turns over the years, and we can only hope he starts making better decisions soon.

Progression:

The Usual Suspects (1995) – Universally regarded as one of the smartest films ever made, Bryan Singer wouldn’t be who he is without The Usual Suspects. The film told one of the most twisting, turning narratives ever written, and the end is largely regarded as one of the most shocking twists in movie history.

X-Men (2000) – Back before every superhero from Ant Man to Thor was getting his own movie, we had the original X-Men, and we all thought it rocked pretty hard at the time. The first film kept a limit on the number of mutants, and had a decent story to boot.

X2 (2003) – The second film in the series wasn’t half bad either, but X-Men fighting humans was a pretty lame plot, and the Wolverine flashbacks deserved their own movie. Which they got. And it sucked.

Superman Returns (2006) – And the ship begins sinking. After leaving the X-series to hop into bed with DC, Singer invented the term “reboot” and made a lackluster Superman movie that left no distinct impression on anyone.

Valkyrie (2008) – I’m not sure whether the problem here was with the concept (we know Hitler doesn’t die) or the acting (everyone universally agrees that Tom Cruise ruined this movie) but in any case Valkyrie was bad, real bad.

Next: X4? – Singer has recently expressed remorse that he didn’t direct X3, before, after and during watching it, burning Brett Ratner in the process. He’s expressed tentative interest about getting back in the X-Men game, and whether that means X4 or Wolverine 2, he would be a welcome addition to either project.

3) Brian De Palma

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De Palma may be a weird choice here, but he delivered some true classics back in the day, but these days his movies usually fall flat every time.

Progression:

Carrie (1976) – Universally recognized as one of the best horror films of all time, De Palma’s adaptation of Stephen King’s tale of teenage telekinesis is thoroughly excellent.

Scarface (1983) – Love it or hate it, De Palma crafted one iconic film here. Yeah, it’s a remake, but it’s one that’s actually better than the source. You may credit Pacino, but it’s De Palma who made it happen.

Mission Impossible (1996) – The Mission Impossible series has a strange lineage with J.J. Abrams debuting his directorial abilities in the third film, John Woo slow-motioning the second, and De Palma behind the original, which many would argue was the best.

Mission to Mars (2000) – But now things start to go awry. This movie had some interesting concepts behind it, but was in no way a good movie and it sits on the bottom shelf of the space adventure genre.

The Black Dhalia (2006) – This movie looked truly epic at the time of its first trailer, but upon release it was slammed with negative reviews. Sure it may have been the most overrated duo on the planet Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett’s fault, but De Palma should have done better.

Next: The Boston Stranglers – Another stab at a serial killer flick, which hopefully he’ll have more luck with. He should watch Zodiac a few times before proceeding this time though.

4) Ridley Scott

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Yeah I went there. Ridley Scott’s decline might be from “godly” to “decent” but it still is a decline nonetheless. But I fully believe he’s still got some real hits left in him.

Progression:

Blade Runner (1982) – Between this and Alien, Scott has secured himself a place in movie history, and was one of the greatest sci-fi pioneers of the 70s and 80s right alongside Spielberg and Lucas.

Thelma and Louise (1991) – Showing a wide range of diversity, Scott took the tale of two fed up women and turned it into an epic, award winning cross country crime spree.

Gladiator (2000) – The Oscar winning ancient Rome epic made Russell Crowe a star and showed that Scott still had it in him, even after twenty years in the business.

Black Hawk Down (2001) – Here things start to slip. Black Hawk Down is a pretty good movie, no doubt, but it’s not particularly memorable.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Speaking of not memorable, does anyone remember anything about this one? At all? I had no idea Scott directed it, and it was decent enough I guess, but not lasting in the least.

A Good Year (2006) – Crowe and Scott took a lot of shit for this one. I’ve never seen it myself, but critics weren’t too happy with it, and neither were audiences. But Scott still stands by it to this day.

American Gangster (2007) – This movie had award-winning written all over it, but when it actually went to theaters, it lacked any real punch. Denzel Washington might as well have been playing Denzel Washington, and Crowe phoned in his performance so much that he could have just sent a cardboard cutout of himself strapped with a tape recorder.

