With reports that Zack Snyder might have been kicked off Superman due to the woeful performance of Sucker Punch, we take a look at the ups and downs of some of Hollywood’s most recognisable directors.
James Cameron has been a pretty consistent director over the last 25 years delivering some of the best movies ever made – Terminator, Aliens and Terminator 2 are all widely regarded as classics. His biggest financial successes have been critically his worst – Titanic and Avatar but he remains one of the most powerful directors in Hollywood.
Shyamalan’s career started promisingly with supernatural thriller The Sixth Sense but he has since descended into cheap, twist-for-twist sake crap and most recently made one of the most badly misjudged films in history in The Last Airbender. For the love of cinema, please stop now.
Snyder gained mass attention after his adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300 with his flashy visual style and use of slow-fast-slow action sequences, something which has become a director trademark. A brave attempt at Watchmen in 2009 polarised both critics and fans of the original graphic novel but his recent attempt, Sucker Punch has been almost universally derided. Can his version of Superman rescue a damaged reputation?
One of the most well-known and popular directors of all time, Steven Spielberg has been behind some of the best films ever made. After having early success with Jaws, Indiana Jones, and E.T., he became king of the summer blockbuster delivering a string of hits throughout the 80s and 90s. He’s had a few notable duds (stay away from George Lucas these days please Steven) but for the most part you can count on him to deliver the goods.
Something that the graph doesn’t show is how prolific a producer Spielberg is. Those 80s blockbusters that he didn’t direct, he often had a hand in getting to the screen. That includes Gremlins, Poltergeist, The Goonies and the Back To The Future trilogy.
*Apologies for the non-annotated graph – he’s too prolific for it to be readable that way!
Martin Scorsese is often regarded as the most consistent director in Hollywood and now with the power of statistics, we can prove it. He began his collaboration with Robert De Niro with Mean Streets in 1973 – a partnership which would see them both go from strength to strength across eight films including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and the undisputed masterpiece of cinema that is Goodfellas.
2002 saw the first collaboration with his new golden boy, Leonardo Di Caprio in The Gangs Of New York, a partnership which has extended to four films including The Aviator, The Departed and most recently psychological thriller Shutter Island. With a career spanning seven decades, Martin Scorsese is the king of quality.
*Again, please excuse the non-annotated graph – can’t fit them all in!
Revelling in fairy tales and the macabre, Tim Burton’s style is one of the most recognisable. He had an early surprise hit with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure which opened up an opportunity for the dark comedy classic Beetlejuice and later the hugely expensive Batman.
But it was with Edward Scissorhands that he really hit home, marking the first of many collaborations with Johnny Depp and making the actor a household name. His work is practically synonymous with musician Danny Elfman who has scored all but five of his films. His partner Helena Bonham Carter has become a feature of his more recent movies but there’s been a decline in the quality of his work – Alice In Wonderland was notably insubstantial. Can his forthcoming Dark Shadows restore some of his lost visionary charm?
Despite being a two-headed Antichrist, Jason Friedberg & Aaron Seltzer have had an unfortunate amount of success with their scatalogical, derivative and cringe-worthy spoof movies. They’re probably the most convincing argument for the intellectual degradation of society and proof that if you scrape the barrel hard enough, you can actually tunnel into the earth’s mantle.
After carving a name for himself directing music videos, David Fincher was handed the Alien franchise with his first film, Alien 3. He did the best he could but the result, perhaps inevitably, wasn’t up to the standard of the previous two and for a moment it looked like he’d failed to make the transition from small to big screen.
Then came Se7en, a viciously clever and inventive thriller which marked his first collaboration with Brad Pitt. This was followed in 1999 by Fight Club, a subversive masterpiece which initially divided critics. He had success with Thrillers Panic Room and Zodiac after which came The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, a notoriously vapid Forrest Gump rip off which nevertheless garnered a whole host of nominations.
Fincher redeemed himself completely with The Social Network, a sharply observed and constructed film about the founding of Facebook, aided in no small part by Aaron Sorkin’s polished screenplay. Can his forthcoming remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo capitalise on this success?
Master of snappy dialogue, non-linear story lines, pop-culture references and the aestheticisation of violence, Tarantino sprang on to the scene with 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, the story of a diamond heist gone wrong. A modest success at the time, it paved the way for Pulp Fiction, Tarantino’s masterpiece which single-handedly revived the career of John Travolta (for good or for ill).
Determined to have his take on every genre, it was followed by 1997’s blaxploitation flick Jackie Brown which brought Pam Grier back to public attention. 2003’s kung fu epic Kill Bill was more divisive, some feeling that his love of pop culture references overwhelmed a decent storyline but for lovers of the genre there was plenty to love. Recent effort Inglourious Basterds was a surprisingly pedestrian affair which offered few glimpses of his past genius with only a captivating performance from Christoph Waltz to lift it. Next up will be Kill Bill Vol. 3 – return to form or derivative self-indulgence? Time will tell in 2014.
Creator of the View Askewniverse series of films, Smith has cult status amongst his loyal fans. Bursting on to the scene with the independent comedy Clerks in 1994, packed to the brim with witty dissections of pop culture and full of quotable lines. Funded by the sale of Smith’s comic book collection, various loans and favours, it cost under $30,000 to make but was a huge hit at Cannes, launching Smith as a major director.
Follow up Mallrats had little of the incisive wit of Clerks but allowed him to cast many of the same actors for Chasing Amy, one of his strongest films. Smith went on to make Dogma, a humourous poke at religion before making “fans only” flick Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back and the disastrous Jersey Girl. He returned to familiar territory with Clerks II in 2006 (now in colour) and the moderately successful Zack And Miri Make A Porno in 2008. Latest effort Cop Out was unfortunately exactly that and fears are that Smith is running on empty.