Body of Lies (2008) – This movie got pretty decent reactions, but still, we want the old Ridley Scott days where he made movies that were complete and utter classics. It’s sad that I barely even feel compelled to see his movies any more.

Next: Robin Hood – He’s back with his muse Crowe for the fifth time, retelling the classic story. I really hope it’s good, but if that pattern is any indication, it will probably fall short of expectations.

5) M. Night Shyamalan

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No one else on this list has had even close to the kind of career nosedive that M. Night Shyamalan has experienced. His first studio film was Oscar nominated and heralded as the horror picture of our time, and he the new visionary director of our generation, but each film since has gotten a little bit worse, and with his latest, it’s quite literally one of the worst movies ever made.

Progression:

The Sixth Sense (1999) – The Oscar nominated, brilliantly written and shot film is one of the best horror movies ever made. It’s hard to believe we started this high…only to fall so low.

Unbreakable (2000) – An excellent take on what it means to be a normal man with extraordinary abilities. Not as impactful as Sixth Sense, but very well made nonetheless.

Signs (2002) – For all the shit Signs gets because of its ending, the movie itself is pretty damn good. But it’s that ending that spoils the whole thing. Really, alien invaders get burned by water? What if it rained?

The Village (2004) – The ultimate example of a movie with a twist for twist’s sake. It cemented M . Night as the “twist guru” and cause his subsequent projects to veer away from that so he could avoid criticism.

The Lady in the Water (2006) – But criticism he got, and it was all deserved. Lady in the Water is at best and innovative idea for a movie, and at worst an incoherent mess of randomness that seemed like a low point for Shyamalan.

The Happening (2008) – However, it wasn’t the low point, this was. The Happening had the potential to be truly terrifying, as mass suicides around the country is a chilling premise, but the film is SO BAD. In fact, I’m proud to have it sitting atop my list of the worst movies ever made, and I don’t say that lightly. The acting, the writing, the plot, it all makes you wonder if he plagiarized his first three movies.

Next: Avatar: The Last Airbender – M. Night is tired of taking crap for his movies, so he’s going completely outside the box to mix things up. However, the first set pictures look like it’s Dragonball Evolution or The Legend of Chun Li.

Note: Michael Bay has been consistently decent at churning out popcorn flicks for years. Don’t say I forgot him on either list.





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20 responses so far

  • http://fookhar.dk Marcus

    “Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – Speaking of not memorable, does anyone remember anything about this one? At all? I had no idea Scott directed it, and it was decent enough I guess, but not lasting in the least.”

    The DVD director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven is amazing. It’s 45 minutes longer than the cinematical cut, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a director’s cut improve a movie that much. You should check it out.

  • david

    I completely disagree with Ridley Scott being on this list, if you look at your list his bullet points of GREAT movies are 8 to 10 years apart. So there is still time to get back to Godly.

    Furthermore, Black Hawk Down is every bit as good as Gladiator. I also recommend the Directors Cut of Kingdom of Heaven, it totally changed my opinion of that movie.

    I agree with your assessment of American Gangster, I feel there is a great movie in there its just got lost, its a shame.

  • Ben

    I don’t disagree with much of this. Just have 3 comments.
    1) I think A Good Year was just a fun guilty pleasure for Scott/Crowe to make, just because they could. That is pretty cool.

    2) M. Night…anyone else think he got lucky the first go round so all our expectations were so high? If Sixth Sense never existed, his movies would probably all be a little better.

    3) Singer to direct next XMen movie could be good. He’s been focusing more on producing recently – House – and that has been successful. That along with a redemption effort could be a really good thing.

  • ja5on

    Brian de Palma’s “The Untouchables”??

  • Geoff

    Three major problems with your two lists:

    1. VALKYRIE is an excellent film.
    2. THE BLACK DAHLIA is an excellent film.
    3. THE HAPPENING is a real step up from LADY IN THE WATER.

  • Adele

    To Geoff,

    The Happening is in no way a step up from Lady in the Water. The Happening was a huge piece of garbage that should never have been made. I’m a M. Night fan. I own all his movies, even though they’re not all great. I try to defend them, even though it’s mostly a losing battle. But The Happening? I wanted to kill myself in the theatre along with the people on the screen.

  • Matt

    “1. VALKYRIE is an excellent film.
    2. THE BLACK DAHLIA is an excellent film.
    3. THE HAPPENING is a real step up from LADY IN THE WATER.”

    The Happening is the most disappointing movie I have ever seen in my life, hands down. Lady in the Water was much better.

  • joe

    1) Emmerich has always sucked. NEXT
    2) Singer has been churning out great films for quite some time. So, he made two mediocre films (not terrible, just mediocre) and you’re ready to brand him? I think a good rule-of-thumb would be like 2 horrible or 3 mediocre.
    3) Why does everyone think De Palma’s some kind of genius. The guy was a hack, is a hack and will continue to be a hack.
    4) The least popular thing I’m gonna say: Ridley Scott hasn’t made a great movie since Blade Runner.
    5) Shyamalan is just such a special case, I can’t even describe it here, but yeah, he’s pretty bad!

  • Josh

    Not gonna lie, I absolutely love Mission to Mars (mainly for Gary Sinise) and Kingdom of Heaven is my favorite non-LoTR epic film since, oh look at that, Gladiator. Kingdom of Heaven is amazing and the performance from Norton was probably the best of his career which is really saying something about the star of Fight Club, American History X, and The Illusionist.

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  • http://fookhar.dk Marcus

    Holy shit, I had no idea that is Edward Norton.

  • http://atomicgadfly.com/ Max Doomsday

    Bryan Singer did not invent the term “reboot.” It had been in use for years among comic, gaming, and film fans, and first came to the attention of the entertainment media with the release of “Batman Begins” in 2005.

  • Alan

    I’m no Tom Cruise fan, but regarding the Valkyrie remark: “everyone universally agrees that Tom Cruise ruined this movie”…..that seems a bit excessive. “Universally agrees”????

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  • mokgohan

    Valkyrie wasn’t so bad. Just because they didn’t Hollywoodize it with a shoot ‘em up or car chase or even fastened on a romantic sub-plot people consider it lacking. I think Singer did a good job with a sticky subject (making Nazi’s heroes!). Maybe it could’ve done with a few more German actors instead of old Brits… and Tom Cruise.
    Superman Returns wasn’t so bad either and a little more love for X2 please- it’s one of the best comicbookmovies ever. Apt Pupil was also very good.
    I actually liked Kingdom of Heaven more than Gladiator, it just seemed less concerned with epic-slow-mo-string-swelling heavy-handed melodrama. But that’s just me.
    How about John McTiernan- the guy that directed Predator and Die Hard! Where’d he go? Let me just wikipedia what he’s up to these days and… whoops! Looks like his mind might have been on other matters in recent years, but that’s still no excuse for that megacrap Rollerball remake!

  • http://fookhar.dk Marcus

    I was kind of on board until you said Returns wasn’t so bad.

  • whitewitch

    Paul Tassi, who’s that? What has it done so far? another one amonst billions who’s got an opinion and swamp the web with it, big deal.

  • RidleyFan4Life

    Anybody was a commonsense notion or an inkling of a grasp of film making knows that Ridley Scott is belongs on a list for best directors ever. EVER. But alas, the writer of this article is no one of any merit.

    It’s easy to complain — If you think you can make a better movie than Ridely Scott… why aren’t you? PLEASE, RHETORICAL.

  • MENTD

    I never understood the hate against Kingdom of Heaven.
    Sure, the theatrical cut is not as good and they cut nearly
    an hour and a half from it but even that when I first saw
    it blew me away! Anyone who says the director’s cut of KOH
    is not a masterpiece seriously needs to hang up the towel
    and never ever write another review again.

    Kingdom of Heaven Director’s Cut is probably the greatest
    film made after we’ve passed the 2000 year mark.

    The characters are all insightful and deep.
    The photography and sets and costumes are unparalleled.
    Everything is perfect -people are just A.D.D. and too stupid to
    actually listen to a deep muti-faceted epic.

  • http://nope hallamq

    Well, Last Airbender, redacted, 2012 and Robin Hood (and Prometheus) all were lackluster at best, so I guess that lends credibility to the article.

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